back to article Help a hack: What's in your ultimate Windows XP migration toolkit?

Keen Reg readers may remember that last year we visited the remote Aboriginal community of Willowra and its new Wirliyatjarrayi Learning Centre. We went because we wanted to know how technology makes an impact in a remote community. What we found was a wonderful facility with enormous potential to help locals, but it was …


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  1. Khaptain Silver badge

    My method - YMMV

    What I would do

    1st I would not even consider doing an upgrade.....It wastes more time than it saves and will probably require support later on which you don't want to have to do.. Unless this is a necessity which isn't mentioned in the article.

    Backup up all required files, then install fresh W7 copies..

    Sysprep is your friend, the best tutorial I have ever found/used is as follows

    Sysprep Tutorial

    Required material

    DVD or an ISO image , You will need a version of the W7 DVD or an ISO image.... a large bootable USB key, I use 2* 16Gb ...

    If your are successfull with the Sysprepping + Testing then each install should take no longer than 1hr each, dependant on the software updates that will undoubetdly be triggered. make sure the PC is "fully" updated before doing the sysprep.

    Do "ALL" of your prepping/testing BEFORE you head out..... Do, do the testing.......

    Use for downloading/updating those little must have prgrams that we all need/use ( Thanks go to Trevor Potts for the introduction to Ninite)

    Just in case Sysprep fucks up the hidden admin account ( This is why testing is vital)

    Hidden admin solution

    Thats my 2cts worth ( I actually use this method)

    Don't know the answer relating to the bandwidth issues

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: My method - YMMV

      I certainly found that with Win7 MS made the job of small scale deployments much harder than with previous versions.

      Effectively with a small deployment what you are really wanting to do is to completely configure one system and then image it across all the others, unfortunately MS in their desire to prevent pirating etc. have made this simple task difficult for small deployments and provide little real guidance on how to achieve this common task.

      The problem with Win7 SysPrep is from what I was able to determine it couldn't give you a 'finished' system ie. the state in which a user can sit down and immediately start using the machine. So after completing SysPrep there was much still to be done such as: user accounts, simplified menu's, user app settings, printers etc. etc.

      I found for small batches of identical machines, that configuring up one machine without registering Windows and then using Clonezilla to do a whole disk image, I was able to drop this almost finished image on to the other systems (care is necessary to preserve their 'unique' disk identifiers). The other systems then required a Windows repair boot before they would start up (so it picks up the correct disk identifier). the last action I performed was the activation and confirmation that all systems could co-exist and exchange information between them on the same WiFi/LAN.

      Looking forward, a big concern is the satellite link and whether it is going to be appropriate to use it for updates (to all eight systems). The reason for this determines whether you are going to have to disable auto update etc. and so give yourself a system maintenance headache.

  2. bazza Silver badge

    WSUS Offline

    Upgrade or fresh install, there's going to be a lot of updates to install. WSUS Offline is pretty useful. It allows you to make an ISO full of Microsoft updates that you can then install on a bunch of machines without them all fighting to download the updates several times over. Useful in bandwidth constrained situations.

    1. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit
      Thumb Up

      Re: WSUS Offline

      I was going to suggest a WSUS server in VirtualBox but your suggestion is far superior. Downloaded and building an ISO to try out.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What's in your ultimate Windows XP migration toolkit ?

    A Linux USB stick

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What's in your ultimate Windows XP migration toolkit ? @rm-rf/

      "A Linux USB stick"

      Oh dear - very predictable. I wish you guys could develop a bit of originality.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: What's in your ultimate Windows XP migration toolkit ?

      Oh piss off troll. This is a worthy cause, so fuck off with your low level cheap shots.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What's in your ultimate Windows XP migration toolkit ? @ Lost All Faith

        If this is a worthy cause are all the Office and W7 licences FOC ?

        What next, free ipads to get them on the Apple treadmill too ?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: What's in your ultimate Windows XP migration toolkit ? @ Lost All Faith

          If this is a worthy cause are all the Office and W7 licences FOC ?

          Exactly. If you all actually read the article, you'll find this cause is for some of "Australia's most impoverished".

          So then, why the fuck are they paying for software licences with absolutely no ROI, when there are suitable FREE alternatives???

          You kiss arses need to stop taking from the poor!

          This isn't a fanboi rant - I use Windows - it's just common sense. You know, that old fashioned thing?

          (that said, if it is for £0, then you have my blessing.)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: What's in your ultimate Windows XP migration toolkit ? @ AC

            "So then, why the fuck are they paying for software licences with absolutely no ROI, when there are suitable FREE alternatives???"

            That is precisely my point. Someone has to pay for the Windows/Office Licences that is unless Microsoft has donated them FOC, in which case well done Microsoft. However if this is not the case money could have been saved by using "suitable FREE alternatives" and that money could have been spent on other extra things at the Community Learning Centre such as a better internet connection.

            1. Epobirs

              Re: What's in your ultimate Windows XP migration toolkit ? @ AC

              Since one of the objectives is to help the community members acquire job skills, it was likely decided that they needed to be up on the most widely used software in businesses, as opposed to something very similar.

              Some users can easily go between MS Office and OpenOffice but most get confused. I was recently involved in a migration where the fleet of aging XP systems were replaced with Dell refurbs running Win7. Most of the old machines had the pre-DRM Office 2000 but that doesn't work on 64-bit Win7. A few had Office 2003 and PC Mover handled migrating that, though you have to make sure the Outlook users have Word as their editor because Outlook 2003 doesn't get along with IE 10/11 for editing.

              Anyway, until there was a budget for MS Office of some more recent generation, the new machines all got LibreOffice in hopes it would cover most needs. It turned out to be a huge pain as they had a bunch of frequently used documents that LibreOffice doesn't render correctly. These users are mostly nurses and have very little interest in learning any new software. Free is nice, except when it doesn't work correctly and is confusing to those used to other products.

              1. rh587 Silver badge

                Re: What's in your ultimate Windows XP migration toolkit ? @ AC

                "Anyway, until there was a budget for MS Office of some more recent generation, the new machines all got LibreOffice in hopes it would cover most needs. It turned out to be a huge pain as they had a bunch of frequently used documents that LibreOffice doesn't render correctly. These users are mostly nurses and have very little interest in learning any new software. Free is nice, except when it doesn't work correctly and is confusing to those used to other products."

                Fair point, but reading the original article the centre only opened in 2013, and the machines are running XP, which surely means second hand, so there's the assumption the spec is known and they'll all actually run W7. It's a bit astonishing that an AU$3m centre didn't include budget for a half dozen new boxes, which in April 2013 would have been W7/8.

                Also from the original article there's a mixed ecosystem of XP and Mac (again, vintage unknown), and a bunch of locals come in to charge their iPads and the like, so although the locals are perhaps naive of the nastier corners of the web they're not stupid, just uneducated and can learn alternative packages.

                If the Win boxes are hand-me-downs, we don't know whether they're all identical - some might take W7 and others not. Indeed, if they are second hand, do they have the original XP install media - if the W7 install goes bad can they roll it back, or might Linux be the next move to unbrick it?

                It's certainly worth taking a couple of linux flavours, something live for troubleshooting (GParted, memtest, etc) and also to leave there if any boxes aren't playing nice with W7, either as a desktop or relegated as a firewall/network cache box.

                Also, I know the article is aimed at the PCs, but if the Macs are a newer vintage, take a copy of Mavericks, if they haven't already dragged it down over the web...

