Setting up a PC for the first time

How to set up a standard PC

Setting up a Standard PC

How to set up a Laptop

Setting up a Laptop

Setting up a standard PC

Setting up a standard PC

Once you have a PC  (Personal Computer) or laptop and have just got it home,what's next? If you have a PC first you will have to connect up all the components. You may have been supplied with:

You may have also been supplied with a printer or a scanner or a camera or some other component as part of a package deal. One way or another all these parts must be connected together so that the computer has access to all it's devices.

1. Connect up all the devices

9pin DIN to PS2 and Small Din to large DIN AdaptorsThe first thing to do is connect all the devices to the correct port at the rear (or sometimes the front) of the Base Unit. Computer Base Units can be of different types and sometimes have different sockets.The socket and plug of each component should match,if they don't,sometimes it is possible to get an adaptor to change one plug into another type. Be careful though,because the computer sometimes does not allow certain devices into certain sockets. A case where this might happen is with Serial and PS2 type Mice. Mice can be supplied with 9 way D connectors or small DIN connectors if they are PS2.Very rarely you may encounter large DIN plugs for keyboards.Mostly though there will be two small round DIN sockets for both the keyboard and mouse,which are likely to be colour coded or marked as "keyboard" or with a symbol or icon indicating which device connects to that port.

Take care to orientate the plugs correctly - if they are circular they may have a locating pin or bevel in the edge that indicates which way round the plug goes. For D type connectors (eg the Parallel port) the orientation is obvious since it will not go in upside down.

The printer,if there is one will connect to the parallel port or possibly the USB port.Devices such as printers may need installing using their own software which should be supplied on a CD-ROM. Scanners may have two connectors and may be "daisy chained" with the printer - that is,the scanner is connected to the PC and then the printer is connected to the scanner.

Speakers and amplifier systems connect to the sound card socket which has three or four 3.5mm jack sockets.The speaker plug should be inserted in the Speaker outlet jack.This may also be colour coded to indicate the correct connection.

Rear view of a PC showing cables fitted into sockets Rear view of a PC showing sockets and cards fitted for Modem,Network and Monitor Rear view of a PC showing PS2 and USB sockets
Rear view of a PC showing cables fitted into sockets Rear view of a PC showing sockets and cards fitted for Modem,Network and Monitor Rear view of a PC showing PS2 and USB sockets

2. Plug in and Switch on

If your PC comes with a Pre-installed operating system,which is likely,then the power cable can be connected and the Base Unit switched on and if necessary the Monitor.Some monitors are connected to the base unit via a power cable,others connect to the mains directly themselves.
If all goes to plan,pressing the Base Unit Power on button will result in the Autoboot process. This process is where the computer goes through a series of setup procedures to start off some of the tasks that it will need when it reaches the point where it starts your operating system. The operating system will vary from PC to PC and depending on how old your PC is,but nominally it will be running Windows XP or a 9x variant such as 95 or 98. For more information on Windows Systems see Microsoft's own website. During the loading process your computer may make some beeping noises,this is completely normal and is not an indication of failure.However,there are coded beeping noises that the base unit will make if it fails to get through the Boot process.If your PC fails to show the Windows operating system and has made undue noise before it gets there,then it is either faulty or you have failed to connect the various parts properly.

PC Front Facia At the front of the PC is the power switch and the controls for the CD-ROM Unit and the entry point for the floppy disk (if the PC has one).There may also be a Reset switch,LED indicators  (which show hard disk operation) and possibly a 'Turbo' button.

The CD volume control may also be on the front facia which controls the volume of the output to the headphone socket on the front of the PC.

If all goes well the PC should boot up and reach the operating system screen after passing though the Windows LOGO screen

Setting up a Laptop

Connector layouts on Laptops

For the purposes of comparison,the pictures show two laptops showing the varied layout of the connectors on a laptop.Note that the provision of the various connectors is pretty much the same but that in some cases connectors will be omitted or extra ones may exist that may not be standard. In these examples both machines are fitted with S-video,External Monitor,PSU,USB,Network port and External Monitor connectors and both have external microphone and earphone connectors. Only one has a parallel and serial port and a PS2 Mouse connector and only one has a Firewire connector.

The connectors fulfill the following functions:

MODEM and Earphones MODEM and PS2

USB Mouse with PS2 adaptor attachedLaptops are likely to have Windows XP already installed.If there is no operating system installed then this will need to be done first.If it is already installed,then the laptop should run from the moment it is plugged in and switched on. There is minimal connection of devices since most of the normal external connections made on a PC are made internally on a laptop. In particular,the mouse may have been replaced by a touchpad,which is operated by moving one finger around and then clicking on one of the two buttons next to it. Sometimes the buttons are replaced by tapping the touchpad. Occasionally one may wish to connect a mouse or other pointing device,in which case the USB port or PS2 port (if there is one) is the connection of choice.

In the event that the wrong connector is on the device you wish to attach then it maybe possible to use an adaptor to alter the plug at the end of the device,however it is not wise to do this indiscriminately and without any knowledge of the device and the type of data it produces.Consult someone who knows what they are doing before altering device connectors in this way.

Windows Device ListIf the laptop has a parallel port then printers can be attached there,but the odds are that you will need a USB compatible printer or scanner.If more devices are to be connected then you may need a USB hub which increase the number of ports available.

In both cases,if your PC or laptop reaches the operating system stage and the Windows Environment is up and running then it is worth checking the device list in the device manager to see if all devices are available and functioning.Windows may well find some of the devices itself if they have either recently been installed or it has knowledge of them,it may attempt to install them itself. The device list can be found in the CONTROL PANEL section under "System - Hardware tab - Device Manager" for Windows XP.

If a device is failing or not functioning properly then Windows will indicate this with a yellow question mark against the device in question. To correct such failures may require the help of a computer engineer if you do not know what you are doing.

Points to remember about Setting up a PC:


USB Hub A device for extending your PC's ability to have attached serial devices.

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See Also:,PCMechanic