Out of the Box Laptop Tips

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laptop out of the box tips

You pull your brand-new notebook out of its packaging and plug it in for the first time. Then you go through the Windows setup, and you're all done, right? Not really. Your laptop is not really ready--or truly yours--until you do some tweaking. Here are ten things you should do with your new system.

Step 1: Run All Windows Updates

No matter how recently your notebook left the factory, there are still plenty of important Windows updates you need to install. There's a good chance that the moment you connect your laptop to the Internet it will start pulling down updates automatically. However, to be on the safe side, you should manually get Windows Update started.

To manually download Windows updates in Windows 8 / 8.1:

1. Click the search icon on the start screen.


Search box

2. Search for Windows Update.


windows update

3. Click Check for Updates.

Check for updates

4. Click Check Now. The system will poll the Internet for updates.

Check Now

5. Click View Details if the software finds any updates.


View Details6. Check Select all important updates then click Install.


Install updates


MORE: 12 Dumbest PC Default Settings (and How to Change Them)

Step 2: Transfer Files and Applications from Your Old PC

Your new PC won't truly be yours until it holds all your important data files and favorite applications. Depending on how many files you have on your old PC and where you stored them, copying them over could take a while.  Services like Dropbox make the transfer easy if you've already backed up your old computer to the Cloud. If you haven't, we recommend using an external hard drive or USB Flash drive to move the files back and forth. Make sure you grab everything from your Pictures, Music, Video and Documents libraries.Libraries

Step 3: Get the Latest Browser(s)

Windows 8.1 comes with a fresh copy of Internet Explorer 11 that updates automatically. However, many users prefer Google's speedy Chrome browser or Mozilla's very flexible Mozilla browser. Download the one(s) you want so you can start surfing.

Step 4: Install Some Great Freeware

What would your new laptop be without free software? Now would be a good time to start installing some programs that will help you get the most out of your laptop. These include:

  • Windows Essentials: Microsoft's free software pack for the desktop UI features a great e-mail client, a competent video editor, an instant-messaging app, blogging software, and a photo editor. Though the company hasn't updated these applications for Windows 8, they're still better than the Modern UI equivalents that come preloaded.
  • Paint.NET: The best free alternative to Photoshop provides a simple yet powerful image editing interface.


  • Filezilla: If you need to upload or download files from an FTP server, this is your best bet.
  • WPS Office: This free office suite has a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation application that can open and edit Microsoft Office-compatible files. Some new PCs come with a trial version of Microsoft Office 2013, but WPS is completely free.

Step 5: Pin and Create Hot Keys for Favorite Apps

Once you get your favorite applications installed, you'll want to make it easy to launch them. In Windows 8.1, you can pin shortcuts to both the Start screen and the desktop taskbar. We also recommend creating hot keys so you can launch apps without lifting your hands off of the keyboard.

Create a Hot Key: Right-click on any desktop mode shortcut and select Properties. Then, enter a key combination in the Shortcut Key box and click Enter. It's a good idea to use CTRL + ALT + a key so as not to conflict with other apps' shortcuts.shortcut key

 Pin to Taskbar: Right-click on a shortcut in the apps menu, Start screen or desktop and select Pin to Taskbar. The icon will take a permanent place on the desktop taskbar.

 Pin to taskbar

Pin to Start Screen: Right-click on a shortcut and select Pin to Start. The icon will appear on the Windows 8 Start screen.

Pin to Start

MORE: Windows 8.1 Tips and Tutorials

Step 6: Uncombine Your Taskbar Icons

By default, Windows 8.1's desktop mode combines an applications' windows into a single taskbar icon, with no descriptive text. This makes the taskbar look more like the Mac OS X dock, but it can be difficult to keep track of your windows or distinguish between a pinned shortcut and a running program. To get separate icons for every window, right click on an empty area of the taskbar, select properties, and select Never Combine from the Taskbar buttons menu.

Never Combine<

Step 7: Unhide Extensions, Files and Folders

Under the guise of protecting you from yourself, Windows hides certain files and folders from view to prevent you from accidentally erasing them. For example, AppData folder, which holds the default template for Microsoft Word and a list of sites/passwords for the FTP program Filezilla, is hidden.

Windows also hides the three or four character extensions that appear at the end of all your filenames. If the extensions are hidden and you are looking at a folder of images you may not be able to tell the difference between a JPG and a GIF file or an old Word 2003 document and a more current Word document.

To remove these training wheels:

1. Navigate to the Control Panel. You can get there by hitting Windows + X and selecting control panel.


Select Control Panel2. Select Folder Options. If you don't see the Folder Options icon, change the View by option to Large Icons.


Folder Options3. Click on the View tab. 


Click view tab4. Select "Show hidden files, folder, and drives."


Show hidden files

5. Uncheck "Hide extensions for known file types" and "Hide protected operating system files."


Uncheck hide extensions

Don't let the warnings spook you; if you're a cautious and responsible PC user, you won't need a nanny.

Step 8: Install a Password Manager to Store Your Logins

It's hard keeping track of your passwords these days, particularly with all the different websites you visit. In an attempt to keep all those credentials straight in your head, you may end up using short, simple passwords that are too easy for a hacker to guess.

