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  • Oriana Skylar Mastro

New Computer? Yay! Setting it up? Ugh.

For many of us, our computer is the most important work tool we’ve got. To keep up with technological progress, research shows you should update your laptop every 3-4 years, desktops every five years. If you are lucky enough to get a new computer, awesome. But what follows is a big headache – setting up your new computer with all the preferences, software, etc. that you had on your old computer.

Last time I did this, I created a new computer set up checklist. This streamlines the process, but it also facilitates delegation if so desired (I hired a recent Stanford graduate to get everything up and running and it worked beautifully). Here are a few steps to help you set up your own.

Pay the setup costs. Some companies, like apple, offer a service (migration assistant) where they can transfer everything from one computer to another. But I usually get a new computer because some things aren’t great with the old one, mystery problems that I don’t want to transfer to the new one. So, I do it by hand. But if you don’t take the time to get your computer all set up, you’ll be frustrated every day the computer can’t access or do what you need. I suggest compiling all the necessary information in one place. This is easiest to do when you set up a new computer – keep track of everything you are doing and the information you gather throughout the process. There are several categories here, from downloading and activating software to adjusting keyboard settings and adding extensions to browsers.

Put it all together. It may help you to see the generic list I put together.


· System preferences: clicking, right click is with 2 fingers. Drag can be also with 3 fingers in addition to click and drag.

· To show battery percentage go to Settings>>Dock & Menu Bar>>Battery (This [x] could change with software updates)

· Set up new password

· Set up screensaver

· Add preferred apps to dock

· Set downloads to go to desktop

· Connect to apple id for music, photos, contacts, and calendar. Make sure syncing occurs.

· Add bluetooth show in menu bar and connect to two pairs of wireless earphones

· Enable Chinese typing


· Set up all emails and their signatures; name the inbox what you’d like by click on ‘details’ in accounts

· Check through preferences on old computer to make sure all email preferences on new computer are the same


· Make Chrome default browser and enable cookies

· Export and import bookmarks

· Add these extensions: Stanford library ***, pocket, Evernote, Grammarly, honey, hola, Zotero, ncapture

· In chrome, sign into gmail account to set up so payment methods and passwords auto populate

Download, sign in and move to dock the following free applications: Firefox, Chrome, Grammarly, Slack, Evernote, Zotero, Skype, Dropbox, Spotify, Just Focus, Zoom, Agenda

***note I include the passwords in my guide for all these applications

Download, sign in and move to dock the following paid applications (and import projects as needed): Atlas.ti 9, Scrivener 3, Microsoft Office, DEVONthink Pro 3, Adobe PRO, NVivo 12.

***note I include the passwords, links, licenses, etc. in my guide for all these applications

Produce reminders. If any software must be repurchased by a certain date or an updated version will become available, for example, I add a reminder to do so.

Performance notes. In some ways, this whole process is the result of a performance note. But in addition to the setup guide, I also add notes about any difficulties I had. One software, for example, I couldn’t find the place to download it. I included in my setup guide this information for the next time around.

I hope you find this approach helpful. You can employ it with any other electronics that you are often upgrading, like phones and tablets. Best of luck!

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