            2. 1Rafayal

              Re: What's in your ultimate Windows XP migration toolkit ? @ AC

              there is no mention of where the licenses came from in the article. It would be nice to know if they did come FOC for this endeavour or not.

              One thing the article is definitely not is a discussion on the merits of Linux over Windows. It seems pretty clear to me that there is a solution to be implemented, and that includes at least Windows 7 and MS Office to be installed on these machines.

              I wonder how much a Linux and Open Office solution would cost to implement over the one described. Additionally, I wonder how much use a solution like this would be to the learning centre. Especially when you bear in mind that they seem to be about ready to offer skills in basic computer literacy.

              However superior Linux is over Windows, teaching people basic computer literacy starts with Windows & something like Office.

              Hopefully in the future, things will be different. For me, being taught basic Linux skills along with Windows at school, would have been highly useful.

              1. illiad

                Re: What's in your ultimate Windows XP migration toolkit ? @ AC

                Licences???? surely the person needing to upgrade his PC has **already** got the licences, when he **bought** the software????

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: What's in your ultimate Windows XP migration toolkit ? @ AC

              Its likely that whoever has to support these systems will be a windows user (Given that they cant do their own windows upgrade likely a NON TECHNICAL windows user) so its probably MUCH cheaper to stick to windows *

              * Especially given that YES MS do large discounts & free software for charities

    3. garden-snail

      Re: What's in your ultimate Windows XP migration toolkit ?

      In all seriousness, a Linux Live CD or Live USB is always worth having in your toolkit - even in a 100% windows environment. I've found them particularly useful when sorting out partition issues or botched imaging operations. I've run into several situations where the quickest way out was to boot a Knoppix CD and fix a disk with GParted, which can generally handle anything you throw at it.

      "rm -rf /" may or may not be a Linux troll, but there's plenty of merit to his suggestion.

      1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

        Re: What's in your ultimate Windows XP migration toolkit ?

        @garden-snail Seconded. And if the hardware is broken, linux will pin down the problem pretty quickly. It's a really good tool for hacking around.

        1. illiad

          Re: What's in your ultimate Windows XP migration toolkit ?

          ... just please note that in the hands of a *utter newbie" , the chances of *totally* ruining computer/ windows/ contents of whole disk is very high, due to randomly pressing buttons...

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: What's in your ultimate Windows XP migration toolkit ? @garden-snail

        >In all seriousness, a Linux Live CD or Live USB is always worth having in your toolkit

        I think you actually mean one of the "Rescue CD Toolkit" Linux Live distributions - I've used SysRescCD but there are others, some examples listed here

        I'm not so sure about the value of an end user Linux Live distribution, particularly as the decision to deploy Win7 et al has been taken.

        Personally, I would take both CD and USB versions, at best it will enable you to work on two systems, at worst only one.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What's in your ultimate Windows XP migration toolkit ?

        You can easily fix all those issue with a Windows bootable USB too if you are even vaguely competent.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: What's in your ultimate Windows XP migration toolkit ?

          >You can easily fix all those issue with a Windows bootable USB too

          Yes the Bart PE is very good, however strictly you do need a valid Windows XP/2003 license ... something that Linux being open source quite neatly gets around.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: What's in your ultimate Windows XP migration toolkit ?

            "Yes the Bart PE is very good, however strictly you do need a valid Windows XP/2003 license ... something that Linux being open source quite neatly gets around"

            Valid windows xp/2003 license like the ones that will be on the boxes being upgraded?

            1. Roland6 Silver badge

              Re: What's in your ultimate Windows XP migration toolkit ?

              >Valid windows xp/2003 license like the ones that will be on the boxes being upgraded?

              Strictly - given this is a public forum - the answer is probably no, as I suspect the licenses on the boxes to be upgraded are OEM and I'm not sure if a Bart PE CD/USB counts as MS Windows Recovery Media...

              Non-Select/VLK Licensing is one of the things I really dislike, particularly as MS have seemingly revised their EULA's over the years to make things more difficult. But in writing this, one ray of hope does come to mind, if you had a Technet subscription and hence have downloaded XP/2003 keys and images...

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: What's in your ultimate Windows XP migration toolkit ?

            No, you don't need a PE boot disk, you can access all the command line tools you need from a standard Windows bootable install USB. And you don't need a license unless you INSTALL Windows.

            1. Roland6 Silver badge

              Re: What's in your ultimate Windows XP migration toolkit ? @AC

              >No, you don't need a PE boot disk

              I was assuming Bart PE, given this particular thread started on Linux and I refocused it on to SysAdmin/SysInstaller tools, for which there are a number of really good Live distributions. And I would suggest that Bart PE is a good equivalent distribution based on Windows, certainly better than MS's Windows PE.

              So whilst for many cases Windows PE may be sufficient, I would tend to want some more sophisticated tools in the kit bag, just in case (eg. clonezilla can do things with a Win7 install that Windows PE users can only dream about).

      4. illiad

        Re: What's in your ultimate Windows XP migration toolkit ?

        that may be so, but a LOT of info was left out!!! If he said what you did, he would not be treated badly.. :)

    4. Def Silver badge

      Re: What's in your ultimate Windows XP migration toolkit ?

      A Linux USB stick

      Don't you think they're impoverished enough already? I mean, talk about kicking a man when he's down...

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What's in your ultimate Windows XP migration toolkit ?

      "A Linux USB stick"

      I know these people are poor and remote, but that's cruelty....

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What's in your ultimate Windows XP migration toolkit ?

      A Linux USB stick

      I could never be a Linux user because I haven't mastered the art of whining about Linux.

      "Why don't you stop using Windows and use Linuuuuuuuuux???" WHAAAAA!!!!!

  4. Arc_Light


    There's only so much one can do about a lack of bandwidth, but, having said that, whenever I'm looking to maximize network speeds on a Windows box, I use TCPOptimizer:

    I first have it perform an MTU check, then optimize all parameters associated with the relevant adapters - this is assuming you know the (actual) connection speed. If not, there are a number of "speed test" websites that should enable you to determine what it is. It might not hurt to have a look at the "Advanced" tab in Device Properties for the network hardware as well, just to see if there are any settings in there that might help, but that's very much hardware-dependent.

    Nothing amazing, but hopefully it helps a little...


  5. Ketlan
    Thumb Up

    Useful stuff

    "WSUS Offline is pretty useful. It allows you to make an ISO full of Microsoft updates that you can then install on a bunch of machines without them all fighting to download the updates several times over."

    Excellent. Have an upvote. :-)

    "A Linux USB stick"

    And a downvote for you for trying to score a cheap point inappropriately.

    Well done, El Reg. A fine and worthy project.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Useful stuff

      Good grief, why's this one being down voted more? Seriously??

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Useful stuff

        Because if you don't know that the many tools available on a Linux rescue CD, sysresccd for example, are quite useful, then you should not be dishing out down votes for suggesting that. You should shut your prejudice mouth and learn a new thing or two.

        Yes, I am aware that there is excellent commercial software available as well.

        Rather than teach these impoverished folks how to use office software, why not teach them to be computer literate first, then how computers work, then maybe some networking, and admin skills. If they are poor, surely you want to help them get ahead.

        "Suggestions for apps that will help PCs be at their best in a very bandwidth-constrained environment"

        If they are running Windows, keep the computers off the Internet. If they catch a cold, it will take lots of bandwidth to get the latest virus scanners/BS to clean it up. Maybe set them up with a FOG server so they can re-image their machines before the OS boots. In fact set this up and then use that to deploy Windows. You'll need to use sysprep. Once you do it a dozen or so times, you'll get the hang of it, but it is a finicky bitch.