A password manager can keep track of all your accounts, type in your passwords with a single keystroke, and help you generate complex passwords that nobody can guess. Though some notebooks come with their own password managers, one of our favorites is the free KeePass Password Safe.

To use it

1. Download and Install KeePass Professional Edition.


Install KeePass

2. Create a new password database by first selecting New from the File menu, entering a file name, and then entering a Master password you will use to open the password database every time you boot your computer.


Create new

Once your password database has been created, add new password entries by following these steps:

1. Select a password group that corresponds to the type of password you'd like to store (ex: Windows, Internet, e-mail) or create a new group by right-clicking and selecting Add Group.


Select password group2. Right-click and select Add Entry in the right window pane.


Add Entry

3. Enter the title, username, password, and any notes on the Entry screen. If you don't already have a password, you can click the key icon to generate a secure password.


Add Entry

4. Click Add on the Auto-type tab and select the title of the window you wish to type the password into (ex: Facebook).


Auto type

Next time you have that window open, you can hit CTRL + ALT + A to have KeePass enter the username and password for you.

Step 9: Tweak Your Power Settings

Some notebooks come with a vendor-supplied power management utility, in addition to Windows 8's power menu in the Control Panel. Use either one to create a custom power profile that meets your needs and work habits. It can save you valuable battery life.

Each vendor's power utility has its own set of menus, but to use the Microsoft power utility, launch Power Options from within the control panel, select one of the existing plans, click Change plan settings, and then Change advanced power settings.


Change Plan settingsIn advanced power options, you will want to make a few key decisions, based on how you plan to use your notebook. Here are some of the most important choices you can make.

Power options



  • Display brightness: Set your brightness (from 0 to 100 percent) for use on battery and when plugged in. When plugged in, you'll want all 100 percent of your brightness, but a lower percentage is better for endurance when running on battery. The default brightness of 40 percent is a good setting, but you may want to tweak this until you find an even lower level you're can live with.
  • Sleep after: How many minutes of inactivity will it take before your notebook goes to sleep? If you pick too short a time, your system may go to sleep while you're staring at the screen thinking about what to write. Wait too long, and if you walk away, your notebook's battery will drain. We recommend an interval of five to ten minutes.
  • Dim display after and Dimmed Display Brightness: Windows can dim your laptop's display after a few minutes of activity, lowering power usage without going to sleep. You can set the amount of time before the display dims and percentage brightness it dims to. We recommend you disable this feature altogether.
  • Turn display off after: After this period of time, your display will turn off. There's no need for this setting with sleep mode enabled because sleep will turn off your display.
  • System cooling policy: By default, your notebook is set to use passive cooling, instead of its fan, when you're unplugged. However, if your laptop gets hot, change this setting to Active.


Step 10: Disable User Account Control / Smart Screen Filtering

By default, Windows treats you like an idiot, popping up annoying warnings when you try to install software or change settings. You know what you're installing and don't need a digital nanny wagging her finger at you. To disable  these warnings:

1. Search for "user account control" in Windows' universal search.

 uesr account control2. Click "Change User Account Control Settings."

user account control

3. Slide the slider down to "Never Notify" and click OK.Never Notify

 4. Search for Action Center and click its icon.Navigate to Action Center

5. Click "Change Windows SmartScreen settings."Change Windows SmartScreen

6. Select "Don't do anything" and click OK.Select don't do anything


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Author Bio
Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director on
Add a comment
  • Arnav Nag Says:

    Most of the things listed are advanced features. A common user wouldn't require most of them. And I guess Windows Update is set to update automatically by default. Why would non-developer require a FTP client? And see extensions for all files in the filename itself. Disabling UAC and Smartscreen isn't required for usual regular applications.

  • Shubankar Roy Says:

    Hi Julie,
    there is a option to set up a local account which does not need a email ID.

  • Wilfrid Lumley Says:

    Just bought my lap-top was trying to set it up - unfortunately in the first few minutes I entered a pass-word and in the next few minutes I forgot it !! - how do I get back in to change it ?? ..........Bill

  • Julie Says:

    I have a new HP laptop and am going through the set up process and it's asking me to sign into my Microsoft account so I am putting my Gmail email and password in but it just won't accept it and I can't proceed. Any ideas?

  • Julie Berger Says:

    Just bought a laptop had it set up by Geek Squad. Need to know how to set up a home page, we have no knowledge do we need to plug it in to get email. Very frustrated. Would there be a tutorial (if so what wld the icon look like) would appreciate any help. Regards Julie

  • Box Tips Says:

    thx for tips

  • Amber Says:

    Thank you for the info. I followed your steps for Windows Updates, but am wondering how you know when they are finished. Screen says :downloading updates', but it's been over an hour and the status bar has no progress showing, but there is no progress showing on the status bar.

  • ayekyaw Says:

    thank you,for your knowledge share

  • Debbie Says:

    Trying to find on windows 8 where to go to connect to internet

  • Robo Says:

    Where is security? Do it first, last? Never?

  • Norm Says:

    Hi, is Keepass better than Sticky Password?
    I'm using SP and I'm satisfied.

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