Many people unwrapped a gleaming new PC or Macintosh on Christmas Day. Though companies have created all kinds of helpful ways to assist in setting up your computer, there are always rules that get missed. So I've prepared the Third Annual Help Screen Official Holiday Dos and Don'ts for you to follow.
1. Don't throw anything away. Not even the original boxes and packing material. This goes for computers, monitors, modems, drives and (especially) software. Very rarely, a machine arrives at a customer site Dead On Arrival. All vendors have a DOA policy for their machines, and it usually allows for immediate replacement via exchange.
By saving the packing material, you make the transport and return of your computer easier and safer. For components, such as modems, scanners and other peripherals, it can actually determine whether a retailer will take the item back. Keep all boxes for at least 90 days.
2. If you decide to throw away your boxes, break them down and put them in the trash can. Never advertise to burglars that you have a computer.
3. Don't fill out warranty cards until you know that the product works. This, too, makes it easier for a retailer to take back a product. But once you know that the product works, fill out those cards and register the product.
4. There is an old computer adage: READ THE MANUAL! You should scan the manual before you begin unpacking the boxes, and certainly before you turn the machine on.
Most of today's PCs come with Windows 95 "zipped," or preinstalled in a condensed format, on the hard drive. You may, or may not, also receive Windows 95 on CD-ROM. When you turn on the computer, Setup asks if you want to back up your system files. If you have some boxes of blank disks, by all means say "YES!" and feed disks as the machine asks for them. You'll thank yourself later. Then Windows 95 explodes its contents onto your hard drive and configures itself. Hopefully.
5. When plugging cables into your computer, don't force anything. Every cable has a "right" way to plug into a computer. Forcing a cable into a receptacle might bend or break the pins that complete the connection.
6. If you have to "pop the hood" on your computer, get the machine off the floor and ground yourself properly before touching anything inside. If you are in a high-static environment, exercise extreme caution. Static can cause irreversible damage to a computer's internal electronics. For about $10, you can buy an anti-static wristband that clips onto a grounded surface. These are available at electronics-supply houses or at Radio Shack.
7. If you're installing an internal modem, CD-ROM interface card, etc., don't force the card into the slot. Slide the card into the slot with gentle downward pressure. Memory modules should fit into the bottom of their receptacles at a slight angle and then gently snap into place.
8. If you're installing hard drives, internal CD-ROM drives, tape drives, etc., please note that the ribbon cable has a red stripe on one side. This is important. The red stripe denotes the "Pin One" orientation of the cable onto the card and the device you are installing. You have to make sure the end of each cable's Pin One orientation is correct. If that orientation is reversed, you can damage floppy disks, hard drives and other sensitive devices.
Usually, but not always, Pin One is nearest the power connector on devices, and marked, in small numerals, near the Pin One connector of the card you are installing. Most manufacturers include diagrams.
If you get stuck, remember: Almost every manufacturer has a FaxBack service for ordering common technical support documents. You must first download a catalog of available documents, then call back and order the documents you need. This is especially helpful when you have a FAXmodem at home. If it's working, that is.