New to Windows? These Tips Will Help You Survive

Ben Stegner 25-08-2014

For a long time, Windows was the operating system that everyone grew up on and learned how to use in school. Times have changed, however; while kids are certainly learning with technology 5 Technology Skills You Should Actively Encourage Children To Take Up Crayon drawings still have their place, but technology is no longer only the future. Tomorrow's world is today.Which are the creative technology tasks we should encourage children to take up? Maybe, these five... Read More , Windows is no longer a core part of that. Due to the widespread use of alternate operating systems Which Operating System Should You Choose for Your Next PC? Buying a new PC? You have more operating system choices than ever. Which is the best operating system for your computer? Read More , including iPads, Android devices, and even Macs, it’s possible for some people to get by without ever touching Windows.


At some point in your life, though, you’re likely going to be confronted with a Windows-based system, and it’s essential to know your way around. For anyone who will be forced to use Windows in college or the workplace, become tech support for family 7 Ways to Ensure Your Loved Ones' PC Will Never Need Fixing Are you tech support for your family or friends? Do you receive frantic calls because they've installed malware or somehow managed to break their computer and they need you to fix it? This can be... Read More , or decide to just try it out for something new, here are some important pointers for starting out on Windows.

Remove The Bloatware

Since computers running Windows come from so many different manufacturers, no two are the same; each manufacturer puts their own software on it before it reaches you. Unlike Apple’s great pre-installed Mac software The Best Default Mac Apps That You Shouldn't Need to Replace Here are some of the best default, pre-installed, native Mac apps worth using. Don't ditch them before you try them! Read More , pre-installed Windows programs, known as bloatware, are rarely useful. They consist of junk like free trials of paid security software, inferior media players, and slow weather/news programs that you don’t need. Not only do they take up space on your hard drive, they also run in the background and waste resources.

Fortunately, removing this trash from a new system isn’t complicated. Tim has covered all the bases on removing crapware from Windows How To Remove Unwanted Crapware From Your Brand New Windows 7 System Read More , made simple by the excellent tool PC Decrapifier. Simply download and run it to get a list of all installed programs on your system, along with some advice on which to yank.


If you’re still not sure which programs should go, other tools can let you know what’s reputable, such as Should I Remove It? We have reviewed Should I Remove It? Know What Software To Uninstall With Should I Remove It? Here at MakeUseOf, we've put out many articles reviewing and highlighting software that allows you to completely and cleanly uninstall applications from your system. One issue many of you run into is not knowing which... Read More  and recommend consulting it when you doubt a program’s worth. The service includes both a free desktop program that will analyze all your installed software and a fully functional website if you just want to check out a couple of programs from time to time.



Download Safely

Even after you’ve removed the pre-installed junk, it’s important to be smart about your downloads to make sure that you don’t end up with more garbage in the future. Interestingly, Windows is the only major operating system that doesn’t include a central “store” for downloading and sorting apps. Mac and iOS users have the App Store, Android reports to the Google Play Store, and on Linux package managers Your Guide to Ubuntu Repositories and Package Management Read More accomplish the task.


Windows users were stuck with third-party app stores Before the Windows Store: Package Managers and Software Repositories App stores are everywhere these days. Whether you’re using iOS or Android, you can get all your apps from a single location and have them automatically update in a consistent way. If you’re using Mac... Read More , but with Windows 8 Microsoft introduced the Windows Store Simply Install Apps And Games In Windows 8 One of the key benefits of the new Windows 8 Consumer Preview is the addition of the Windows 8 Store, absent from the previous Windows 8 Developer Preview. This new tool streamlines the process, allowing... Read More , which should have been the official solution that was sorely lacking. Unfortunately, the Windows Store is only compatible with Metro apps What Are The Best Apps To Get Started With Windows 8? Read More , not traditional desktop programs. Even worse, the content on the store is filled with scams and fake paid versions of legitimate software, which isn’t an issue any other operating system has. Given all of this, it’s important to know where you’re getting your Windows software from.



Aside from the third-party repositories like AllMyApps (our review All My Apps: Centralized App Store for Windows With Lots of Free Software Read More ), you can visit a program’s official website to download it. A Google search should be enough to find a download page, but be sure you’re on the real website and not a fake. If you need some suggestions, we keep a list of the best Windows programs The Best PC Software for Your Windows Computer Want the best PC software for your Windows computer? Our massive list collects the best and safest programs for all needs. Read More and their download links. You could also use a reputable aggregate website like FileHippo to quickly find software downloads. Ninite is another excellent option for speedy app downloads Ninite - Easily Install All Your Favorite Free Apps In One Go Read More .


