Installing software

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Most computer malfunctions such as error messages, programs ceasing to respond, and freeze- ups (when striking a key, clicking the mouse or even hitting the Escape button does not work) are caused by improper installation of software. Few of us realize this and we always blame the computer for malfunctioning!

That is why it is extremely important to learn how to install the software properly. If ALL the software are installed properly taking the usual precautions as described in this section, you will seldom get error messages or experience computer freezes unless the software has a bug in it (like in many beta or trial versions of software) or your computer has been attacked by a virus.

Installing software is not rocket science. These days most software come with its own installation wizard which will actually walk you through the process. Just remember the following thing:

YOU NEED TO CLOSE ALL PROGRAMS THAT ARE RUNNING IN THE COMPUTER WHEN YOU ARE INSTALLING A NEW SOFTWARE. THAT INCLUDES PROGRAMS THAT ARE RUNNING IN THE BACKGROUND WHICH YOU MAY OR MAY NOT KNOW. Computer programs often share files. If any program is running at the time of installing a software, that program may be using one or more files that may be needed by the new program to install properly. Unfortunately the computer does not display any error message if this happens. The installation might seem to go trouble free. Then, after the installation, the computer might start behaving erratically and might start crashing often causing great annoyance to you. Sometimes the new program might work alright, but some of the previously installed programs might start behaving erratically.

So, do the following to install a new software in your computer:

1. Close all programs that you can see are currently running in the computer.

2. Click on the Start button, point to Settings, click on Control Panel. The Control Panel window opens. Double click on the Display icon. The Display Properties dialog box opens up. On the Background (Wallpaper) tab select None. Then click on the Screen Saver tab and select None. (See screen shot below.) Then Click on the OK button in the bottom. The dialog box will close. Now close the Control Panel window.

Display Properties Dialog Box.
Display Properties Dialog Box.

(A much quicker way to open the Display Properties dialog box is to right-click on an empty spot on the desktop. A small menu will open up. Click on Properties on that menu. The Display Properties dialog box will open up!)

3. With your left index finger and middle finger press the "Alt" and "Ctrl" keys respectively, and while keeping them pressed tap the "Delete" or "Del" key with the index finger of your right hand once. (The process is known as pressing "Alt"+"Ctrl"+"Del" keys at the same time.) The Close Program dialog box will open up.

Close Program Dialog Box.
Close Program Dialog Box.
The box lists the programs that are running in the computer. Even after doing Step 1 and Step 2 above, you will be amazed how many programs are still running in your computer in the background and I shall not be surprised if the number is around 10. Don't worry about what these programs are and what do they do. If you have a anti-virus software installed in your computer (which you should), be assured one of them is your anti-virus program which always runs in the background and which can cause a lot of problem if it is not closed at the time of new software installation. You want to close each and everyone of these programs by highlighting them and the clicking on the "End Task" button EXCEPT THE PROGRAM KNOWN AS EXPLORER WHICH IS YOUR WINDOWS DESKTOP. After one program is closed, you have to press Alt+Ctrl+Del again to open the Close Program dialog box again, highlight another program and click on "End Task". In some programs, when you hit "End Task" another window will open up, as shown below, and you have to click on "End Task" again in that window to close that program. Repeat the process until all the programs are closed EXCEPT Explorer. We are now ready to install new software.

Sometimes a second dialog box may appear and you have to click End Task there.
Sometimes you have to close a program by
clicking on the "End Task" button in a second dialog box.

4. Software usually come in a CD or a floppy disk. Most of the time, when you insert the CD or the floppy in its drive, installation will begin automatically. Read the instructions for installation that came with the software. If automatic installation does not begin or if the instructions that came with the software says so, click on the Start button then click on Run. The Run dialog box will open up which looks like this:

Run Dialog Box.
Run Dialog Box.