        "Software you think could assist people with low literacy levels."

        A local copy of Wikipedia? bash? I mean if you have to type and read it might help with literacy rather than clicking on blobs of colour.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One thing I'd suggest... making things like updates run late at night and where possible across different days.

    So PC 1 runs Win update at say 10pm Wednesday after Patch Tuesday, the next at 10pm on the Thursday. That way they are not all battling for bandwidth at the same time and ultimately all failing.

    Also how about locking the drives down? In the old days Windows Steady State* was your friend. Now you have to use commercial ones such as Faronics Deep Freeze or my personal favorite Drive Vaccine from Horizondata Sys. Always try a bit of blagging, it sometimes works.

    * Steady state is no longer available from Microsoft, but some freeware sites are still carrying it. Highly recommend using this if you are planning to stay on XP.

    1. JCitizen Bronze badge

      Re: One thing I'd suggest...

      Ever tried Drive Vaccine? It is a little complicated to set up, but I hear it is a good replacement for Steady State and is pretty economical. At least it has been for me. However I've not had the time to set it up on a PC, and now that XP is going away, it may become my top priority. Folks around here just can't afford to update to hardware that can run the next iteration of Windows. They will just have to plod along with an expired XP, or at least use a LiveCD for sensitive web actions. With something like this hard drive locking capability, they could actually get rid of all the bloated anti-virus, and anti-malware that slowed the computer down before.

  7. Arc_Light

    Other thoughts...

    Some other thoughts:

    * If the user-base is naive, solid AV / anti-malware / ad-blocking software will be critical. I like Avast! Free / Malwarebytes Pro (not free, sorry) / AdBlock Plus, but YMMV. NoScript is probably a bit excessive / liable to cause confusion, but there may be other steps that one can take along these lines as well. As a bonus, blocking such crap cuts down on bandwidth usage. Consider avoiding Java / Flash / Shockwave / Silverlight as well for the same reasons.

    * Mercilessly disable all forms and flavors of autorun. Sorry, but users will have to learn how to find their drives; this is a security necessity from where I sit. You can accomplish all sorts of useful things via Group Policy Editor, but Ultimate Windows Tweaker is useful too:

    * Use Piriform CCleaner to clean up temporary files / the registry once all is said and done - of all the software that does this sort of thing, this one has never cause me issues in many years of use:

    * Make sure to very carefully control any auto-update features of anything installed - in bandwidth-limited situations this will be essential to usability.

    * In addition to using QoS if possible, consider some traffic shaping software; it's freeware, and in spite of the name, Traffic Shaper XP works just fine in a Windows 7 environment:

    * Bring a copy of the latest version of Hiren's BootCD (or your preferred equivalent) on a USB key, just in case.


  8. vmistery

    If you are going to a bandwidth constrained place and are miles from anywhere then taking as much of what you need with you would be a good start. I know it sounds obvious but I remember my days of helping with peoples home computers when I had broadband and they were still on dial up.

    You mention Windows 7 so I assume the licenses are already paid for and the specs of the current machines has been checked and are more than capable of Windows 7. Otherwise I'd mention checking this first and if required investing in upgrades or going to a more light weight OS. Also, Windows 7? I appreciate it is nicer than 8 however it has 3 years fewer support. To me an you this might be ok as we likely change our computers more often, but possibly just possibly here OS longevity should outweigh the benefits of sticking to Windows 7. Don't forget to get the drivers downloaded in advance.

    before you go make an up to date Windows 7 image (including all current updates), instlal whatever you might want on it then shrink the size of the image and clonezilla the machine.

    When you are there image that back to one computer install anything remaining then and sysprep it. Make an image from that,

    Bung out the image from a clonezilla server machine and voilla.. Go round put in keys and activate and you are out of there other than the bits that just don't sysprep well like Kaspersky if you are using it.

  9. CAPS LOCK Silver badge

    Why tie these people into the MicroSoft symbiosis.

    Isn't now the ideal time to look at alternatives? There are a number of low-cost, low-bandwidth solutions, take DVDs with a few of those.

    1. A J Stiles

      Re: Why tie these people into the MicroSoft symbiosis.

      Because there is money to be made.

      Microsoft's thinking goes like this: Sell a person a fish, and you have sold one fish. But teach a person to fish, and you can keep on selling them expensive, proprietary bait and tackle for the rest of their life. Any beneficial side-effects (like, the people you taught to fish not being hungry anymore) are just a happy accident; it's all about making money. And your accidental-on-purpose failure to mention that there are plenty of other ways to get bait and tackle, possibly at considerably less cost and/or capable of catching more fish than the stuff you are selling, means they are in thrall to you.

      What the Third World desperately needs is field-maintainability -- the owners of equipment should be the ones to determine whether it is worth propping up with spare parts or needs replacing at last. But field-maintainability is anathema to dinosaurs who are still wedded to the old economics of scarcity -- precisely because the inability to maintain in the field works in their favour.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: Why tie these people into the MicroSoft symbiosis.

        Sell a person a fish, and you have sold one fish. But teach a person to fish,

        and he'll sit in a boat all day drinking beer. So that's a sound business model if you're into brewing or selling the stuff.

    2. sam bo

      Re: Why tie these people into the MicroSoft symbiosis.

      Never heard , being tied to Microsoft described as a symbiotic relationship before - interesting choice of words .

      1. James Loughner

        Re: Why tie these people into the MicroSoft symbiosis.

        More like parasitic

  10. Matt 52

    Not strictly answering the question....

    ... Won't help the migration, but if you have one then a spare PC with 2 NICs to leave behind with Sophus UTM or Untangle, Squid and FreeNAS running as VMs to give them a free but enterprise class firewall with caching, anti-spam, web filters and shared drives. Sophus UTM has a free non-commercial version for up to 50 people, and Untungle has a "lite" version.

    Easy enough to setup the VMs and internal network under VirtualBox before you even leave the office and massively improve their experience. I'd run it under a Ubuntu LTS release rather than buy another windows licence, but that's me :)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not strictly answering the question....

      I think it's disingenuous to set up customers with great and costly support licenses when they will never be able to use them because of the remote location. Living in a very remote location for years taught me what another poster said that being able to self-sustaining in a remote environment trumps any support, which is why I always ended up using FOSS.

  11. Wayne Stallwood

    Golden Image

    I'd be making and debugging and syspreping a golden image with all their software preconfigured before I left. This means you don't get rushed on the config/tuning and all the machines are configured in exactly the same way, you can also patch it up to the latest and minimise what each machine needs to download once you are there.

    It also means that once the locals have been given suitable instructions, if a machine is virus infected or otherwise broken then they can just revert back to their "master" image.

    I'd also make sure I have the following things with me.

    Extra Ram (Windows 7 needs at least 2GB really even as a Web surfing box) Do you have a hardware audit of the machines to be able to determine what Ram they have/might need ?

    UBCD on both Optical and Flash media (includes several partitioning/imaging tools plus things like memory tests etc in case you get a rogue machine)

    Spare Optical drives (one of each pATA and SATA, if you go down the route of installing form optical media)

    Two portable hard drives with the master image on.

    Some spare internal hard drives (no point installing to buggered hardware, so I'd be running the smart tools against each hdd before installation and replacing it if it is suspect)

    I'd also have a go at convincing someone like ESET to see if they will donate some decent AntiMalware protection. If you can't manage that then I think probably Microsoft Security Essentials is the best of the freebies, but make sure it is installed and fully up to date on your master image.

