(updated 11/19/2012)

Setting up a PC...

For desktop PCs, this historic photo of a Windows 95 computer shows that the most common way of positioning the monitor, keyboard, mouse and speakers hasn't changed much for many computers today. Components have changed, though, as seen in the pictures below.


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Setting up a computer...

As guidelines for beginners, here are some general instructions.

There are three times a computer setup usually needs work - the first time a computer is set up, when peripherals are added or removed, and after a move. These sequential steps should help you setup and connect your computer and its peripherals successfully and safely. Perform as many steps as you need to, starting with the most logical first step for your situation.

1) position your main components

Depending on the desk or table the computer will be on, and depending on the components themselves, position the components is such a way that all connecting wires can reach comfortably, and the computer itself has good air circulation around it.

2) connect your main components

Before turning your PC or monitor on, connect the computer itself to its source of power, the monitor to its source of power, connect the monitor to the computer, the keyboard to the computer and the mouse to the computer.

Note: PS/2 keyboards and mice cannot be hot-plugged (plugged in or disconnected while the computer is on) - be sure that the computer is off when plugging these in or unplugging them. Attention should be paid to the alignment of tabs and pins. USB devices, E-SATA devices, speakers, microphones and monitors can all be hot-plugged. Network cabling and phone lines can also be hot-plugged.

3) power up your main components

Turn the monitor on first, then turn the computer itself on. If Windows is the operating system, successive screens of information should come up on the monitor until the Windows desktop is displayed. The mouse can then be used to open a word processing program and the keyboard can be tested. If all works as expected, power down and proceed to the next steps.

4) position optional peripherals

Setup optional peripherals - like speakers, microphones, webcams, external drives, printers and scanners. Connect these to their power sources (if they need to be) and to the computer itself.

The speakers get connected to the green SPEAKER OUT port. The mic gets connected to the pink MIC IN port. An external audio device being used as an audio source would connect to the blue LINE IN. If the audio output is to be surround sound, follow the colour coding of the speaker set.

USB devices can connect to any of the available USB ports, front or rear, on the computer.

5) power up with only the peripherals that do not need installing, or have already been installed, on the computer

Turn the monitor on, turn the computer itself on, as in step 3 above. Once the Windows desktop appears and the computer is ready for use, turn any pre-installed peripherals on. Windows messages should reflect that certain devices are being connected (like printers), then are ready for use, while others (like speakers) will be made ready without acknowledgement. The computer can remain running at this stage.

6) power up the peripherals that need installing

With the computer on, follow the installation instructions for peripherals that need installing. This might mean installing software from the optical media of a device, or allowing Windows to install its own software for a device. Turn peripherals like printers on only after being prompted or instructed so Windows installers won't take over when proprietary installers haven't finished their tasks. When all peripherals have been successfully installed and are happily awaiting use, proceed...

7) connect to the world at large

(This is neither a tutorial nor a diagnostic for Internet connections or for phone line use. An assumption is made at this point that phone lines are working, Ethernet connections are live, phone line filters are correctly installed for DSL, and Internet modems have signal.)

If the computer has a modem, connect the computer's "line in" jack to a working phone jack with an RJ11 telephone cable. The computer will not acknowledge connectivity - the only way you will know if you have dial tone is to run a program that can detect it (i.e. try to use it).

If the computer is to be networked by wire, connect an RJ45 cable from the jack on the rear of the computer to whatever connection has been made available for it - this could be a network switch, a router or an Internet modem (or a wall jack routed to any of these). If the computer is networked to a LAN (local area network), tests can be performed to see if file sharing is in order and if the Internet is available through it. If the network connection is to an Internet modem, a quick search in a browser should confirm connectivity (don't try for email until Internet connectivity has been confirmed with a browser search or with a ping test).

If the computer is to be networked wirelessly, a computer with a pre-installed connection will likely go back online immediately. If this is a first-time setup for wireless, there will be instructions to follow and a key (password) required to link up with a LAN or with an Internet modem.

These images show the different connections available on a typical modern computer.

The upper image shows the ports on the rear, and the lower image shows the ports on the front.

In the rear group, from left to right (and top to bottom)... USB, USB, purple PS/2 for keyboard, SVGA, DVI-D, HDMI, USB, USB, E-SATA, RJ45, USB 3.0, USB 3.0, and 7.1 audio (alternatively, blue for line in, green for speakers, and pink for mic).

The front ports are mic, USB, USB, and headset.

Connecting a PC to its peripherals...

This diagram shows how to connect a typical computer to its perepherals. It also shows contains drawings of the different connectors you might find on the back of a given PC.

Your workspace...

Keep in mind these thoughts also, as you establish your workspace :

1) Cable extenders are available in the marketplace for the keyboard, mouse, monitor, printer and for USB devices, if you find their placement in your workspace is restricted by the length of the supplied cables.

2) Power surge protection is a very good idea. Power surges or spikes caused by hydro or telephone problems, or lightning strikes nearby can ruin sensitive electronics in your PC and in your monitor. Using a decent power bar with surge protection can protect you, but only if you protect every possible entry point for the damaging surge. Therefore, make sure that you use a surge protection power bar - with protected phone jacks if you have a phone line coming in to you PC, and get one with a "cable" option if you have a cable modem. If you are connected to external devices like a stereo or TV, these devices need to be protected also. Every path (i.e. wire) into your PC must be protected.

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