Finally, be sure to check the preferences while installing software. Even with legitimate, helpful programs, toolbars and other third-party rubbish can be bundled inside A Simple Checklist To Safely Installing Free Software Without All The Junk Picture this - you've just found this awesome free software that you are stoked about because of all that it can do for you, but when you install it, you discover that it is packed... Read More . Whenever possible, use the custom installation, not the default or express option, and uncheck all boxes offering you extras.



If you’d like some assistance in this area, Unchecky is a free program that will watch for these unrelated junk installations and untick their boxes automatically, taking the hassle out of your hands.

Use An Antivirus

It goes without saying that no Windows machine should be without an antivirus. You can protect your PC without one What Can I Do To Protect My PC Without Anti-Virus Software? For plenty of users, getting and using anti-virus software can be a hassle for lots of different reasons. Not only can they be expensive, but they can be slow, difficult to control, and a major... Read More , using safe browsing habits and other tools, but unless you have a good reason, you should be using an antivirus program.

We’ve compared the most popular free choices Free Anti-Virus Comparison: 5 Popular Choices Go Toe-To-Toe What is the best free antivirus? This is among the most common questions we receive at MakeUseOf. People want to be protected, but they don’t want to have to pay a yearly fee or use... Read More ; as long as you pick one that’s well-known like avast!, Avira, or AVG, you’ll be protected. Microsoft has their own free antivirus, and it’s included on Windows 8 and above as Windows Defender. Prior to Windows 8, the same product can be downloaded under the name Microsoft Security Essentials. You should avoid using it on either version, though, as it has performed terribly in tests Why You Should Replace Microsoft Security Essentials With A Proper Antivirus Read More and even Microsoft has said to use another program.



Don’t worry about paying for a full antivirus suite, either. Free tools do the job just fine; paid protection programs are typically full of unnecessary features. Save your money for use elsewhere.

Perform Regular Maintenance

Over time, Windows builds up temporary files and other cruft that should be cleaned out for best performance. Going overboard with cleaning can mess up your system 5 Ways Overzealous Cleaning Can Break Windows It's easy to go overboard with cleaning your PC. When you're cleaning your PC, be sure you know what you're getting into -- it's easy to break something. Read More , though, so doing it right is important.

Disk Cleanup

For cleaning out the Recycle Bin Make a Better Recycle Bin With These Great Tools & Tricks Most of us are very familiar with the Recycle Bin. We use it regularly, and it seems like a feature we can’t do much to customize – deleted files go there, and we can permanently... Read More , temporary browser files, and old files used by the OS, you can utilize the built-in Disk Cleanup tool. Search for it in the Start Menu, choose the disk you want to clean (likely your main hard drive) and Windows will analyze the  space you gain from each area.


It’s worth clicking the Clean Up System Files button before cleaning, as you can also clean out old Windows Update files to save even more space. After you click it, the tool will re-analyze your drive and present you with the new information.

Since this is a process you’ll want to do on a semi-regular basis, it’s a good idea to automate it with the Task Scheduler How to Automatically Keep Windows 7 Clean of Obsolete Files Windows has a way of collecting virtual dust, a circumstance that has not changed considerably in Windows 7. These obsolete files take up space and contribute to hard drive fragmentation. While neither of this is... Read More .

If you’re looking for a more versatile tool to do the job, CCleaner is an excellent choice; read our coverage Optimize Your System To Run At Its Best With CCleaner Over the last two years, CCleaner has changed quite a bit in terms of version numbers...up now to version 3.10 at the time of this writing. While visually the program actually hasn't changed much (it's... Read More for more info on how to use it.


Since the functionality is built into CCleaner, it’s worth mentioning that you do not need to clean the registry Using Registry Cleaner: Does Is It Really Make a Difference? Advertisements for registry cleaners are all over the Web. There’s an entire industry out there bent on convincing inexperienced computer users that their registry needs fixing, and that, for ten easy payments of $29.95, their... Read More . There’s no difference in performance after cleaning the registry, and most cleaners try to steal your money in exchange for their useless products. Stay away.