    1. an it guy

      Re: Golden Image

      Your comment on extra RAM made me think. I would personally say: get someone there to install belarc system advisor and email that document per machine.

      It's a small file, but has masses of information (and sometimes product keys, I'm told) and I've used it before to get information to prep a machine install for someone who was in london with no internet connection, in the days of very non-smart phones.

      turned out handy as I'd downloaded the drivers, and the source of the problem was a USB keyboard driver trying to 'ping' a server and causing the machine in question to hang. Why? the keyboard had a light on it to tell you if you were connected to the internet.

      So, Drivers, drivers, drivers. It's going to suck if you don't know exactly which one(s) you need for a certain hardware configuration.

      1. JCitizen Bronze badge

        Re: Golden Image

        majorgeeks has a really good update tool, that doesn't need installing, and points you to many of the applications and drivers that may need attention. I haven't tried the driver updates yet, because I'm not having hardware problems, but many clients of mine do.

  12. Valeyard

    additional software

    if it's (for all intents and purposes) offline, do they still do encyclopedia cds like encarta?

    that's what we did before internet connections got decent, and clearly they're educational.

    1. silent_count

      Re: additional software

      In a similar vein, I'd suggest an ebook software (I use CoolReader FWIW) and a selection of titles from Project Gutenberg.

      Without wishing to sound condescending, literacy is, in so many ways, a silver bullet. Perhaps the low literacy rates are, at least in part, a consequence of lack of accesss to reading material in such a remote location.

    2. keithpeter

      Excellent idea - Re: additional software


      I used Encarta in an FE College before we had ready access to Internet. You may remember the built-in project program that let people store up articles and tag them with comments and add illustrations.

      Britannica 2013 Deluxe DVD is currently available and boats '80000 articles'. Not sure how many of those link back to the online source and how many are local to the DVD install. It wants just under 4GB for 'full install' and will run on relatively modest specs (including G5 Mac). Might be a nice one to have on one or two machines.

      I'd second a download from Gutenberg and the various free textbooks that are around now as PDFs.

      1. Valeyard

        Re: Excellent idea - additional software

        Yeah, that sounds good! and the ebook resources too, better than the mobile library we occasionally had in our rural village!

  13. jockmcthingiemibobb

    Bandwidth limited community....smoothwall, squid or a mikrotik caching proxy. Smoothwall is ridiculously easy to setup and runs nicely on a VM like virtualbox.

    A truckload of $10 used ubiquiti bullets, airgrids and pre-M nanostations from Ebay and some sector antennas.

  14. saif

    .New-OS-talgia def. pain of installing a new operating system

    It does not make sense to migrate a desktop system running XP into windows 7-8. For windows 7-8 you need a hardware upgrade with more memory, more cores, better graphics card bigger hard drive etc

    1) Buy a new computer, 2)extract your old drive and attach it to your new computer running the drive in a virtual machine (e.g. virtual box) and 3) migrate gradually into your new OS, while retaining the continuity in you existing environment, copying the useful stuff leaving the cruft in old drive as a back up.

    If you have to keep the old hardware, Linux is the ONLY way to go. Win 7 will run on old hardware but t will not be fun. I would dual boot, and then as above clone the drive to work under XP in a virtual machine...I did that 6 years ago...haven't looked back since, and use my old XP environment for the nostalgia...

  15. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    Think out of the box

    Willowra may be remote, but it isn't on the moon. Send one guy with a pickup truck or light aircraft to collect all 8 PCs and bring them back to the nearest place with a decent internet connection, upgrade them there in comfort where you know that you can download the drivers that you inevitably forgot to put on the DVD, add extra RAM etc. as necessary. Then send them back all shiny & ready to go.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Think out of the box

      Actually you also make a good point - these systems should and probably need a physical overhaul.

      So need to take the hoover, cleaners and it probably won't go amiss to take several tubes of Arctic Silver cleaner and thermal paste - more than once I've improved performance by merely replacing the thermal compound attaching the cpu to its heat sink.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Think out of the box

      Or if the PCs are identical, do similar with a single PC/disk/spare disk, then migrate the image to the other PCs after? As others have said, there are offline Windows and Software update options too.

  16. Adam Jarvis
    IT Angle

    iPads, you know you want to.

    How about just sending them 7 Apple iPads, you know you want!

    Remember that cuddly smile from Gran/Mom, the day you 'relented', and have had no complaints since (or workload sapping/home IT, time wasting, hair pulling family telephone support calls come to think of it)

    It would save so much Windows Update grief (for both you and them). Let them stick with XP on those machines. You're doing them no favours moving to Win7, and they could use the iPads to learn how to do the upgrade to Linux themselves/Libre Office.

    Hope you have more than 2 weeks there if you attempt a full update of each machine to Win7, let's hope they are the same hardware. Your eyes will glaze over from waiting for Win Update to fully update. Multiple reboots, install more updates, fail, need to reinstall more updates, reboot - plenty games of football in between, I presume.

    It's just kicking ball further into the grass, none of those machines will be much use with Office 2013, and non will be upgradeable to Win8.1 Update 1 (love the name, MS), as the processor is unlikely to support the OS (execute bit, XD).

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Unless you need extensive amount of customization MDT will do the trick, you can push the os(along with drivers) and apps without any major effort. The most complex thing will be user profile migration(xp->7 may require hands on migration if USMT fails). You just need a file share(even a standard client will do the trick) and a dvd-rw(usb stick may not be recognized by old hw).

    1. Mr Anonymous

      Re: MDT

      Yes, lets look at the docs:

      Microsoft Deployment Toolkit Samples Guide

      Quick Start Guide for Lite Touch Installation

      Quick Start Guide for User Driven Installation

      Quick Start Guide for System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager

      Toolkit Reference

      Troubleshooting Reference

      User Driven Installation - Developers Guide

      Using the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit

      This is EIGHT PCs!

      Either do it longhand or I sugegst building an image with all updates/apps reseal it. Take a small Linux FTP server containing the image and a CD with G4L and image the PCs. Leave the Linux box behind so when Windows turns in to its normal six monthly "bloated fcukup state", they can re-image them.

      Or like below. Mint em.

      1. tobo

        Re: MDT

        The Microsoft documentation makes it look really really complicated... In real life basic imaging with the deployment toolkit is easy. Its when you want to customise, script and automate bits and bobs where it gets complicated.

  18. Ilmarinen


    I've just transitioned my home XP machine from XP to Linux Mint 13. Unlike previous attempts at going to Linux this has been an (almost) pain free experience and the result is a pleasure to use. Seems rather quicker than XP and I can still run my old Win apps under Wine. I can still dual-boot to XP if I need.

    I have got Win7 on a netbook and it's soooo slow - whereas Mint on the same machine works well. If you want to go the Win 7 route I'd check it out on similar hardware back home first before inflicting it on Oz.

    Just my 2p (or 2¢) worth :-)

    1. Unicornpiss Silver badge

      Re: Mint

      These have been my experiences wtih Mint as well. In fact, if they have to pay anything for Win7 and Office, they'd be better off scrapping MS in favor of free, friendly Mint (or Ubuntu) Linux is a bit more thrifty with internet connections to, IMHO, as you're not constanty updating AV and you don't have 50 DRM'd applications phoning home to make sure you haven't pirated them since you used them yesterday.

      Most of the old apps will likely run under Wine, and there are tons of educational apps for free on the Linux software repositories.

      The only benefit to Win7 for them as I see it is if it was free and if they choose to use WAIK to deploy to their PCs.

