(updated 1/26/2017)

What's on your new PC...

New computers bought from PCN are dramatically different from many new computers bought elsewhere.

Since a PCN computer has been freshly built, all of the software on it will be fully up to date. (Competitive products might have been in a box on the shelf for weeks or months since their hard drives were cloned from generic masters, making all of the major software, including Windows itself, stale.)

And any software that you have of your own at the time of the build, like MS Office or similar, can be installed by PCN at no charge as well.

PCN will also assist with the download of updated drivers for devices you already have - printers, scanners, mice, etc. - to be sure these devices work when you get your new PC home. You are welcome to bring these devices in at the time of pickup so the objects will be properly found during the driver installation.

And, of course, PCN will migrate data from your existing computer to the new one at no additional charge. Learn more here...


Windows...

Presently, PCN is offering the installation of Windows 10 Home 64-bit. The appropriate original DVD from Microsoft will accompany the PC, unlike the major manufacturers who no longer include the operating system software in any form other than recovery partitions on the hard drive. (Of course, recovering from hard disk failure can be problematic if accessing the drive is necessary with your recovery method. PCN avoids this problem by continuing to provide the disk.)

Some inherent features of Windows are made prominent with the inclusion on the desktop of icons for computer properties and Windows Explorer, access to user files, the Snipping Tool and Sticky Notes. A suitable desktop theme is selected, often downloaded specifically from an extensive list rather than chosen from the common few. Icons for important programs like Microsoft Word and Excel are pre-pinned to the Task Bar. The System Tray icons are unhidden, with only the necessary icons visible.

The "new PC" tutorial PCN offers includes explanations of these programs and of the icons in the System Tray and those pinned to the Task Bar.


Additional programs...

PCN takes the initiative to add some third-party programs to the fully updated installation of Windows. Usually the most current version of these programs is installed, and the "updaters" have been turned off.

Tip - should a third-party program request updating, wait until you utterly cannot do with it what you want to do before you update it, then try to disable the updater for the next time. This prevents your becoming a slave to the constant updating that these programs try to do. (The exception is, of course, the anti-virus program you have chosen - it must be updated daily.)

Many of the installers have been downloaded and saved in the C:\Util folder on a new PCN PC. This is also the location where a copy of all driver installers have been saved, and where a copy of the Windows installation media has been saved, too.

Tip - when installing any program or driver at any time, try to download the complete installer to a common utility folder (like C:\Util). Although this is not always possible, installations will generally go smoother.

Below is a list of the many third-party add-ons that PCN presently installs. Notes and light instructions are included.


Avast anti-virus software...

Avast makes a decent anti-virus program that is not overpowering. The basic real-time coverage, coupled with caution and prudence on the user's part, is adequate to keep most PCs trouble-free.

Avast requires registration in the form of an email address. Avast also offers an expanded version for purchase, including an Internet security version.

The best scan Avast offers is the Boot Time Scan, which can be scheduled to run the next time Windows starts. This is the best time to get at viruses and malware that may have overtaken elements of Windows, affecting its routine functionality. Think of software running on a computer as a stack of carpets - the first is the BIOS, the second is DOS, the third is the basic Windows installation, the fourth is the higher functionality of Windows, and the rest of the stack is comprised of the remaining installed programs. You are standing on top of the stack. You cannot get rid of problems you are having while standing on the carpet where the problem is - you must close running programs to remove malware at that level, you must work from the lower levels of Windows to remove malware affecting the higher levels, you must work from DOS environment to remove malware in the lower levels of Windows, and you must use an outside DOS environment to remove malware from an affected DOS (i.e. connecting an affected drive to another computer that is clean). The rare virus affecting a BIOS can only be removed by clearing the CMOS memory, or by "flashing" a clean copy of the BIOS entirely overtop.

Avast handles its own definition updates daily without attention, but program updates will require your permission and possibly re-registration.

Since Avast is watching what is coming at and onto your computer, a clean computer should not need routine scanning. Scans can be done whenever there is a need - when something is not right, when the expected reaction to an action does not happen.

Visit the Avast website here...


Malwarebytes...