Windows Update

As annoying as Windows Updates Windows Update: Everything You Need to Know Is Windows Update enabled on your PC? Windows Update protects you from security vulnerabilities by keeping Windows, Internet Explorer, and Microsoft Office up-to-date with the latest security patches and bug fixes. Read More can be, they’re essential for keeping your system safe 3 Reasons Why You Should Be Running The Latest Windows Security Patches & Updates The code that makes up the Windows operating system contains security loop holes, errors, incompatibilities, or outdated software elements. In short, Windows isn't perfect, we all know that. Security patches and updates fix the vulnerabilities... Read More . When a vulnerability is discovered, Microsoft sends updates your way to fix the problem. It’s a no-brainer to enable automatic updates, at least for important patches, so that you don’t have to remember to check constantly. Just search for Windows Update in the search bar to open the menu, and choose Change Settings on the left to make sure they’re automated.


After important updates are installed, Windows will try to force you to restart, which can be infuriating if you’re in the middle of something and walk away from your computer. Luckily, you can disable these with a few quick hacks How to Disable Forced Restarts After a Windows Update Are you tired of Windows hassling you to reboot your computer after updates were installed? Miss a pop-up and it reboots automatically. Stop this madness and reboot at your leisure. Read More ; just be sure to actually shut down and install them at some point after doing so!


It’s not just Windows Updates that need to restart your computer from time to time; restarting your computer manually is important. When you encounter slow performance, a program refusing to start, or other odd behaviors, don’t call tech support right away. Restarting Windows fixes most issues Why Does Rebooting Your Computer Fix So Many Issues? "Have you tried rebooting?" It's technical advice that gets thrown around a lot, but there's a reason: it works. Not just for PCs, but a wide range of devices. We explain why. Read More without any other steps required.

Even if you’re the kind of person who leaves their machine on for weeks at a time, be sure to restart it every once in a while to keep things refreshed.

Backing Up

It’s absolutely essential to back up your computer The Windows Backup and Restore Guide Disasters happen. Unless you're willing to lose your data, you need a good Windows backup routine. We'll show you how to prepare backups and restore them. Read More . No matter how little or unimportant data you think you have, losing your information is awful and makes backing up worth the small hassle it is. On Windows, you have lots of choice in which backup program Top 10 Backup Software Apps For Your PC Read More  you use.


You should back up to an external hard drive, an online storage provider, or both. We’re big fans of CrashPlan, a tool that allows you to back up The Best Backup Software for Windows Your data is fragile – it only takes one small accident to lose everything. The more backups you make, the better. Here we present the best free backup software for Windows. Read More to external drives or even other computers How To Back Up PCs To Each Other Via The Internet Using Crash Plan Personal Backing up the data on your computer is vital. Yet not everyone does something about it. Why? Because backing up a computer remains a bit of a pain. If you own more than one computer,... Read More easily and for free, and offers paid plans for online stashing. Before you choose an online provider, check Tim’s list Read This Before Choosing An Online Backup Provider Backing up your files is a no-brainer - at least it should be. Hardware failure, security breaches, natural disasters, thieving scumbags and clumsiness can all lead to heart-in-mouth moments when you realise that your precious... Read More to make sure you’re getting what you pay for.

You’re Ready For Windows

Now that you’ve learned some basic tips for Windows usage, you don’t have to feel abandoned in your new operating system. You’re bound to have a few questions over time, but don’t panic! We write articles about Windows all the time.

If you’re a Windows user but are thinking of switching to Mac OS X, check out our guide to making that switch Switched: The Convert's Guide to the Mac and OS X Thinking of switching from your Windows-based PC to a Mac? Learn everything you need to know in order to make that transition painless. Read More .

What situations have forced you to use Windows? What other aspects of the operating system confuse you? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credits: lifebuoy Via Shutterstock

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  1. emma
    August 22, 2017 at 9:52 am

    Thanks for the information. The information you provided is very helpful for Tableau Learners .

  2. Alica
    January 11, 2015 at 4:12 am

    This is truly helpful, especially to the non-tech-savvy people. Thanks

    • Ben S
      January 11, 2015 at 11:18 pm

      You're quite welcome! I'm glad this helped you and I hope you'll be visiting us again.

