Setting up your work computer at home is easier than you may think. But you also need to do the first few steps on your own before your IT support can help you out remotely.
The coronavirus outbreak has pushed a lot of people to work from home, many for the first time. Even more people are practicing social distancing. Don’t panic. At the end of the day you’re doing the same job. And you can still reach out to friends and family. But you’ll need to do so with a different toolset. This site is here to help you make the changes needed to make the most of the situation.
Setting Up Your Work Desktop Computer At Home
If you’re using a laptop skip on down to the next section.
Most businesses send employees home with a laptop. It is easier for everyone. But given the COVID-19 crisis not every business was ready to switch to work from home mode. So some of you may have taken a full size computer home. In that case let’s get it put together.
Set the monitor up on your desk, table, or designated desktop space. Plug its power cable into it, and then into the wall outlet. Next you’ll plug the monitor into the computer. If you know which cable it doesn’t matter that you know what kind it is. Plug it into the monitor. And then into the matching port in the back of the computer.
If you aren’t sure which cable is for the monitor it is likely one of these:
Use these pictures to help find with cable you have is for the monitor. Then plug it into the matching ports on both the monitor and the computer.
There may be a power switch near where the power cable plugs into the monitor. Flip it to the “1” or “On” position. There will be a separate power button on the front or side of the monitor. Usually it is the button closest to the bottom right of the monitor.
If you are using an iMac or other computer with a build in monitor then disregard this section.
Keyboard and Mouse
Plug both into a USB port in the back of the computer. Depending on your keyboard you may also be able to plug the mouse into the keyboard if you prefer.
If you use a wireless keyboard and mouse then you may not need to do anything. If a small USB dongle was included in your computer set plug it into the back of the computer.
Ethernet (Wired Network)
If using a wired connection you’ll need to run an Ethernet cable. Plugging it into the Ethernet port on the back of the computer. And into your home router.
Your audio accessories will either be using USB (same as keyboard and mouse). Or analog 3.5mm (like older headphones).
If USB then simply plug it into an available USB port. Done.
If analog 3.5mm you’ll find there are color coded 3.5mm ports in the back of your computer. Match the color of the cable’s end to the color of the port. Headphones/speakers are blue or green. And microphones are pink.
Position it on top of your monitor. We’ll adjust it for video calls later. Modern webcams all use USB. The same as your keyboard and mouse. Plug it into any available USB port on your computer.
If it reaches, perfect. But when setting up a webcam for my wife’s computer recently we found the built-in cable was too short. It wouldn’t reach from the top of her monitor down to the computer on the floor. If you run into the same you’ll need a USB extension cable.
Cable Matters is a well known and reviewed cable brand. Supports USB 2.0, great for keyboard, mouse, charging cable, and webcam. The blue and red markings help tell each cable apart months from now when moving stuff around. Also available in 3 and 10 feet lengths.
Another well reviewed, inexpensive, and available option. Supports USB 2.0, great for keyboard, mouse, charging cable, and webcam. Nylon braiding makes it more durable, but also less flexible. Available in many colors, including mixed colors in the same pack.
A longer option if you need it. Also supports USB 3.0, so it better supports storage devices with blue USB ports. And can still support slower keyboards, mice, and webcams. Nylon braiding makes it more durable, but also less flexible.
Last, but not least plug in the power cable. First into the computer, then into a wall outlet. There may be a power switch near where the power cables plugs into the computer. Flip it to the “1” position. The “0” means off.
There may be a power on button on the front of your computer. Usually it is the largest button on the front.
Setting Up Your Work Laptop At Home
Your laptop is mostly ready to go. You need to connect power and Internet. And maybe some other accessories.
Plug in the power adapter included with your laptop. First into the laptop, then into the power outlet.
Ethernet (Wired Network)
If using a wired Internet connection you’ll need to run an Ethernet cable. Plug it into the Ethernet port. Located on either the side or back of your laptop. And into your home router.
Keyboard and Mouse
If using an external keyboard and mouse plug those into USB ports. Located on the side or back of your laptop.
Depending on your keyboard you may also be able to plug the mouse into the keyboard if you prefer.
If you use a wireless keyboard and mouse then you may not need to do anything. If a small USB dongle was included in your computer set plug it into the laptop.
Your laptop already has speakers and a microphone built into it. That said, external headphones and/or microphone will offer better quality.
You want to use audio accessories which use USB. Not all laptops can support analog 3.5mm connections. If unless stick with USB. Simply plug them in to your laptop.
Your laptop likely already has a webcam built-in. If unsure look for a small circle in the upper center of your laptop’s display. That’s the camera lens.
If you need an external webcam they are all USB. Simply plug it in.
Optimal Placement of Your Keyboard and Monitor
There is a right and wrong way, ergonomically, to position your keyboard and monitor. A proper setup will be more comfortable to use. Causing less strain on your wrists, neck, and eyes.
Keyboard – Positioned so you can reach them while sitting comfortably. Keeping your elbows by your sides. And bending your arms at a 90° angle. Bending too much one way or the other is what causes problems. The keyboard should end up 1 to 3 inches above your thighs.
Monitor Distance – Lean back in your chair, so you’re in a natural sitting position. Reach out with your arm. The tip of your finge should just touch the monitor.
Monitor Height – The top of the monitor should fall at eye level when looking straight ahead. For a more precise setup the address bar of your web browser should be at eye level.
Laptop w/Separate Keyboard and Mouse – Treat the laptop as your monitor. Setting its distance and height using the methods listed above. A laptop stand that goes up 4+ inches is ideal. But you can also use large, hardcover cooks. Or a few reams of printer paper.
Laptop Only – Line up the laptop’s keyboard using the keyboard method listed above. Tilt the laptop so the screen is as easy to see as possible without bending your neck.
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