If you’ve just got a new laptop don’t just switch on and start using it – you may be leaving yourself open to online security risks. Once you’ve activated Windows and created a system restore DVD (if required – not all new laptops offer this), you should then follow this simple six-point checklist before you do anything else.
Since it’s difficult to buy a new laptop with any other operating system at the moment, we’ve assumed you’re using Windows 10 on your new laptop and are already connected to your home network. The same steps still apply to all freshly installed or just-activated versions of Windows, but the specific actions for each will differ.
[Read more: Top tips for buying your first laptop]
Step 1: Run Windows update
The very first thing you should do when you launch a PC is run Windows Update. Your new laptop may come with the first version of Windows 10 installed – since then, two big updates have been rolled out, the latest being the Anniversary Update.
One of Microsoft’s biggest changes to Windows in its latest version of the operating system is forced Windows Updates, making it impossible to skip updates.
Sometimes you will have to wait until an update comes through though, which is why it’s probably a good idea to make Windows check for any updates right away.
You can do this by opening the Start Menu and selecting Settings, followed by Update & security.
Then click the Check for updates button and wait as updates come through.
Step 2: Turn on Windows Defender
Microsoft’s anti-malware application, Windows Defender, is built into Windows 10, but it may be disabled. Laptop manufacturers often disable because they bundle free trials of other anti-malware software – software that you don’t need.
So the next step is to check that Windows Defender is enabled and protecting your computer, regardless of what other anti-malware software is installed.
From the Update & security section, select Windows Defender in the left side menu.
Ensure that under Real-time protection the slider is switched On.
BT broadband customers can download BT Virus Protect anti-virus software at no charge.
Step 3: Consider your web browser options
Windows 10 comes with a brand new web browser called Microsoft Edge, which is intended to replace Internet Explorer.
Microsoft obviously wants you to make use of all its latest developments, but if you’re not keen on Edge you can go for an alternative instead.
Read our full guide to changing your default web browser here.
Remember BT offers a specially optimised version of Internet Explorer which you can download here.
Step 4: Set up user accounts and parental controls
Unless you’re the only person who’ll be using your laptop, we strongly recommend setting up different user accounts for everyone else.
Go to Settings and select Accounts, followed by Family & other users.
Choose Add a family member for your closest users, or Add someone else to this PC below if they’re not family.
To set up new user accounts, follow our instructions here.
Step 5: Get your Start Menu in order
Microsoft brought back the Start Menu with Windows 10, where Live Tiles now exist.
However, some may not be that interesting to you while others are, so why not give it a little spruce up?
If you’re not interested in games but keen on news and your calendar, perhaps right click on any games and select Unpin from Start.
For the Live Tiles that do interest you, resize them and make them larger by right clicking and choosing Resize.
Step 6: Uninstall unwanted software
Laptop manufacturers are paid to install software from third parties, no matter how useful it is. This ‘pre-installed software’ (to use a polite term) can include anything from free trials of anti-malware applications (see Step 2) to web browser toolbars that serve no useful purpose.
While wasted hard disk space is seldom a problem on most new laptops, pre-installed software can slow a computer down and cause conflicts with other, more desirable, applications. So our advice is to get rid of anything you don’t recognise or want.
From Cortana, type uninstall and select Change or remove a program from the results.
When the Programs and Features dialog box opens on the Desktop, select applications from the list one-by-one and click the Uninstall button to remove them.
If deleting the unwanted junk leaves your laptop without much else installed, take a look at our guide to the best free software for your PC – there’s plenty there to get you started.