  3. hinaismail
    October 23, 2014 at 6:56 am

    This article will help the users for setting
    up new blog from start to end.

  4. Peter Waller
    August 27, 2014 at 9:15 am

    I'm an old duffer. Been using Win. for years but still learning. Enjoyed this article very much, now I'm going try some things out. Thanks

    • Ben S
      August 27, 2014 at 5:50 pm

      I'm glad you liked it! It's always awesome to learn new things about a topic you thought you were well-versed in, huh?

  5. Buffet
    August 27, 2014 at 7:36 am

    You're calling SUPERAntiSpyware junk? Better get your facts straight pal.

    • Ben S
      August 27, 2014 at 5:54 pm

      When did I call SAS junk? Nowhere in this article did I do that; in fact, I wrote an entire article on it and sang its praises:


      If you're referring to its appearance in the Should I Remove It? screenshot, that's simply the rating it has on the site for some reason. I can't control that.

    • Buffet
      August 27, 2014 at 10:12 pm

      Dear Ben,
      Please accept my sincere apology. I was in error. Sorry!

    • Ben S
      August 27, 2014 at 10:44 pm

      Apology accepted. It was just a small misunderstanding. No harm done : )

  6. KT
    August 26, 2014 at 11:37 pm

    Great article. A few more tips I find helpful:
    1. Dump I.E. and get another browser. Firefox (with good add-ons), Chrome, Opera, etc.
    2. Get Malware bytes or spybot and immunize your system.
    3. Always log off or power down when not in use.

    • Ben S
      August 27, 2014 at 12:27 am

      Good suggestions! I could have included them, and thought about it, but I didn't want this to get too long. At some point you have to cut it off : )

      Thanks for your input!

  7. Howard B
    August 26, 2014 at 9:04 pm

    How about some Windows 8.x survival tips, like free (and even paid) "Start Menu" restorers, or alternatives to the butt-ugly flat Windows 8 default theme?

  8. Howard B
    August 26, 2014 at 9:04 pm

    "It goes without saying that no Windows machine should be without an antivirus." This can't be said enough.

    "You can protect your PC without one, using safe browsing habits and other tools..." No, you *can't*. Without realtime antivirus and malware scanners, hackers can use flaws in Windows to inject malware in a computer that's just **sitting there**, without anyone using the computer or doing any kind of web browsing.

    I once managed a network with a Windows 2000 Server machine. The manager insisted that "since nobody's using the keyboard, or web surfing on it, it'll be all right; we can't afford 'server-grade,' paid antivirus." Needless to say, a MIRC bot, bogus user accounts, and (probably) spam bots wound up being installed on the computer *through the Internet* - I had to use ClamWin to disinfect the computer. Just using "safe browsing habits" is NO guarantee you won't be infected, even if you use "on-demand" scanners regularly. Real-time antivirus is ESSENTIAL, as is a "second opinion" on-demand scanner like MalwareBytes or AdAware.

    • Ben S
      August 27, 2014 at 12:26 am

      It is possible to stay relatively safe without an AV for advanced users, though I'd never recommend it. I wanted to link to the article and leave an alternative, but for 99% of users an antivirus is essential.

      Thanks for sharing your experience.

    • Howard B
      August 27, 2014 at 4:48 pm

      Saying that "advanced users" can stay "relatively safe" without antivirus is like saying it's possible to jump out of a plane at 10,000 feet without a parachute - some people have survived it, but it's insane.

    • Ben S
      August 27, 2014 at 5:51 pm

      You're right, but some people choose to do it.

      I just wanted to connect our existing material on the subject.

  9. Merlyn
    August 26, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    Thank you Ben...excellent article. Am familiar with some of the tips on Security, cc cleaner etc...all from MOU much earlier. Definitely a good update.

    • Ben S
      August 26, 2014 at 3:26 pm

      So glad you liked it, Merlyn! Thanks for commenting; it's always good to refresh your knowledge!

  10. mastaeit
    August 25, 2014 at 9:05 pm

    I think it's great that there are kids not familiar with Windows . After all, why they have to learn it anyway?

    • realworld
      August 25, 2014 at 9:55 pm

      Because in their future job they will need to know it.

    • Ben S
      August 25, 2014 at 10:55 pm

      Realworld is correct. I wrote this article mainly for people who will be forced to use Windows at some point, such as students in college or people in their first job.