In the white space of the dialog box, type something like A:\setup.exe or G:\install.exe and hit the OK button. The installation will begin. (In these examples A or G represents the drive in which you have put either the floppy disk or the CD. You are supposed to replace the letter code with the letter code used by your computer. The floppy disk drive is almost invariably represented by A. The CD drive is often D. In my computer it is G. If you are not sure, on your desktop double click on the icon that says My Computer. When my computer opens up, you will see pictures of the floppy drive, hard drive, and the CD-ROM drive. The letter code for each of these drives are given below their respective icons. The hard drive is usually C. "setup.exe" or "install.exe" are the software's setup or installation file names. The correct name for the file will be given by the manufacturer in the software's installation instructions. You have to type the correct letter code of the drive and the correct name of the software's setup or installation file with a colon and backslash (:\) in-between.

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5. When the installation begins pay attention and read everything carefully before you OK something and continue with the installation. Unless you are an expert, (you would not read this if you were,) accept every option that is suggested for you by the installation wizard, such as the directory where the software will be installed, standard or typical installation as opposed to custom installation etc.. Careful reading of every screen will give you an idea what the installation wizard is doing.

6. In some cases, the installer will ask you to enter the serial number of the program as part of the installation process. Be sure to enter it correctly. The serial number is usually found on top of or inside the owner's manual for the software or on the CD or floppy disk itself. Be sure to save that number in a safe and secure place because you will need that number again in case you have to reinstall the software in the future.

7. When all the necessary information has been gathered by the wizard the actual installation will begin (unless you decide to cancel it). The process is automatic and usually takes very little time. When the installation is complete, a notice will usually announce that the software has been successfully installed in your computer, and may give you few options like online registration of your software, creating a shortcut for the software on your desktop etc. Do whatever is convenient for you for these options.

8. Whether you are asked or not, always RESTART YOUR COMPUTER before using the software. Go to Start, click on Shut Down, and then click on Restart. Since you had closed ALL programs except Explorer, before installing new software, you may find that when you click on Restart, the computer shuts down but does not restart on its own. In that case just wait a couple of minutes, and then press the computer's power-on switch. The computer will start again.

A couple of important points:

Never install more than one program in your computer at a time. After installing a new program, use your new program and other older programs for a few days to make sure that everything is working fine. Then install another program if you want. If you install few programs at a time and the computer malfunctions, it is very difficult to pinpoint which program(s) is causing the problem.

If you ever need to remove a program from your computer, click on Start, point to Settings, click on Control Panel, then double click on Add/Remove programs icon. In the resulting dialog box, highlight the program you want to remove by clicking on it, and then click on Add/Remove.

Add/Remove Programs Dialog Box.
Add/Remove Programs Dialog Box.

While Windows will automatically remove the program from your hard drive, it will ask you a few questions. Answer every question carefully. If you are not sure whether or not to remove certain shared files, always answer "Keep" to be on the safe side. Deleting some files may cause other programs to run incorrectly.

Some programs come with their own Uninstall feature. In such cases just use that feature. How would you know whether the program in question has its own Uninstall feature? Click on Start, then Programs. All the programs installed in your computer will appear in a sub-menu. Find the name of the program you want to uninstall. Is there an arrow on the right side of the program's name? If not, the program does not have its own Uninstall feature. Use Windows Add/Remove Programs as described above in that case to uninstall the program. If there is an arrow on the right side, there may be an Uninstall feature. Hold your mouse over the name of the program. Another sub-menu will appear. In that sub-menu, one of the items may say "Uninstall". If you see that Uninstall, you are in luck. Just click on that "Uninstall". The rest is self-explanatory and automatic. When you click on "Uninstall", it will most likely ask for your confirmation by saying, "Do you really want to uninstall this program?" Just click on Yes or OK. The program will uninstall itself. It is a good idea to always re-start your computer after such a major event so that the computer can make its own internal adjustments after the program is removed.

If you need help using the Internet, check out the companion site:
Internet Basics For Seniors
If you need help with Windows XP, check out the companion site:
Help with Windows XP (New)
If you are an absolute beginner in computing, check out:

ABC's of Computing


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