5 Steps to Setting up New Laptops and Tablets

Connect to a network, enter your personal information, and more

Whether you're new to computers and tablets or you’ve been using them for a while, it helps to have a checklist when you start fresh with a new device. Here's a summary of what you need to do to set it up.

Sign in With the Appropriate Account

Hand using computer laptop to unlock the notebook screen, User signing in to account password from the lock screen on computer laptop isolated over white background
wera Rodsawang / Getty Images

The first time you turn on a new laptop or tablet you're prompted to configure a few settings. You’re asked what language to use, what network you want to connect to, and if you want to turn on location services, among other things.

A wizard takes you through this a step at a time. During the process, you’re asked to sign in with an existing account (or create one).

Windows-based laptops and tablets allow you to log on with a local account. But, you won’t get the most from your device if you do. Instead, login with a Microsoft Account if you're on a Windows device. If you don't have one, you’re prompted to create one during the setup process. Other operating systems have similar account requirements. For Android-based devices, you'll need a Google account. For Apple laptops and tablets, an Apple ID.

After you’re logged in, you can opt to let the new device sync your existing data and settings, should that data exist, or you can choose to set up the device without syncing. Data that can by synced may include, but is not limited to, email and email accounts, calendar events, memos and notes, reminders, program settings, app data, and even your desktop background or screensaver.

Connect to a Network

Woman in her kitchen in the morning, posting sticky notes on the fridge with her WiFi password
Westend61 / Getty Images

During the setup process, you’re offered a list of nearby wireless networks and asked to choose one. It’s important to connect to a network so you can get operating system updates, install apps, and download saved data (if it exists) from the cloud, and it's best to do that on day one. Windows needs to go online to get activated too.

The network you connect to, at least during this process, should be one you trust, like a network at your home or office. You must type the password to connect, so you need to locate that.

Many internet service provides put your WiFi network name and password on the back of your wireless router.

If you can’t connect to a network during the setup process, and you're on a Windows-based device, try this:

  1. Move your mouse to the bottom right corner of the screen click the Wireless Network icon.

  2. Select your network from the list, then select connect.

    Make sure the Connect Automatically checkbox is marked.

    Screenshot of a Windows desktop with the WiFi networks displayed
  3. Type in your password, then select Next.

    Screenshot of a Windows 10 desktop with a WiFi network and password displayed
  4. Opt to trust the network when prompted

Personalize Apps and Programs

Screenshot of the Microsoft Store

New computers, laptops, and tablets come preinstalled with all sorts of apps and programs. This configuration may suit your needs exactly, but it’s more likely the list needs tweaking.

What should you download on a new laptop? What’s unnecessary? Here are some tips for getting it just right:

  • Get the apps you're missing from the Microsoft Store. Only get apps you know you’ll use right now. You can experiment with others later.
  • Get the programs you need from manufacturers' websites. You can purchase and install software like Microsoft Office at www.microsoft.com and Apple iTunes from www.apple.com. Get the programs you know you need as well as those you’ve already paid for.
  • Get rid of apps you don’t need. From the Start menu, right-click any unwanted app and select Uninstall. Consider items you know you’ll never use, including games, productivity apps, and third-party media players.
  • Get rid of programs you don’t need. You can do this by going to the Control Panel and selecting Uninstall a Program. Consider dumping items like Get Office, trial versions of programs you know you’ll never use, and games you won’t play.

Never uninstall an item you don’t recognize. Some programs are necessary for the computer or tablet to function properly. Others might come in handy later, like manufacturers' troubleshooting or help applications. 

Add Personal Data

OneDrive in File Explorer

Personal data includes documents, pictures, music, videos, presentations, and more. Most of the time, you’ll want that data available to you on your new computer or tablet. The way you make the data available depends on where it's stored right now:

  • If the data is on another computer, consider copying what you want to a USB stick or backup drive, then use that device to copy the data to the new device.
  • If the data is on OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox, or another online storage area, do what’s required to sync that data to your new machine. If you’ve logged on to your new Windows 11 device with a Microsoft account, select OneDrive in File Explorer to get started.​
  • If the data you need is stored in a backup file from another device, run the restore program on your Windows 11 machine to reconstruct it. Search inside the taskbar for File History to get started. 

Secure the Device

Windows Defender enabled

As you continue to use your new device, perhaps by personalizing the Start menu, changing the desktop background, and so on, you’ll begin to see prompts that suggest you do certain things. Try to resolve these prompts as soon as you can. Many of the suggestions are for security features that can protect your data, including:

  • Enable Windows Defender and Windows Firewall to protect against malware and viruses.
  • Charge the battery when a prompt informs you it's low.
  • Set up a backup plan to protect data in case of a computer failure.
  • Update software to keep applications running smoothly.
  • Update apps to keep up with new features.
  • Store passwords for ease of use and to secure them.
  • Set up Find My Device so you can locate it should it go missing.
  • Perform various security and maintenance tasks to keep the computer healthy.
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