How to Set Up All Your New Holiday Gadgets

By Whitson Gordon on December 25th, 2016

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It’s the holidays, which means new gadgets for everyone! Whether you’re rocking a new PC or trying to get a handle on what the Amazon Echo really does, we’ve got you covered. Here’s how to set up all your new tech gifts (and, let’s be honest: your family’s).

A New Windows PC

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Whether you’re unpacking a shiny new laptop or building yourself a kickass new gaming PC, we have you covered with everything you need to set it up. While we don’t recommend transferring your old Windows installation to your new PC, you can migrate the necessary files pretty simply. If your new PC comes with a lot of bloatware, you may want to start by reinstalling Windows without the junk—it’s much easier than it used to be thanks to Reset This PC.

When it comes time to install your favorite apps, make sure you get them from reputable sources that don’t bundle their own crapware. There aren’t many trustworthy sites left, but here are a few—we recommend Ninite, which can install most of your favorite free apps in one click. And don’t forget antivirus, either! Here’s what we recommend in that department.

Whether you’re new to Windows 10 or have had it for a while, be sure to check out its best overlooked features, as well as all the features of this year’s Anniversary Update. As you set up your new computer, be on the lookout for all the new customization options, from the Start menu to the taskbar and even to File Explorer’s folder views. Check out our Windows tag for even more Windows goodness as you get up and running.

A New Mac

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So you’ve unwrapped a shiny new MacBook (or iMac—Apple still makes desktops, don’t they?). Start by migrating your files with the Migration Assistant, then start getting to know the best features of macOS Sierra—including Siri, which is more useful on the Mac than you may think. You’ll be able to find most of the apps you want in the Mac App Store, but be careful, because it’s full of scams just like the rest of the internet. If you have any Windows programs you need to run, you can do so with a program called Wine.

As you get acquainted, check out all the different ways you can customize and set up your Mac—the Dock, the menu bar, and even Mission Control have a lot of settings you can tweak. If you have a new MacBook, you’ll probably need a few adapters to connect all your stuff, so see our guide to using it with the fewest amount of dongles. Check out our previous Mac coverage for even more.

A New iPhone or iPad

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If a new iPhone or iPad is in your future, your job is easy. Just copy everything from your old iPhone or iPad to the new one using iTunes, and restore any in-app purchases you may need (if they don’t copy over). Then, take some time to learn all about the new features of iOS 10, if you haven’t already.

Of course, there may be some growing pains. iOS 10 changes how some things, like Touch ID, worked in iOS 9, so fix those up if you haven’t already. And, if you have a new iPhone 7, you may be wondering how to listen to music and charge at the same time—but we’ve got you covered there, too. And of course, every phone has its battery life problems, so now’s a good time to learn about how your iPhone’s battery works and adjust your usage accordingly. Check out our previous iOS coverage for even more tips.

A New Android Phone or Tablet

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There are more Android phones and tablets out there than we can count, and setting each one up will be a little different. But you can start by migrating your data from a previous Android device, if you had one. If you’re new to Android, though, check out our huge first-timer’s guide to Android, our list of the best Android shortcuts, and the best features of Android’s latest release, 7.0 Nougat.

If you have a phone that doesn’t run stock Android—like a Samsung Galaxy or an LG device—we recommend these tweaks to make it more like pure Android (the best version of Android, in our opinion). There are also a ton of ways to customize Android from top to bottom, so tweak as much as your heart desires. Just make sure to squeeze as much battery life out of it as possible. Check out all of our other Android guides for even more tips.

A New Kindle (or Fire Tablet)

If you’re more of a bookworm, a Kindle may be right up your alley. If you’ve unwrapped a brand new ereader, it’s time to start filling it up with books. You can obviously buy ebooks from Amazon, but you can also grab ebooks for free from your local libraryborrow books from your Kindle-using family members, and even create digests of articles you find on the web for easy Kindle reading.

But your Kindle can do more than just read books. Check out these hidden features for even more ideas, but make sure you optimize its battery life, too. And if you got a Fire tablet instead of a Kindle, you’ll want to read our guide to making it more like a regular Android tablet—it’s actually pretty capable with a few small tweaks. Check out our old Kindle articles for more.

A New Camera

So you’ve got a brand new camera—perhaps even your first high-quality DSLR or mirrorless. If so, you’re in for a treat—but only if you’re willing to learn the ropes. Start with this explainer on how cameras and lenses work, then move on to learning about its most important settings  (like shutter speed and aperture). Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be able to get out of Auto mode and get a lot more out of your camera. Just remember: knowing how to use your camera is one thing, but learning to develop a good eye for photos is what will really take your pictures to the next level.

An Amazon Echo (or Google Home)

Still not sure what the point of Amazon’s voice-controlled assistant is? Well buckle up. First, check out our guide to setting it up and getting started, and train it to your voice if you want it to work as well as possible (you don’t need to, but it’s handy). Then get ready to play around—ask it anything that comes to mind, and find out what Alexa knows. The Echo can give you weather, traffic, and sports updates, or be the ultimate kitchen companion. It also had loads of third party skills that can do everything from order you an Uber to deliver pizza.

Got a Google Home instead? It’s very similar, though excels in different areas. Here’s our guide to setting up Google Home. At the end of the day, these devices can do a lot, but they really start to shine when you combine them with smarthome products. Speaking of which…

Smarthome Gadgets of All Kinds

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We’ve been decking out our homes with all sorts of technological advances recently. If you got a Wi-Fi thermostat or light kit, but aren’t sure what the big deal is, we’re here to help.

Smart lights like Philips Hue are one of the more useful smarthome gadgets, in our opinion, and we have a ton of information to help you get started—from setting them up to the differences between all the bulbs and even clever uses to make them worthwhile.

We also have guides on how to set up the Nest thermostat, the Ring Doorbell, Belkin WeMo switches, and the Samsung SmartThings kit (which has many clever uses of its own). And that’s just the beginning. No matter what gadget you got, we probably have a guide to it, so check out our smarthome tag or search our archives using the instructions in the next section for more.

Everything Else

Got something we didn’t list? Don’t worry, we probably have a guide for it. For example, we have setup guides for:

Of course, there’s a lot out there, and we can’t possibly list it all in this one roundup. Luckily for you, we’ve been at this for a long time—so our archive of articles is vast, and covers a ton of different tips and tricks for any device you can think of. Here’s a handy Google trick: by searching for site:howtogeek.com followed by whatever you need help with, you can easily find all the articles we’ve written on a subject.

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Let’s say, for example, you’ve got a new iPhone, and your son now has your old one. Want to share your apps with him? You can pull out your phone, search site:howtogeek.com share iOS purchases, and then set up Apple Family Sharing. If you don’t know how to do something, there’s a good chance that we’ve written about it (and it’s a guarantee that even if we haven’t, somebody somewhere on the internet has had the same problem and figured it out already). So fire up Google and get started tweaking.

Image Credits: Luke Wroblewski/Flickr, DobaKung/Flickr, Iphonedigital/Flickr, Aaron Yoo/Flickr, TechStage/Flickr, and Leticia Chamorro/Flickr.

Whitson Gordon is is the editor-in-chief of How-To Geek. He is also a Windows user, PC builder, metalhead, chopstick-using potato chip eater, and Midwest-to-Southern California transplant. You can follow his nerdy exploits on Twitter and Facebook.

  • Published 12/25/16
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