  19. out_the_back

    Most of what others have said can be summed up as preparation - you have already identified the big risk lack of bandwidth and are looking to take steps to mitigate that.

    As for tools. Use The Microsoft Deployment Tool Kit (MDT ) to create a master image. The resulting image can be deployed from a bootable USB stick and can include core apps - the OS, Office, AV/AM, PDF, VLC, etc. and optional apps to be selected at deployment time on a per machine basis if required. The bigger the image the longer the copy takes but the faster the post copy install. So build a reference machine, install Office and other tools, connect it to the internet and install all updates, sysprep it, image it, slap it on a bootable USB, deploy it, boot it, tweak it, install other apps, finished.

    NOTE: some 3rd part applications really hate being sysprepped - YMMV.

    Drivers - make sure you take the latest versions of all drivers for the deployed hardware - video, network, disk, etc.

    As for updates - there appear to be a number of tools that will pull (Microsoft) required updates down to a single computer for 'offline' install. You would then need a batch job to run on each computer to check on the 'puller' for updates - this would limit bandwidth use. Personally I think I would just trust to BITS to back off bandwidth usage when other traffic is present. (I thought there was a way to tell clients to get updates from another client -not a WSUS server - but can not find that now.)

  20. itzman

    If they are functioning OK dont upgrade.

    If they have enough RAM install linux.

    If you care about the community smash all the PCs and leave.

  21. James O'Shea

    Step 1: Recon

    First and foremost, get full and accurate specs on all of the hardware. RAM, hard drive, CPU, etc. This will determine if going to Win 7 is practical. If they've got a bunch of Pentiums or, worse, Celerons, with under 512 MB RAM (entirely possible for a basic XP install) then odds are that they're going to need new hardware before you do anything else.

    If the hardware is adequate then get a list of all, repeat, ALL, software currently installed and any additional software which might be required. From that list you can determine if it's even possible to go the Linux route. Remember that if they have Windows-based software then retraining with Linux-based systems may (that is, WILL) be necessary and that will take time and budget, too. Also, if they depend on anyone else for support, and whoever that is doesn't know Linux-based systems they will have to get new support. This may be difficult out in the middle of nowhere. Check with the actual users and determine exactly what use the various apps are put to; if they need, say, to support MS Office macros, then Libre Office will NOT work. Sorry, it won't. If they need to exchange documents with someone who uses MS Office, then, depending on how complex the documents are, Libre Office _might_ work... or might not. It is fairly easy to generate documents in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint which have severe problems when round-tripping to Libre Office. (It's easy to generate MS Office 2010 documents which have severe problems round-tripping to Office 2003, much less, so you'd better check to see what the people they have to talk to are using...)

    Step 2 Logistics

    Having determined the extent of the problem, build a disk image with your fav imaging software around the hardware and software required. Depending on the size of the image, haul it in on DVD, a thumb drive, an external USB drive, a computer of some kind with networking support (switch/router/whatever). I'd go with a computer. Set up a network if not already in place (leave the network when you go) and run the image over the network to the systems. With only eight systems to update this shouldn't take long. Leave the computer as the admin system for the network. Note that the computer need not be a Windows system, depending on what imaging software you use. The image should have the latest versions of all software, including AV, and updaters if necessary, so as to not strain the Internet link.

    Step 3: Consolidation

    The support computer should have the ability to back up the network and should be connected to the (yes, I know) satellite connection so that someone can remotely admin it. If you go with a Linux system instead of Win 7 then this will help with the support problem, but may not be enough, depending on exactly what apps they need and how they need to use them. The support computer should be configured as an update server; all updates come in _once_, to spare the satellite link, and then get sent out over the network. This also could make security better.

    A Linux-based system is unlikely to suffice. (Sorry, Tuxers, but we're in a Windows world.) And, besides, the mission brief is to move to Win 7. Unless you can convince the users that Linux would be better for them... and support them thereafter.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I would do it this way - again a way of advance prepping without industrial tools

  23. g00se

    XP->Win 7 not usually an option on same hardware


    It does not make sense to migrate a desktop system running XP into windows 7-8. For windows 7-8 you need a hardware upgrade with more memory, more cores, better graphics card bigger hard drive etc


    Indeed, so what IS happening to the old hardware? Maybe Simon Sharwood can tell us?

  24. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    If bandwidth is such a problem

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Classic Shell of course.

  26. thondwe

    Been there done that

    I spent 3 years in Malawi as a volunteer. "internet" was a 9600 baud modem. So I collected tools, software, etc when in the UK, or from other volunteers/AID workers etc. ZIP Drives where my best friends - remember them?

    Anyway, spent a lot of time fixing laptops with software issues, viruses, etc. So top tools needed were: Current AV software, Partitioning tools, OS + Driver disks, Common Application install Disks, doggy licence keys (cough!).

    So go with a SysPrep'ed image by all means, but hardware (graphics, printers, gadgets) drivers may be your issue? The remote WSUS idea appeals - can you inventory before you go? Get them to run off a System Report and post them, just something. But you'll need to get the data off the machines before you nuke 'em, so a USB hard drive or two could be useful. I'd also suggest if possible virtualising the Applications (ThinApp?) - so no install required? An USB CD/DVD as well as the CDs etc of the OS, and common Apps, may be the only way to get them going.

    But local hardware could be a mixed bag, and XP/Office 2003 etc may still be the right tools for the job - they won't have the drivers for that either though? CD/DVD/Floppy drives will be knackered - even USB ports may be too old? Take a working desktop you can use to plug in IDE drives to uprgade???

    I'd really consider the suggestion of shipping the lot somewhere connected? Or take a Satellite Dish?

  27. spidercrab

    This is an interesting exercise and there is a wealth of good and varied advice here.

    However, standing back a bit, I can't help but think what an absolute mess the world of computing has got itself into. What should be a straight forward path is a journey riddled with pitfalls.

    The answers to this problem should be just to buy the latest MS OS, insert disc and upgrade. Of course that could not be further form the solution. It is all a royal mess and an utter outrage.

  28. MattW99

    My innovative XP upgrade solution?

    Ditch windows.

    My ageing XP Lenovo hasn't got the guts for an upgrade and I remain singularly unimpressed with the latest Windows variants.

    So I've bitten the bullet and splurged 2k on a MacBook. I wonder how many others will use the XP end of life as the impetus to ditch the Windows OS completely?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: My innovative XP upgrade solution?

      "So I've bitten the bullet and splurged 2k on a MacBook."

      So taking 16K worth of MacBooks is their solution???

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I would recommend taking a big stash of 8Gb or greater USB keys for installing from. Because they are easily cloned and CD/DVD disks and drives don't survive well in a desert.

    Secondly some generic as they come Wifi USB dongles, and Ethernet USB dongles with driver support already built in windows 7. Smaller the better to bring in hand luggage.

    Getting windows onto the machines is only half the battle, your first battle being with drivers and the chipset, and to then end up with a computer with no network communications is an exercise in frustration, so having some known USB kit that will just work out of the box will save you hours of time, Especially since I guess you will be working with donated computers of varying states of repair.

    Thirdly, I would recommend a solid state based intel nuc box to act as a little server. Keep your installers on there for one thing, and secondly to fire up an instance of mediawiki. Its one thing teaching people to read and consume stuff from the internet, but to show people that they can write up and publish their own accounts, articles and stories for themselves will be quite empowering, and save you some precious satellite bandwidth...

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: USB USB USB

      >your first battle being with drivers and the chipset

      Thanks for the reminder, the first item will be with the BIOS. Depending upon the motherboards and the age of the existing BIOS it may need an update to support Win7.

