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How to Set Up Your New Apple Mac: Initial Setup

Being the huge fan that I am of writing really basic step-by-step how tos, and having just set up two new Macs, I thought it would be a good time to revisit this infinitely revisit-able guide for the new Mac user.

I’ll do this in three parts. This section is the Initial Setup. Here it goes:

Step 1: Resist the urge to rush. As eager as you are to bust out your new Mac and start playing, taking these initial steps slowly and carefully can make the first leg of your Mac ownership run much more smoothly.

Step 2: Open the box. Unpack everything. Find all the bits that you don’t need right away and put them somewhere where you can find them later. If your Mac came with a wireless mouse and keyboard, make sure you check all the nooks and crannies of your box. There are batteries included. Remove all the little bits of plastic film and all the little twisty ties. This is an important and sometimes overlooked step. I’m serious. What I see all too often is people with new Macs with the little thin bit of plastic wrap still strangle-holding the power-brick for their Mac laptop. This makes the power supply run slightly hotter than it should and over time can cause damage. Also, if you have an iMac take that little remote that came with your Mac and stick it on the bottom right side of the machine, below the DVD / CD drive slot. There’s a magnet there that holds it nicely in place. This is helpful in not losing the remote. If you own any other Mac, you can go ahead and lose the remote now. Just chuck it over your shoulder or out the window or something. If you don’t, you will inevitably lose the remote sooner or later, and you may as well get the grief, pain, and anxiety of the loss out of your system now. Eventually, you’ll realize that since your laptop Mac is often in your lap, you don’t really need a remote for it.

Step 3: Plug in the power and all the necessary peripherals (your mouse and keyboard, etc). Turn on the machine.

Step 4: Go through Apple’s default setup process and be slightly aggravated by all the personal information they ask of you each time you buy something from them. If you don’t have a .Mac account, be slightly more aggravated at how much they try to sell you on it. Make sure you give the computer a password. Besides being a security risk, OS X is UNIX-based, and UNIX-based systems don’t like a blank password. Make sure it is one that you can remember. You will need to enter it every time you install something.

Step 5: After you have completed the initial setup, before you do anything else, run Software Update (go to Apple menu—>Software Update. Install everything it finds and put in your password from Step 4. After everything updates, restart the computer and run Software Update again. Chances are that you may have a firmware update to do too. If you do, when the Mac reboots, a dialog will open up telling you what to do to install the firmware. Do not just ignore this. Make a note of all the steps and follow them. After everything is done, run Software Update one last time for good measure.

That’s it for the initial setup. You can start playing and tinkering if you like. However, stay tuned. I’ll add another post soon on how to tweak the way OS X works for you, as well as a post about all the cool free software that you should download and install immediately.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Becki 3/24/2007, 12:28 am

    I appreciate your help. this is really stupid to ask but I must in order to move on with the set up of my new mac. I jsut unpacked the mac, installed all the batteries to the wirelsss keyboard and mouse.. I am going thru the set up and get to the part where they want to know what the connection is. I have 5 choices: 1.Airport
    2. cable modem
    3. DSL modem
    4.local network
    or 5l my computer does not connect
    Now, I do not have any connection for this new mac yet. High speed will be installed next week. However, I would like to get started with the new mac without any connection to the internet. I want to install turbo tax and start working on my taxes. Which of the above options should I click on just to play with this new toy? If I click on my computer does not connect and get thru the set up………when I do get high speed installed, will I be able to go back and tell the computer that we can not connect? Bottom line is…. I don’t have the ability to use the internet yet, I simply want to play witht the mac as a simple computer and check out all the software that is comes with. What do you think?

  • mike 6/2/2007, 3:01 pm

    I am based in Uk and have 2 macs, plus one lap top on winXP.
    I bought a new airport and thought we would be up and running. I connected to our existing British Telecom wireless router / modem through BT.

    It does not work. What am I doing wrong or is it because of a wireless modem.

    Please anyone out there give me some instructions and hardware required.


  • John laidlaw 4/30/2009, 8:23 am

    Just bought secondhand iMac G5 with Leopard installed…no O/S disc supplied with it.

    I completed the drawnout setup routine including password. Computer then seems to reboot and asks for name and password. I presume it wants the name input in the setup and also the password. It won't accept this, shakes and prompts for name and password. I just feel like binning the whole blasted thing.

    Have you any ideas, please?

    John L.

  • C.K. Sample III 4/30/2009, 8:29 am

    Hmm… it sounds like it got your password wrong / you typoed it or caps lock is on. If you had the install disk, then you could boot off of it and act as if you were reinstalling OS X. Instead of installing, if you go up to the menu, under Tools there is an app called Reset Password that you can use to replace the password of an account already on the computer. I'd see if you have a friend who has a recent copy of Leopard on disk that you can borrow. Good luck.

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