CeePrompt! Computer Connection 
Originally published Monday, December 29, 1997 

Got a new computer? Take some precautions

Now that the whirlwind of Christmas madness has settled down, those big, empty boxes are stacked clumsily in a corner among an odd assortment of cables, accessories and torn Christmas wrap. The
new computer sits majestically in your office, bedroom, kitchen or den, bringing the power of
information exchange and processing directly to your doorstep.

Computers were at the top of holiday wish lists this year, and their increased affordability assured that Santa delivered many new PCs this Christmas season. But before you zoom down the information superhighway or dive headlong into your electronic tax program, take a few moments to reconnoiter the mess of boxes,  pamphlets and assorted warranty cards that still litter the area.

All too often, important manufacturer information is tossed out with the tinsel in our zeal to get up and running. Invariably, when problems arise down the road, the necessary information is long gone, and the pains of troubleshooting lead to serious mechanical migraines. A few steps of preventive maintenance now will ease those future headaches:

  • Before you discard those bulky boxes, make sure you've extracted all the written materials and

  • small accessories that usually come wrapped in plastic. No matter how insignificant something may
    seem Christmas morning, it may become a critical component in the days and years to come.
  • Keep all your computer software, receipts and licensing agreements in a central file for easy access

  • in the future. Reinstalling or uninstalling software often calls for unique codes that verify original
    ownership. Unless that information is at your fingertips, inconvenient delays will occur.
  • Send in all the manufacturers' warranty cards to ensure that you'll be notified of product upgrades

  • or defects, should any arise. I'm not predicting trouble by any means, but keep in mind that computer
    technology is far from perfect, and while most products behave well most of the time, you should
    anticipate that something probably will go haywire at some point with your new PC.
  • If you're prompted to make recovery disks or system backup disks when you first power up the

  • new computer, do take the time to complete this operation. This may take up to 100 diskettes, but
    it's well worth the effort. Many computer manufacturers pre-install software and do not provide the
    original media, in an effort to keep retail costs down.

    It's up to you to make copies of your pre-installed software so that, in the event of a hard-disk
    failure, you can restore all your original programs and data. Be sure this backup software includes
    the Windows 95 operating system as well as a "boot disk." Throughout the life of your PC, you'll be
    prompted often to insert original Windows 95 program files for any changes or updates to your
    system. It's a real byte if you have to contact the manufacturer and wait days or weeks for
    replacement software to be shipped.

  • Do not install borrowed or pirated software on your system. Whether it's "just kid's games" or

  • business software doesn't matter. It's against the law and furthermore a prime source of lethal
    computer viruses and system trouble. "Just Say No!" to software piracy.
  • Consult the "Help" function often for assistance in navigating your new system. Manufacturers are

  • increasingly installing their manuals online rather than going to the expense of printing and reprinting
    paper manuals for every version and upgrade. F1 is the universal "Help" key on your keyboard, and
    it's context-sensitive, meaning when you press F1, you'll get help for the operation you're trying to

    The "Help" function won't replace a good book, however, when it comes to learning your new
    computer. The IDG Dummies books offer literally hundreds of beginner titles on every imaginable
    computer topic. So successful are these books that they've actually branched into other interest
    areas. "Opera for Dummies" showed up under our Christmas tree this year!

  • Finally, explore the computer classes available in our area. You can sign up for semesterlong

  • courses at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton or take single-session "start-up" classes through locally owned UpGrade Computer Training.

    University of the Pacific in Stockton will be offering hands-on training sessions each Tuesday
    afternoon through LifeLong Learning beginning in January on topics ranging from Windows 95 to
    wandering the Web. Both beginning and intermediate courses will be offered for $40 per class
    session. Contact LifeLong Learning at UOP for course and catalog information, 946-2424.

    Following a few common-sense tips in the beginning will ensure a happy and healthy PC as well as a
    long-lasting investment.

    Cathi Schuler owns a computer literacy training/consulting company, Cee Prompt! She is a co-author of computer textbooks and can be reached by e-mail at cschuler@uop.edu or cschuler@ceeprompt.com or by mail c/o The Record, P.O. Box 900, Stockton, CA 95201. She is on the Internet at: http://www.ceeprompt.com. Click here for past archived columns.
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