      But as you say getting the various chipset and drivers installed in the correct sequence can be problematic.

  30. phuzz Silver badge

    Apparently Ninite can create offline versions of their automated installers:

    Although it's only available in the paid version, I think they might help you out in this situation.

    I'd also take as much spare hardware as possible, spare harddrives, NICs, memory, PSU, PCI graphics card, and cables. Oh, and tools of course.

    You never know when you might need to replace stuff, and it's sometimes easier to use an add in card, rather than tearing your hair out trying to find drivers for (eg) the built in NIC.

    And at the risk of continuing the argument, I probably would take along a Linux install *as well as* Windows, just in case one of the PCs is too low spec to run Win7. Basically, give people the choice. Also, a linux boot stick is handy for all sorts of tasks, like partitioning, or getting at data on a dead windows install.

  31. the idiotuk

    This should cover almost all bases... mentioned. Get the full version. Easy front end for DriverPacks. No more driver issues. Ever. ..why more people don't mention this. I've had one since the first version and I wouldn't be without it. .Wave bye bye to Installation and live DVDs. This emulates a virtual ODD and in most cases will allow mounted ISOs to directly boot machines from the device (Some BIOS fiddling maybe required and Dell laptops can be a bit picky but apart from that). I've installed Windows 7 to an SSD in under 8 minutes using this.

    That's my two penneth for what it's worth.

  32. ecofeco Silver badge



  33. bob, mon!

    Verify the hardware first

    Do you know the machines will run Win7? If not, get in touch with someone there, if necessary talk 'em through the Control Panel -> System window and find out what processor and memory you're facing. Also, what brand/model of computers.

    Most likely, if it's feasible at all, you'll want to pack in some more memory at a minimum. A brush and a couple cans of compressed air would be good, too.

    Good luck, and do report back on the exercise.

  34. David Barrett

    I have read the article and skipped the comments now I am going to go through the comments and count the comments that completely disregard the requirements given and suggest a Linux install...

    At least it passes the time...

  35. Bob Camp

    If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

    Upgrading an old system to Windows 7 is a mistake. It can run quite a bit slower than XP on older PCs. Maybe try it on one PC first just to make sure it's usable. It must have at least 2 GB. Maybe disable Aero too?

    Honestly, there's no need to upgrade from XP if they are just using it to surf the Web or learning how to use Office. The only thing on that PC worth protecting is the working XP installation itself. Make sure they're using an anti-virus program, install Firefox and an ad-blocking plug-in, and remove all IE icons. Also make sure they're not running as admin. That'll stop 99% of whatever could possibly infect them.

    Once you've done a virus scan and have made sure the PC is working, create an image of that hard drive. Teach the locals how to restore their PC and when to restore it. Browser hijacking is more of a possibility with all OSs, so also tell them how to get Firefox restored if something goes wrong with it.

  36. cracked

    Before I start - If you don't know for certain that the PCs will upgrade (hardware) is there a budget for the parts? If not ... save the diesel. And I assume you are staying for a week or so, post install?

    Remote Location

    I live in (semi) rural Australia. With a satellite internet connection. You are bat sh1t crazy if you attempt to upgrade 8 unknown PCs from XP to Win7 (or anything else) in Willowra.

    I think there's two choices:

    1. Go with the suggestion above: Get in your ute/4WD and go and fetch the PCs back to Melbourne (I assume).

    2. As above, but hire office space / hotel room in Alice

    Internet Connection

    If this is NBN Co Satellite then you can forget about concurrently connecting 8 PCs to the internet. Two machines sharing a connection is just about tolerable, any more and ... well it isn't.

    Unless you can get multiple dishes, restrict the number of concurrent connections (at the router: does the router support this?, know before you go, or buy one that does).

    Caching Server

    Unless you can find comparable (free) Windows software, go with the Caching Server recommendation above. Cannibalise one of the machines. Set it to be very aggressive. It helps ... some. Buy More RAM.


    Install as few things as possible. Restrict/Ban installation of new things.

    Remote Support

    Make sure you can log in to each machine before you leave (including the caching server!) and that you have the relevant permissions ;-)

    Health Warning: If you don't live in rural Australia, with only a satellite connection to the Internet; try not be too down, at the end of your endeavours ;-)

    Best of luck!

  37. Spoonsinger

    Assuming the other comments are taken on board,

    (i.e. WSUS offline ISO, etc), take either a USB DVD drive and/or a spare IDE DVD drive & cable with you. Always useful when the one in the box is fubar/not working to specification.

    If I had a pound for the times I've gone somewhere and the DVD/CD drive has been used once in about five years and has basically stopped working over that time, I'd have a few more pounds than I do now.

  38. Herby

    A simple addition...

    Go buy a Raspberry Pi, and give it a nice 32+ GB SD card. It will have lots of room to be a "server" and you CAN make good use of it. It can hold all sorts of images of various software releases, and for the most part be quite quick. An investment of less than $100 or so and you have a VERY complete backup. If you want, you can make up USB keys and swap them out at will. Given that power is likely to be erratic, it can be a godsend.

    If you want, you can make some of the machines do netboots and go from there if necessary. The nice thing about a solution like this is that it WILL be stable for a while, and have little (if any) malware problems.

    The images you put on this "server" can be varied, but having all the files that would normally be fetched from the "internet" there (and those of your new operating system) ought to make things easier.

    This is a pretty reasonable investment for $100 (or less).

  39. chivo243 Silver badge

    some stuff

    You don’t mention the specs of the gear you’re going to work on. or the manufracturer (yes I know it’s misspelled)

    So bring:

    1. Hiren’s boot cd

    2. some extra HD’s

    3. some bootable usb’s (use your mac to format the drive as bootable, and then copy the whole win7 dvd to the drive. then use the usb stick on the xp machine, kick off the installer from the usb stick, and watch the fun... just did this last month on an HP d300.... Have fun activating windows over the slow connection you mention ;-{

    4, that should do it for 8 computers, should be done by second lunch....

    If you are imaging, ghost ect remember there is sysprep for windows 7, just remember OBE, out of box experience and you’re good to go whether you shut down or reboot.

  40. Ben Burch

    Virtual Machine

    Well, Windows 7 Professional has an XP virtual machine you can download. I've found it able to run any XP app I was unable to run in Windows 7 without having to take the risk of exposing XP to the network for general use. And as a virtual machine, you can save a copy and restore to that point at any time.

    Other options are VMWare Workstation on windows, and Parallels or VMWare Fusion on OSX.

    All do a competent job of running XP.

    1. Bob Camp

      Re: Virtual Machine

      No!!!! If you believe the hype, everyone should be extremely careful using XP virtual machines, especially after April! The XP virtual machines have all the same vulnerabilities and can transmit viruses to each other (and maybe to the host OS) just like a regular XP machine.

      If you set up the VM so that Ethernet access is in bridged mode (by selecting the network card directly), the host OS won't see anything you are downloading. You have to install an anti-virus/firewall on the virtual machine -- but at that point why not just install XP directly and get rid of the virtual machine altogether?

      You can set up the VM in NAT mode instead, and hope nobody messes with that setting after you leave. Note that this is the default mode in Windows 7. That should allow the host OS to intercept the viruses before they reach the VM. It should be noted that this method slows down Ethernet speed (which is at a premium in this article).

      But that's just the network connection. What about USB drives? CD-ROMs? You'll have to configure the host's AV to scan every removable drive the moment it's inserted into the host PC. Possible, but once again it slows everything down.

