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One of the most difficult things about getting started with programming and data analysis is setting up your computer.

Computer setup is also one of the parts where you learn the most about how your computer works, so think of it more as a learning experience (with appropriate amounts of struggle) instead of simple preparation.

System check

Knowing what kind of computer you have is the first step to knowing how to set it up. What kind of system do you have?

One more question for you: do you have an M1/M2/M3 machine? You can check by clicking the apple icon in the upper-left corner of your screen, and then selecting About This Mac. If it says "M1" or "M2" or "M3" anywhere in there, you... have an M1 or M2 or M3.

These computers macs are newer, faster, sleeker, and were historically prone to installation problems. They've gotten better in the past year, but if we encounter any we'll work hard to get through them!

If you're ever offered a choice between Intel vs Apple Silicon when downloading software, the "M" versions are all Apple Silicon and older machines are Intel.

Find other people who use Windows!

Windows is a lot more flexible of a system, sold by many different people and places, and is build to support a lot of older pieces of software. As a result, there's a much winder range of settings on a Windows machine as compared to a Mac.

With so many settings, you might run into issues that aren't covered in this guide! Leaning on other Windows folks to help think through problems is a great approach.

Computer setup steps

Everyone's computer setup will be a little different based on your goals and your machine itself. But this is the basic path:

  1. Install Visual Studio Code and Slack
  2. Windows only: Install Cmder
  3. Have you ever installed Anaconda before?
    • If so, you'll want to remove it before installing Python. Don't know what Anaconda is? Great! Continue to the next step.
  4. Install Python
  5. Set up UTF-8 on the command line
  6. Install Jupyer (this isn't too important until later, so don't worry too much about it)