This is crucial. Go to SecondLife.com and click on the little link "System Requirements" somewhere towards the bottom of the page. Read them with feeling. There are few things more frustrating than setting up an account, downloading the program and then finding out that you can't actually run it on your machine. I speak from experience on this one--if I hadn't had a chance to borrow someone else's computer and get hooked that way, I probably wouldn't be writing this page now.
Pick a name you can live with.
Previously, a new avatar could only input a first name and then had to pick from a list of surnames provided (a list which changed over time, which means you can, with some experience, gauge how old an avatar is by the surname they selected.) Now you can pick any otherwise untaken username and then change your 'Display Name' to anything you like, so it shouldn't matter what you pick, right? There's just one thing to consider when you do this, though. Even if you type in something like "Bob3254" and change your Display Name to "Awesome McCoolName", the only people who will see it are people who are using Viewers that are compatible with the Display Name feature. Users who are still using Viewer 1 or certain other alternate viewers, will see you as "Bob3254 Resident" and have no idea that you are, in fact, Awesome. Given that, it might be a good idea to put just a little bit of thought into the name you enter as your username, since for some that will be the only name they'll recognize.
Find a buddy.
The number one way to get the hang of Second Life in no time is to know somebody who is already there. It doesn't even have to be someone you know in person--when I first landed in Second Life, I met up with people I knew from the Duranie message boards. Ask around your usual Internet hangouts, or your meatspace social circle, and find out if anybody there is on Second Life. Find out what their avatar name is and ask if it's okay to contact them when you first arrive. Second Life is as much a social network as anything, and people are always happy to add new friends, especially if it's someone they already know from elsewhere.
Have a credit card or PayPal account handy.
While Second Life is currently available at no cost to you, you will find that your quality of life will go up quite a bit if you have a little extra money to spend. Setting up payment information doesn't even oblige you to use it, but that way it's there in case you need it. You can buy something like a thousand Lindens for the price of a fast food lunch, so it's not like you have to spend huge wads of cash. Also, if you decide that it's worth upgrading to a Premium membership, you'll be all lined up for it.
Have some kind of idea of what you'd like to try, but keep your options open.
It does help to have some sense of direction when you're wandering about. People come to Second Life for all kinds of things, from social chat to elaborate roleplay to the chance to stand around in a replica of the Sistine Chapel. Doing searches on things you're interested in may hook you up with what you're looking for. But, at the same time, don't get so hung up on one particular subculture or scene that you miss out on so many other aspects of Second Life. It's a big world. Feel free to explore it.
Ready to go? Let's get started!
And once you're done signing up, check out the Five Things To Do Just After You Get Started.
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