Fixing Microsoft Windows

I’ve spent the last few days helping out some old friends with their four Windows XP computers (all from Dell) and it amazes me the amount of stuff I needed to do. My friends wanted me to wipe three of the four computers and see what I could do to speed up the fourth (I couldn’t wipe it as it actually belongs to their church and too many people use it for me to have talked to each of them about what they actually needed backed up). Here’s a consolidated list of the things I did and wished I could have done to each of the computers.

  1. Back up necessary documents and settings.
  2. Create an install disk with nLite: I didn’t actually get to do this with any of the computers I worked with this week, but removing Outlook Express, MSN Explorer, MSN/Windows Messenger, and Windows Media Player and integrating service packs before I even did the install would have been a great start.
  3. Install Windows while disconnected from the internet - why put a completely unprotected computer on the network?
  4. Install antivirus software and hardware drivers from a thumbdrive: I downloaded AVG Free Antivirus and each Dell’s required hardware drivers to a thumbdrive on another computer and then ran the installers that way. AVG’s installer was the first of many that presented me with the option to install a toolbar (AVG, Google, Yahoo!, Yahoo!CCleaner, MSN, etc), and as a rule I don’t install any of them.
  5. Connect to the network and run Microsoft Update: This takes forever (and multiple iterations), but it’s got to be done - and I firmly believe it should be done immediately upon installation. I installed every update except those dealing with Messenger and WindowsLive; for those updates I check the little “never show this update again” box.
  6. Install Windows Defender and CCleaner: I’m glad Fedora doesn’t need all this stuff to protect it!
  7. Install Flash, Java, and Silverlight: My friends are not the most computer-saavy (hence Windows), and even if the computer was for me, I’d need these three programs to get the most out of the internet.
  8. Install alternatives for AdobeReader, Quicktime, and RealPlayer: I chose to use SumatraPDF, QuickTime Alternative, and Real Alterative. Again, these are essential programs for everyday use.
  9. Decide, based on how the computer will be used, which other basic software is needed:
    • iTunes: My friends all use iTunes to download music, so I installed the bloat-free version that works with QuickTime Alternative.
    • Pidgin: AIM, ICQ, Jabber, MSN Messenger… all in one.
    • Skype: All arguments against it aside, it does work, and it’s free….
  10. Install whatever specialized software is needed: I’d love to say I installed OpenOffice for my friends, but it’s unacceptable to them to have any inconsistencies whatsoever in their Word documents and PowerPoint presentations, so Microsoft Office got added in; one of my friends is a pastor, so PC Study Bible and iLumina were added to his as well. Whatever other software is necessary goes in this category.
  11. Copy in backed-up documents and settings.
  12. Set up email in Outlook and the desired homepage(s) in Internet Explorer. Again, I wish I could have moved my friends to Thunderbird and Firefox or Opera, but I didn’t know any way to make Blackberry software work with Thunderbird and my friends just won’t understand using a browser other than IE, which is necessary for Microsoft Update anyway.
  13. Run Microsoft Update again (as many times as necessary until it finds no new updates), reboot, run CCleaner, and defragment to finish everything right.

If you think I made any mistakes or missed anything, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!