Whether you use Windows or macOS (or both), there’s certainly no shortage of top-quality software programs out there for you to install and make use of—and we’ve covered a lot of them. However, in your eagerness to get up and running with a new application, you shouldn’t rush through the setup process.
It’s during this process that you’ll be asked some key questions about how you want the new application to behave on your system, and how much leeway you’re going to give it. The decisions you make here will affect the program for as long as it’s on your computer, so we wouldn’t recommend just clicking Next or OK repeatedly until you’re done.
Here’s how to be more careful when you’re installing new software on Windows and macOS, and some of the more common options to look out for.
How to access setup options
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This is pretty easy—the options you need pop up on the dialog boxes that appear when you initiate the installation process, which is usually done by running a file you’ve downloaded from the web or an app store.
Bear in mind though that important options might be hidden behind a More button or an Advanced button. They won’t necessarily be visible, and some programs will let you choose between an “express” setup and a “full” setup, so don’t just choose the quickest route because it’s the most convenient.
Watch out for the options you get during setup.
We’ve also seen software installation dialogs with labels such as “accept default options” on them, and it’s only when you uncheck this option that all the available settings appear. Essentially, you just need to be careful and take your time, and read everything that’s displayed on screen.
This is a separate issue really, but we’d also recommend reading all the way through the terms and conditions that show up for new software: It’ll take a while, but you might be glad you did (and there are tools available to help you make sense of them).
The most common setup options
Obviously the options you see when you’re installing a software program are going to vary between applications, but these are the ones you’re going to see most often—and what you need to consider before accepting them.
Install location: Where on the system the application will live. You won’t often need to change this, but it’s worth double-checking, especially if you have multiple drives set up on your computer and you want to keep your software and operating system separate.
Make default: Many apps will want to set themselves as the default program for web browsing, or text editing, or music playing, or whatever it is that the program does—so be sure to disable this option if you want to keep the current default application in place.
Only change default program associations if you’re sure you want to.
For example, if you switch your default spreadsheet program, double-clicking on your Excel files might not launch Excel any more, but something else. You can always change these default program associations yourself, any time you like, on Windows or macOS.
Adding shortcuts: Plenty of programs will want to add shortcuts to themselves on the desktop, in the Start menu, or wherever else. You might want to wait and see how useful you find an app before you do this—you can always do it yourself later, if you need to.
System integration: Similar to shortcuts, but here we’re talking about adding options to the right-click menu on Windows, or to the menu bar on macOS. Some programs will want to get their hooks deep into your operating system, so be deliberate about agreeing to it.
Start-up options: Software developers want you to spend a lot of time with their programs of course, and sometimes they’ll ask if their application can load itself into memory every time Windows or macOS starts—another installation setting you need to be careful with.
Plenty of programs want to start up automatically with your operating system.
Having programs automatically load on start up means they’re available instantly, but if too many applications are doing this, it can affect system performance. If you need to change this at a later point, you can do so through the settings in Windows or macOS.
Installing extra software: This can be a major one, as some programs will try and sneakily install an extra application or two during the setup process. Be very careful about agreeing to this, unless you’ve done some research on the new app and are certain you need it.
You might also find you’re offered trials for the software you’re installing too—three months free of the paid tier of the program, for example. If you just click Yes without thinking, you might find that you get a surprise bill when the free trial has finished.