      Not to mention that Windows 7 VM has a minimum HW requirement those old PCs don't meet. You can use VMWare, but you'll still have the same problems listed above.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Virtual Machine

        >It should be noted that this method slows down Ethernet speed (which is at a premium in this article).

        No Ethernet LAN speed isn't at a premium, it is the Satellite WAN speed that is the bottleneck. Although, I suspect the overall impact will be similar to that experienced by WiFi users, who typically experience a lower throughput from their DSL compared to when they are connected (to the same DSL) by Ethernet. However, given there are 8 systems, a potentially useful side effect is the slight throttling to which an individual system can load the satellite link.

        Other than that, I tend to agree with what you say and add that there is nothing in either of Simon Sharwood's articles that indicate the presence of applications that are tied to XP, and that as you indicate MS will cease to support Win7 XP Mode on 8-Apr-2014.

        However, just to be safe, downloading the Win7 XP Mode installation and tucking it away on a disk, is not a bad idea.

  41. Eradicate all BB entrants

    Check the hardware first ....

    .... and if all the machines are the same (Could be if donated by 1 person/company) then here is my suggestion..

    Take a decent laptop with Ghost installed and a USB cd-rom drive (In case the bios hates booting from a USB stick .... some older ones do). Also take an ethernet hub/switch*. If you know what kind of machines they have get as many of the drivers as you can from the vendor site**. I know there are open source versions of drive imaging software but Ghost has saved my ass a few times.

    Replace the hard drives in all of the pc's. Stick the existing ones in caddies.

    Install OS, all apps and updates on the pc (Resources repeated many times above)

    Sysprep the machine but shutdown.

    Boot with Ghost through USB and write the image to the laptop. 1 PC down 7 to go.

    Run Open DHCP server on the laptop, plug the laptop and 7 pc's into the hub/switch.

    Boot as XP to make sure you can get an address from laptop.

    Set Ghost on the laptop to multicast and boot the pc's with Ghost.

    When all pc's have booted and joined the session hit the button and image them all at once. First boot Sysprep completes, input license keys and you are away.

    * I have found that some network configs hate Ghost multicast, using a hub or a switch with a clean config off of the site network can make life easier.

    ** Learned from having 50 of the same make, model and spec desktops to image when they had different network and sound controllers. Orders that small meant we got the overun from the big companies orders.

  42. keithpeter

    Summary of what I've seen so far as a checklist

    1. Get hardware specifications for machines preferably by running system information. Criteria is comparability with SOHO hardware for employment ready training. Census of all peripherals; printer(s), scanner(s), AVA &c.

    2. Decide on feasibility of upgrade. Discuss with the Centre staff the criteria for a) travel and upgrade b) fetch and upgrade/service at regional base c) rattle the tin for better kit and drop ship it

    3. Assuming feasible build and test images for installation having chosen the appropriate method (various methods suggested). My thoughts: discuss with centre staff if there is anyone interested in how this stuff works locally. Tailor reinstallation/imaging method around skill set available so as to include Centre members as much as possible.

    4. Take lots of USB sticks, USB HDs for backup of existing files and possible imaging of hard drives current state (clonezilla was mentioned) so return to status quo possible in event of show stopper. USB wifi / network adaptors USB DVD/CD drives, duplicate all image files, take installation media for later versions of all applications just in case image fails. Appropriate dust proof packaging for all kit (c.f. thondwee who has been off the grid). Leads. In profusion.

    5. Take various rescue/driver type DVDs in case PCs have odd/unexpected hardware not working

    6. Arrange to stay for some days after update completed to provide local training. Observe users and gauge level of knowledge / interest. Discuss possibilities with Centre staff. Posters/leaflets on the new system.

    7. Set up and test remote admin just in case.

    8. Take some free content e.g. pdf textbooks, Gutenberg &c, and also free apps (GIMP, LibreOffice). My thoughts: USB sticks with Portable Application versions of some of the better freeware might be fun for people to try. Aim to run podcasting/photo/video sessions depending on outcome of step 6. Identify tablet apps for these activities for those who come into centre.

    9. Explore potential for locally produced content in literacy development: mediawiki was suggested running on local server. I'd add blog/diary as literacy development aid along with good old fashioned low bandwidth wall newspapers. A diary/blog written by teenagers out there might make some of my students think just a tad...

    10. Depending on local interest level, consider taking bootable media with GNU\Linux system for demonstration. My thoughts: Ubuntustudio might go down well with teenagers interested in music and graphics type production. Need not be installed, could just boot off sticks to access creative software. Alas, both Dynebolic and Puredyne seem to be dead. Both these distros were designed to run of a USB stick.

    Good luck with this project. I'm sure El Reg staff have actually done stage 1 and have a good idea about stage 2 really.

    @ MattW99: Send me that Lenovo. I bet I could do all my work and produce podcasts on it (maybe not if it is Pentium 3 coppermine, but anything after that, certainly Centrino onwards...) using Ubuntustudio.

  43. Novatone

    XP -> Windows 7

    If the option of removing upgrading and returning is possible do it that way.

    I'm doing a lot of these this month, here are the main stumbling blocks.

    Drives, if the systems are all identical, getting one done and imaging to the others is a good way to go but there is a good change they are not identical.

    Download the latest drivers available in advance, this might be difficult since the manufacturer's website will likely not have up to date drivers so finding even Vista drivers will mean needing to know the chipsets and downloading the latest drivers available directly from the chip maker. Soundcard and video drivers tend to be quite large so you will not be wanting to download those on-site.

    The video cards may be a problem since there are a lot that have no Windows 7 drivers so unless the fallback generic VGA driver will be fast enough take some new cheap video cards or newer old cards and drivers.

  44. Roland6 Silver badge

    Support for the Locale!!!

    I don't know where the software is being sourced from, but it is worth investigating what locale support is needed (don't know the relevance and applicability of websites such as the Australian Society for Indigenous Languages - ) and hence you may need to ensure the correct versions of MS and third-party products are sourced.

    1. Glen Turner 666

      Re: Support for the Locale!!!

      The locale is still Australia, as locale isn't the same as the language you are writing in (think currency, date formats, etc).

      The characters in Aṉangu and Yolŋu (including the Pitjantjatjara dialect) scripts aren't that rare and will be covered by most large Unicode fonts, including those in recent Windows.

      In Mac and Linux you use the system keyboard configuration to alter the Compose key to produce Aṉangu and Yolŋu script. iPhone and Android need a keyboard definition. WIndows Xp was more complicated and AuSIL and others have software. Windows 7 isn't too bad and you can use the system keyboard configuration to add a Compose key. There is a common set of composing keystrokes, so please don't make up your own.

  45. The Dude

    Take a HIRENS disk or USB

    yes, it is sort of Linux, but it has all the snazzy Windows utilities you will need.

  46. Phill 3

    Tips for deep desert PCs

    1) Apps - Use a full suite of PortableApps. This will cover many interests & business such as with LibreOffice. It also means you can simply post them a new USB stick with the latest versions every couple of months. Only install what has to be installed such as Microsoft Office (I doubt you'll get a ribbon generation to run on that hardware but the last of the pre-ribbon may help train for business). And YES I have said use both Microsoft Office and Libre Office - Why wouldn't you have both?

    2) Give them a set of Live DVD/USBs of a modern light-weight Linux distro - Why wouldn't you let them try it / use it in an emergency? A live DVD/USB means they can revert to the installed Windows OS back and forth as often as they like.

    I like to say: "Compromise - use both!"

