Welcome to the Project Connect computer and information literacy course. In this class, we will work together to set up a basic personal computer (PC) and then discuss how to administer and use it properly. With proper training and reference material, most anyone can learn how to do these things. We'll focus on the most important things in this 4-session course.

If you attend all of the course sessions, you can take the computer home at the end. The computers are used, but still good machines, and there is no cost to you for the computer or the course. There may, however, be a charge for some optional software. If you have any questions or if there is anything that you'd like to explore, please ask.

Setting up a Personal Computer

Before using a computer, you must interconnect the components appropriately and plug them in to AC power. The basic components of a computer include:

If you don't already have a properly configured machine in your lab, get the components and configure them as shown in the following pictures. The first picture shows the front of a basic PC and the second picture shows the rear of the same PC.

front view of an assembled computer back view of an assembled computer

When you've got the system assembled, familiarize yourself with the various components. Ask questions if anything isn't clear.

Starting up the PC Operating System

When the computer is connected properly, you can start it by turning on the power-strip, the monitor and the tower. This will cause the computer to automatically "boot" up the PC operating system. If you are running the Microsoft Windows operating system, your workspace will look something like the following:

Windows XP workspace

It is important to know the characteristics of the system you are using. PCs all tend to have the following basic hardware and software components:

To find out the characteristics of your particular system, look through the Windows "Control Panel" for "System Properties" information. In Windows XP, you can do this as follows:

  1. Right-Click (i.e., click the right mouse button) on "My Computer" (in the upper left corner of your workspace).
  2. Choose "Properties"
  3. Look through the "General" panel to find out the following basic information on your PC system:
  4. Now, go back and double-click (i.e., rapidly click the right mouse button twice) on "My Computer" to find out the following information on your system:

The Windows operating system on your machine is a legal copy with the appropriate 25-digit activation key listed on the official Microsoft product sticker. You may use it on your machine for as long as you'd like, but you are not allowed to let anyone else copy it for use on another machine. You may buy and install a new operating system at any time.


We'll take a break here.

Securing your System

To start the second half, connect the network cable to your computer. The this will connect it to the internet.

It's nice that there are so many computers connected to the internet (including yours now!) - this provides you with more useful information and services. However, it also makes it possible for other people to access and hurt your computer in a variety of ways. You should always actively protect your computer from these attackers. Here is a list of the most common attacks and how you can defend against them:

To help defend against these problems, we've installed and configured the software mentioned above on all of your machines. This software is all open-source, and thus free for personal use. However, you need to be involved in this defense effort as well. The software will not work well unless you keep it up-to-date. As an exercise, do this right now as follows:

1. Update your operating system - This is probably the most important task, and fortunately it's relatively easy for Windows systems. Do the following:
  1. Use Microsoft Internet Explorer to visit http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com/.
  2. Click on "Scan for updates". This utility will then scan your computer and list all the new system updates that you should install.
  3. If you need any "critical" updates, the utility will allow you to click on "Review and Install updates". The utility may list other non-critical updates as well, but they are optional.
  4. Microsoft operating systems generally have an "auto-update" feature, which does these updates automatically. Windows security settings are available by going to "Start"-"Control Panel"-"Security Center"
Windows Update Utility
2. Check the Windows firewall - The Windows firewall should already be activated. You can check it out as follows:
  1. Click on "Start"-"Control Panel"-"Security Center". In the "Windows Firewall" configuration box, ensure that the Windows firewall is On (see the image to the right)
  2. The Windows firewall might also pop up confirmation windows from time to time, which we'll discuss later as appropriate.
  3. For now, just close the Windows firewall by clicking on the "X" in the upper right of the control panel.
Windows Firewall
3. Update your virus definitions - AVG is already running on your computer, defending against viruses. However, hackers produce new viruses every day, so you need to update your virus definitions frequently. Do this as follows:
  1. Double-click on the AVG icon in the lower right of your workspace.
  2. Click on "Check for Updates" and choose to download the updates from the internet.
  3. If the Windows firewall pops up a warning box telling you that AVG is trying to access the Internet, click "Allow". The firewall is just alerting you that some program is going on to the Internet - you can click Allow whenever you want a program to get to the Internet.
  4. If there are new updates, tell AVG to install them.
  5. When this is done, close AVG by clicking on the "X" in the upper right of the control panel.
AVG Control Panel
4. Update your spyware definitions and run Spybot - Spybot is installed on your machines, but it is not currently active so you need to manually run it periodically to check for new spyware definitions and to scan your system. Do this as follows:
  1. Double-click on "Spybot - Search & Destroy" on your workspace. This starts up the control panel.
  2. Click "Search for Updates" to get available Spybot upgrades. Tell the Windows firewall to "Allow" Internet access if necessary.
  3. If there are updates, select them by clicking in the box next to them, and then click "Download Updates".
  4. Run Spybot by clicking "Check for problems". This will tell Spybot to scan your computer looking for spyware; it may take some time to run.
  5. If Spybot finds anything, select the problems and then click "Fix Selected Problems".
  6. When you are finished, choose "File"-"Exit".
Spybot Control Panel

The more you use the Internet, the more you need to perform these tasks. Do them at least every month, if not weekly. They can take some time over a slow modem, but it's probably worth it.

Further Practice

Take this time to review the material we've done so far. If you are new to personal computers, try one of the following:

There are a couple of things to note about working with the Microsoft Windows operating system:

Feel free to ask any questions you may have.