The excitement of discovering the capabilities of a new PC can lead you to forget the importance of security. Our new-PC safety guide offers step-by-step instructions for protecting your machin. Here's what to do as soon as you boot up your new PC.

The late-summer sales are great news if you’re a PC vendor: it’s one of the busiest trading periods outside of Christmas. Back-to-school purchasing is big business, and technology is one of its greatest beneficiaries.

The start of a new school or university term is the perfect time to invest in a home PC so the kids have a machine on which to do their homework. Students setting off for university or beginning post-GCSE education will almost certainly need a laptop on which to write essays and keep in touch with friends back home, too.

But the new term is also a good time for hackers and malware vendors. With all those new PCs and laptops in circulation, there are virgin terminals ripe for infection and inexperienced users busy getting to grips with their shiny new toys, rather than paying attention to what’s lurking with intent in the ether.

We don’t want to deter you from sending the kids off to university or setting up younger offspring with new PCs and laptops for homework. But you’ll want to ensure their machines will run infection-free and won’t leave your little dears with egg on their faces.

If you’ve just bought a new computer with this in mind, you’re no doubt enamoured of the slickness of the Windows 7 operating system. Although it’s no radical update to Vista, it’s a more immediately likable version of Windows to use. It offers improvements to home networking and introduces a more logical way of storing and accessing files. There’s also a more refined Security Center that allows you to manage many aspects of your new computer’s setup and to see, at a glance, the status of its various tools.

Even so, many of us are likely to skip spending time on such mundane aspects in favour of getting to know the more exciting capabilities of our new computers. This is human nature, but it could leave you exposed to a number of threats.

Here, we look at some of the most important security issues when setting up a new PC or laptop, and what you can do to ensure a safe computing experience.

Avoid common security issues

Create a protected Administrator account: The first thing to do when setting up a new machine is create the main user account and give it a name and icon. Your next step should be to add a password that will be required whenever you leave the computer unattended for more than, say, 15 minutes.

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Add a Standard user account: You should use the primary account only when altering settings and installing/uninstalling programs. Set up a second account for other tasks. In Control Panel, User Accounts lets you add users, while ‘Change Account type’ lets you specify whether it’s a Standard or an Administrator account.

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