You just unwrapped a new device. Here’s what to do first.

Written by | Science

When you unwrap a shiny new gadget, you want to start using it as quickly as possible. But first—in order to keep your data safe, ensure your hardware lives a long life, and reduce the chance of mishaps later on—you’ll want to follow our guide to setting up your device.
Apply any available updates

When you unwrap a new toy, you want to start playing with it as soon as possible, not twiddle your thumbs waiting for updates to install. But there are a couple reasons why you should swallow your anticipation and take this vital step.

First of all, the latest updates for your iOS, Android, macOS, or Windows device will include the most up-to-date security patches. Until you’ve worked your way through all the waiting updates, you’ll leave your new hardware vulnerable to outside threats.

Second, the latest updates also improve compatibility with other devices. If your new laptop won’t send files to your old printer, or you just can’t get your new phone to talk to your speaker system, a software update might solve the problem. Even better, you should go ahead and install that update right away, before problems crop up.

On iOS, you’ll find potential updates in Settings > General > Software Update. On Android, look for Settings > System > Advanced > System update. For macOS, open the Apple menu, then hit About This Mac > Software Update. And on Windows, tap the cog icon on the Start menu to open the Settings pane, and then pick Update & Security. For other gadgets, the instructions that came with them should explain where to find updates.

Protect against physical access

When anyone other than you gets their hands on your tech, they can expose your data, damage your hardware, or compromise your files. To prevent this, you need to protect your devices against two types of threat: physical access and remote access.

The person physically accessing your stuff could be anyone from a careless niece stumbling across your phone to a determined thief swiping your laptop. In either case, it’s essential that you set your gadget to lock automatically, and protect it with a password, PIN code, fingerprint, face scan, or another proof of identity.

On iOS, you’ll see these options under Settings > Face ID & Passcode (or Touch ID & Passcode on older devices). On Android devices, go to Settings > Security & location > Screen lock to review the available options. With macOS, open the Apple menu and choose System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General. Finally, on Windows, click the cog icon on the Start menu to reach Settings, and then pick Accounts > Sign-in options.

On these same menu screens, once you set a PIN code or trusted fingerprint (or whatever the other options are), you can decide how quickly the gadget should lock itself when it’s not in use. To be on the safe side, set this time period to be as short as possible.

Protect against remote access

After protecting your device from anyone who might have it in their physical possession, turn your attention to threats that arrive over the internet. This could be hackers actively trying to force a connection to your device, or dodgy apps that try to install malware, or browser extensions that want to force advertising on you.

Thankfully, iOS and Android are both very secure operating systems. As long as you only install apps through the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store, you shouldn’t need to set up any additional protection. Still, it’s worth double-checking the reviews and descriptions before you install any app.

Last modified: February 8, 2019