Sunday, January 16, 2011

A new machine

I’ve recently purchased a new laptop after my old one (7 years of dedicated service) lost a portion of the LCD screen. Fear not! It has been moved onto other tasks with an external monitor but I’d though I’d take the opportunity to run your through my setup process for the new beastie.

1. Power the machine on and let it completely finish installing all its software.

2. Reboot the machine to a Storagecraft boot DVD and take an image of the machine before anything further. You can do this before the machine even powers up to Windows but as you’ll see in the next step I’ll create another backup that will allow me to return the device to delivery state.

3. I boot back into the machine and use the manufacturer supplied  Recovery Manager to create a set of recovery media. In this case it meant 7 DVD’s. So now I can get it back via an image as well as back to delivery state via the recovery media.

4. I now upgrade the version of Windows from Home Premium to Ultimate to allow all the Windows professional bits needed. I’ll also uninstall all the manufacturer crap that has been installed and make the machine as lean as possible.

5. I then use Truecrypt to do a encrypt all the hard disks on the machine. Sure I could do this with Windows Bit Locker but I believe that encryption should be open source. I don’t trust an algorithm that is proprietary. This now means that if the laptop gets stolen the information on there is safe, even if the disks are removed and inserted into another machine. Be warned, full drive encryption can take a long time to complete but Truecrypt allows you to pause and restart the encryption process at any point.

6. I install the latest version of Office Professional. In this case Office 2010 Professional Plus. I also install SharePoint Designer 2010 and SharePoint Designer 2007 (which are both free downloads). SharePoint Designer 2010 will only work with the latest version of SharePoint Server. Thus you still need SharePoint Designer 2007 when working with Windows SharePoint Server v3 or Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS).

7. I do a Windows Update and change the options to check for all Microsoft updates and in future only prompt me when updates are available. I always keep running this until there are no more updates.

8. The machine came with Windows Security Essentials. Most other AV products are just too bloated and cumbersome. I also however also install Malwarebytes (another free download) and scan my system with this manually once a week at least.

9. I now install a swag of utilities including:

Skype – for free conferencing
Evernote – cloud based digital notebooks (even though I also use OneNote backed onto a hosted SharePoint site as well)
Virtualbox – this allows me to create virtual machines with 64 bit guest (i.e. for creating SharePoint 2010 test machines). I was disappointed to find that Windows XP Mode doesn’t allow 64 bit guests so this is what I now use.
Windows XP mode and Virtual PC – again for virtualization and running an virtual XP machine for backwards compatibility if required.
Window Live Essentials – I use the writer for blogging, messenger and a few other apps here. All free to download and very handy.
Audacity – For editing sound files, especially CIAOPS podcasts.
iTunes – Great for music but there are also plenty of great podcast and free training videos on all subjects here.

10. I install Firebox and Chrome browsers and set Chrome as my default (because it is the fastest). I need all these to test with SharePoint but Chrome is definitely my default browsers these days.

11. Now I install Lastpass which contains all my web site passwords via the cloud. Not only will it automatically fill them in for sites you visit regularly but it will also generate and remember secure passwords for new sites. Thus every new web site I sign up has a unique secure password. If you haven’t looked at Lastpass I recommend you do as it also integrates will all browsers and mobile devices.

12. I’ll install the Delicious browser add ons that allow me to bookmark and share my sites with the world (and any other machine I have via the cloud).

13. Next comes Camtasia Studio which allows me to create my video tutorials and presentations.

14. The Storagecraft desktop edition is install to allow me to take image backups of my whole machine for easy restoration.

15. To keep track of my time on the machine I install the Recuetime and Wakoopa agents.

16. To manage my Twitter feeds I install TwInbox.

17. To allow me to create PDF’s I’ll install PDFCreator.

18. I’ll do a defrag to line everything up that just been installed since hopefully not too much should be shifting around.

19. I’ll reboot and go into the BIOS and enable the password boot option. This means I have to put two passwords in at boot time, the BIOS password the hard disk encryption password. The BIOS password adds to security and allows me to easily shut the machine off if I turned it on by accident. It also allows me to insert a DVD if I need to boot from it rather than simply booting to the hard disk immediately.

20. I also change the boot order in the machine so it boots from the DVD first, which I’ll need if I have to do a recovery.

21. I then run Spinrite in full maintenance mode to check the hard disk and make sure there aren’t any bad sectors lurking about. Generally if a hard disk fails it is going to fail in the first few weeks so using Spinrite allows be to detect this early on the piece before I get too much further. I could do this before I start install all the above software but usually by now I am sick of computers and need a break so I leave Spinrite to do its work. Be warned that depending on the size of your hard disks this could take quite a while.

There still a few more tweaks and installs that I’ll do before I’m 100% complete but that’s the list of all the major stuff before the data even hits the machine.

When it’s all done I do a final Microsoft Update and a Storagecraft image and I’m good to go. Sure it takes a long while to set up but my last machine is still going after 7 years and I would like this one to last even longer, so I’m happy to invest the time up front getting things right.

I’d love to hear what ‘standard’ stuff you install on your machines. Let me know via (