This anti-malware software is quite effective at getting rid of problems that Avast ignores. There are different levels of viruses and malware, and some programs can be considered neither if they are not overtly malicious. While both Avast and Malwarebytes find and remove many of the same problems, both can find and remove things that the other does not.

Avast runs in real-time (i.e. all the time), but Malwarebytes must be purchased to run this way. It would probably be overpowering on any PC to have two such programs running concurrrently, so the unpurchased version of Malwarebytes may be adequate.

For Malwarebytes to be fully effective, it needs to be updated prior to any scan. Since some malware causes the Internet to become inaccessible, it is advised that Malwarebytes be updated routinely (perhaps onece a week) even if no scan is performed.

Visit the Malwarebytes website here...


Accessing content on the Internet...

Sun Microsystems' Java, a scripting language commonly found underlying web pages, has been installed and updated ahead of your use.

Adobe's Shockwave, another kind of scripting language, has also been installed and updated, as has Adobe's Flash Player (required for youtube.com and elsewhere on the Internet).

Adobe Acrobat Reader, the free product people use to view PDFs, has been installed and updated.

Adobe Flash Player, a browser-based runtime application, has been installed and updated.

These four installlations as a group are necessary for browsing the Internet and viewing the bulk of viewable content there.


Audacity is an audio file editor. Use Audacity to record your voice (with the built-in microphone) and send voice attachments with your email. Use it to edit existing audio files and perhaps record and "mix" recordings you might make. Controls include: amplification, cropping, cleaning, mixing and adding special effects.

This is a free, open-source program created by a group of enthusiasts. Donations can be made to their cause at their website, here...


Irfanview

Irfanview graphics file viewer and editor (created by Irfan Skiljan) can be used to view, edit and print out graphics files. This is a very nice all-round graphics file manager on the order of Photoshop. Irfanview can handle all of the common editing tasks, such as cropping, rotating, re-sizing, removing red eye, along with adjusting resolution, colour and contrast. Irfanview can notably and expediently create thumbnail versions of graphics files, and greatly assist in file organization. All other versions, updates, support, etc. available at the Irfanview site. A powerful, tiny package, perhaps more valid today with so many users takgin digital pictures.


Belarc Advisor

Finding out what is on a computer, and what is in a computer, can be an extensive task. Belarc Advisor can pull all of the essential information out of the registry and off of the installation drive that anyone would need to assess any computer. Both hardware and software is identified. Version information is retrieved, as well as installation keys for Windows, Microsoft Office and other products.

This program is free for personal use, and a must-buy for network administrators. This is a link to Belarc's website.


Google Earth is a very interesting program. Use it to see the world in new ways. Tutorials for this program can be found here...

Google Earth has views of the oceans, the moon, the stars, and Mars as well as extensive mapping of the Earth. Applicable overlays enhance information-gathering. A not-to-miss feature is "street view" - when this feature is activated, double-click a camera to be taken into a 360º panoramic street level view of that location. Measuring distances and retrieving latitude and longitude co-ordinates can be done conveniently.

(Some of the capabilities of Google Earth are also available online in your browser with Google Maps.)


Google SketchUp

Google Sketchup is a very popular 3D drawing program. It is free, and readily downloadable from Google. It is simplest here to plunk down a link to an image created with Sketchup rather than try to describe what it can do. Follow this link to one of many enthusiastic tutorials on the product in text, graphic and video format, and this link to a video illustrating the extent designers can go with the product.


Skype

Skype is useful for Internet communications similar to your telephone. You can call anywhere in the world for reduced rates, and you can call other Skype users anytime for free. You will need to create a Skype account to use that program. Skype also has a video element with which you can see the person you have call (if they have a camera and permit it) and they can see you (same caveat).


PrimoPDF

PrimoPDF is a PDF creator similar to Adobe Acrobat. It is installed like a printer and shows up with any other installed printers. Output from any program directed to it as a printer will see a paperless PDF created instead. Since PDFs are relatively universal, these files are easily opened by recipients of them. PDF format is also a good way to save the output from annual tax programs, where it is not desirable to keep the program installed after the return is filed. PDF output can also be openable long after some programs are not - as compatibility issues with 16-bit programming in 64-bit environments becomes increasingly challenging. Although there is no saying how long PDFs will be openable, they certainly have been for many years, and the future looks good for this document format.



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