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How can I make my mom's Windows PC bullet-proof?

I'm moving overseas tomorrow. Instead of hauling my PC halfway across the globe, I've decided to donate it to my brother-in-law. He has as close to zero experience with computers as is possible in this modern age. I'll give him a 45 minute run through the basics: switching on, logging in, turning on WiFi, getting online, etc.

I've been running GNU/Linux and have been out of the Windows loop for some years now. I've installed Windows 7 and was really pleased to see what advances have been made with the OS.

Nonetheless, as I'm out of the loop, perhaps there are obvious things I'm missing.

My main objective is to have it configured so that there's a reasonabl chance it will be crapware-free in a year's time when I return to visit.

So far I've:

  • given him a password that's strong but he'll remember
  • installed all the latest drivers for each bit of hardware
  • installed all the latest patches, hotfixes, etc.
  • configured Windows Update to auto-install updates as they become available
  • installed Microsoft Security Essentials and have it set up to run every week (and in real-time)
  • installed Chrome (w/ Adblock Plus) [& hidden IE away from view]
  • installed some basic apps (uTorrent, VLC, 7-zip, SumatraPDF)
  • run msconfig to ensure that the notifications area isn't epic
  • disabled auto-run

Anything else I should be doing? Any services to disable? I've thought about setting up Windows Remote Assistance but I'm not sure if this'll cause more hassle than it's worth.

I acknowledge this is rather subjective so perhaps it could be made into a CW.


I will:

  • install Skype and set up Remote Assistance [thanks harrymc]
  • install the WOT extension for Chrome [thanks jonsca]
  • get a basic scheduled back-up in place [thanks Bora]
  • install ffdshow-tryouts and Haali Media Splitter [thanks sinni800]
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marked as duplicate by random May 16 '11 at 14:29

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

Bookmark Superuser in his browser. – Blomkvist May 16 '11 at 12:54
Do install Remote Assistance and Skype. You won't escape lots of hand-holding and problem-solving, believe me. – harrymc May 16 '11 at 12:55
@Blomkvist - Nice idea and I will do this. Unfortunately he speaks Thai and no English. You have to learn somewhere though I suppose! – boehj May 16 '11 at 12:56
@harrymc - Skype. Perfect. Exactly the sort of idea that will save headaches. Thanks for reminding me! – boehj May 16 '11 at 12:58
LogMeIn would probably be better, as it involves setting it up then that's it, while TeamViewer needs the client (ie your user) to type in a PIn each time a connection is required. – tombull89 May 16 '11 at 13:06

Install Skype and some Remote Assistance product.

See Best Free Remote Access Software for a discussion of several such products in addition to Microsoft's (which itself is not bad).

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I like TeamViewer for this. Put the PC into the contact list and authorize it. Then let it run in the background forever. – sinni800 May 16 '11 at 14:14
  • If this person won't be installing anything on his system, set his user access rights so, that he cannot revert any of the changes you have made.
    Make use of the Group Policy Editor if necessary.

  • If he needs anything new on his system, let him call you for a Remote assistance session (VNC/RDP whatever you had set up)

  • Ensure that all his incoming ports are blocked in the Windows Firewall. This is the default behaviour.

  • In case anything ReallyBad(TM) happens, make a full backup to a second HDD, so that he can swap drives and continue.

  • On a related note, it might not be a bad idea to install a regular backup solution, just for his important documents. A batch file run via a task scheduler would suffice.

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Yeh, I've thought about going down the minimal rights route. I have a feeling he'll probably want to install a lot of stuff once he gets the hang of it, or some friends help him out. This may result in quite a few RDP sessions. It's a very sound idea but I'll need to ponder it a little further. – boehj May 16 '11 at 14:16

Perhaps also enable some kind of backup solution or explain to him that data on a hard drive is not safe from loss.

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He already mentions in his question that he has installed Chrome – Bora May 16 '11 at 14:04
I would agree with this statement. (Disclaimer: I haven't used IE 8 or 9 yet. But once bitten, twice shy as they say.) Chrome's my preferred option here mainly because it updates in the background. – boehj May 16 '11 at 14:05
@Bora good call, missed that. I'll leave my other suggestion up though. – Jeff F. May 16 '11 at 14:06

In addition to the advice given, I would get an imaging program and create a bootable image from the computer's original state (after you're all done setting it up). It's a step of last-resort, but at least it lets him put things back the way they were without any technical expertise.

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I've always liked this idea but have never done it. Do you know of any decent freeware implementations of this type of thing? Ideally one that I can get my head around in a few minutes? – boehj May 16 '11 at 14:11

I wouldn't install VLC. I personally think VLC is horrible.

Rather install ffdshow-tryouts and Haali Media Splitter. All video files will now directly run in Windows Media Player instead of VLC.

Why Haali Media Splitter: Haali Media Splitter will split .mkv files, which are also rather popular. Your user might just not step over a mkv file ever in his PC usage, but the two megabytes can't hurt. Ffdshow does not split .mkv.

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I'd prefer Media Player Classic - Home Cinema over VLC. – tombull89 May 16 '11 at 13:53
Or that. But mostly just installing ffdshow and Haali to work in the background is the best option for not-computer-people if they just continue using Windows Media Player. It makes things less confusing for them. – sinni800 May 16 '11 at 14:13
I can see your point here. I've grown fond of VLC, warts and all, over the years but a new user will likely just want to use WMP. Excuse my ignorance but what's the difference b/w ffdshow-tryouts and ffdshow? – boehj May 16 '11 at 14:24
Absolutely none, ffdshow-tryouts is just the project that continues fddshow. Ffdshow itself only has an old version from 2004, tryouts has newer ones. EDIT: Also ffdshow will integrate into Windows more. Thumbnails for some videos will be created, too. – sinni800 May 17 '11 at 9:31

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