    3) I believe you can now get an offline DVD copy of Wikipedia. Just like the WikiReader.

    4) Bring another old PC or buy a Raspberry Pi to act as a caching proxy. By all means use it as a firewall and file server too.

    1. RhubarbRhubarb

      Re: Tips for deep desert PCs

      Have a look at - this is free offline wikipedia / wikionary / wikivoyage application that's cross platform, and can also be hosted as a web server (can be hosted on a raspberry pi). Just be sure to get it running and download all the wiki* files first before you head up.

      Existing maps of Willowra are in very poor shape, Openstreetmap is probably the best, but still could do with some improvement. See

      Once you print out Willowra's current Openstreetmap's map from walkingpapers you can just write or draw in any changes or additions (names of roads, where the internet centre is, where the general store is, that sort of stuff. Once done scan it in and send it back to Then anyone can use your walkingpaper doodles to improve openstreetmap easily.

      If you're stuck with using Windows, make sure at the very least to download nvidia and ati's video drivers.

  47. Glen Turner 666


    An alternative might be to visit Aspitech in Adelaide on your way through ( and grab some of their refurbished PC goodness. They are shipping with Win7 and Office at the moment. The people there have strong social aims and many people in the "community sector" find them a godsend.

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Windows 8

    Seriously, why upgrade to a system that's scheduled for its own "end of mainline support" in less than a year's time?

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Windows 8? Windows 7?

    Why upgrade my XP system? It isn't broke (yet). I back up very night and keep a rolling queue, so I can deal with all this 'upgrade' rubbish when (if) I ever need to... Meanwhile I expect to shift more and more of my apps to Cyanogenmod and Linux... Really, at this point, I have mainly XP legacy apps on Windoze. It is surely more sensible to just leave them as they are, even if it makes MS extremely unhappy... and impecunious..

  50. pacman7de

    What would YOU take to Willowra ..

    "What we found was a wonderful facility with enormous potential to help locals, but it was struggling with a slow internet connection and in urgent need of an upgrade from Windows XP."

    I would take a Linux distro on a DVD ..

  51. Simon Sharwood, Reg APAC Editor

    Windows has been mandated

    Hi everyone and thanks for your feedback.

    I should have mentioned that PCs in Willowra ran Windows 7 but were downgraded to XP. I don't know why. But they're grunty enough to handle W7.

    On Linux vs. W7 I appreciate Linux's many fine qualities, but feel Windows is more appropriate for a few reasons.

    * The XP to W7 move will retain a very similar desktop metaphor and I feel that for visitors to the centre minimal disruption is important.

    * Yes, Linux desktops are now very fine. But Linux would mean re-learning a lot for locals and I fear that many don't have the literacy to do so.

    * Linux is not not supported by Batchelor College and Linux would be alien to staff on the ground in Willowra.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Windows has been mandated

      >I should have mentioned that PCs in Willowra ran Windows 7 but were downgraded to XP. I don't know why.

      Would be useful to understand why they were downgraded - could be something as simple asat the time that was what everyone supporting the systems were familiar with.

      Would probably be useful to know what was done as part of the downgrade. I've tended to take full disk images of systems that I'm about to mess around with (eg Dell, Lenovo, HP) in addition to retaining any supplied recovery CDs, so that at a latter date they can be restored to the "as shipped" state.

      I would also suggest that before leaving site you do a full disk image so that at any future date the system can be restored. My only warning is that whilst a portable 500GB HDD is more than sufficient for all these images and can be put in the customer file, it is important to ensure everything is clearly labelled so that when you look at the disk contents in 1~2 years it makes sense.

      Aside: Also may be useful to confirm the specifics of the XP licenses (and any other software) that you will be liberating, you may be able to resell then on ebay...

  52. psychonaut


    Build a golden image. Sysprep and generalise it. Image it onto 8 new hard disks (don't reuse the old ones a new 1tb is 40 quid) before going. Insert new disks into old machines. Get a usb cradle. Use ycopy to get data from old disks to new. No net download needed. Easy. If you must reuse old disks then Ycopy data to a 1tb in the cradle. Image old disk then ycopy back. Might be worth taking a usb 3 pci card card and cradle. About 50 quid. I would recon it first though. Team viewer in and get relevant drivers and make sure of the specs beforehand?

  53. psychonaut

    driver packs

    These are generally good but ive seen them go hideously wrong when the os picks the wrong driver. In xp it can be a right pain in the arse to get rid of that driver. Havent done it in 7 as to be honest 7 is pretty damn good at having the relevant drivers. Always check the sata driver and tge vga driver though as the default ones can be shit.

  54. Paul 129
    Thumb Up

    Just dont forget the spares

    You don't know what people have been doing to those machines. Do they even contain the memory and drives they origionally had? People often ummm, mislead you with what they say. If they can boot off a USB or CD, then SNAIL MAIL them up a linux cd and usb stick, tweek them a bit so they open up a reverse tunnel to you. (dd over the ddrive will show if there are any problems with the harddrive, lshw and you wont have any surprises with the hardware, hell you may even be able to talk them through actually running memtest!)

    If your feeling really clever, you can mount the drives with ntfs-3g and try to copy back the system hive c:\windows\system32\config\system.dat If you can you can read the hive for what has been installed on the machines. (a little less error prone than checking directories, oh hang on ive got scripts for that ;-)

    Best option probably would be to take up a bunch of refirbs, so you can set them up in a lab and have them as bomb proof as posible. ie a couple of days testing memory and drives, and have a system that they can use to reimage them. Have all the networking sorted so you just have to plug them in and migrate old data.

    Refurbish and resale what you bring back. But I guess it all depends upon your budget.

    Otherwise make sure you have plenty of spare parts.....

    Good luck!

  55. Unicornpiss Silver badge

    Instead of sneakernet..

    Since these PCs have to be on a local LAN at least, designate one of the better ones as a "server" and cache the apps you need to install on it. (Heck, you could even use the WAIK to deploy Windows from it if you upgrade it first) Use this PC temporarily as a file server and install from it instead of mucking around with CDs or flash drives. Even at 100Mb/s, installing from LAN will be faster than a CD usually.

  56. ifconfig

    Just fly in Trevor Pott, that'll sort it.

  57. Mr. Chuck

    Hmm, seems to be a fair bit of argy-bargy about Windows vs. Linux. Why not throw this over to the corporates who generally make a lot of money out of end users, and get them to give something back?

    So here is a challenge for Microsoft, Red Hat, Novell, Canonical, Apple even, and anyone else who wants to have a crack at it; sort this out, for nothing, for the remote communites. 'Best' (fastest migration, most usable, most interoperable, whatever) solution wins. It'd be a PR win at least.

  58. Pu02

    You really need to know what's in the comms box as even once you've locked down all those clients, users will come along- plugging-in BYOD drives and kit.

    Given that chaos will come to your perfectly constructed 'house of Microsoft cards' in short order, you will need to cover the WAN as well. And no-doubt remote access is/will become a requirement.

    Maybe take a WRT-54G (or two for plug-in replacement/redundancy anyone with access to the cabinet can do), anything that will run DD-WRT, OpenWRT, Tomato or even better.... Gargoyle? I can give you a pair of WRT-54Gs if you need them at zero budget.

    A more sustainable/reliable solution may be a low-voltage PC running m0n0wall. These solutions give you excellent traffic management, unparalleled uptime and security, remote access, ability to manage a locked down open wireless SSID (for all those BYOD-ers) as well as a prioritised ethernet LAN and much more, without having to buy back-doored Ciscowei kit.

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