back to article The Reg's desert XP-ocalypse aversion plan revealed

Next week, The Reg heads into Australia's red centre to perform a Windows XP to Windows 7 upgrade at the Wirliyatjarrayi Learning Centre, a facility in the tiny central Australian town of Willowra. The Learning Centre offers the first publicly accessible internet-connected PCs in the 300-strong town. Willowra is a two-hour …


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  1. frank ly

    EditPad Lite

    It's a multi-tabbing text editor with many features and facilities and much better that Notepad. I used it under Windows for a long time before I switched to Linux last year and it's free for non-commercial use.

    I assume that you'll have at least a couple of networked colour printers taken care of? For kids especially, it's exciting to see their work on-screen become printed out onto paper they can take home and keep and show to people.

  2. The Quiet One

    I won't use a PC without 7-zip installed. Comes in handy almost daily, so i would include that on your app list.

    1. an it guy

      I agree with you for *my* use. However, it's not got the most intuitive of interfaces. Come to think of it, most non-technical users still have trouble with zip managers...

  3. Tom 64


    If there is any obscure hardware at all, you are probably going to want to take a pre-downloaded copy of the W7 drivers for it.

  4. king of foo

    public access?

    You'll be wanting adblock plus plugin/add on/extension for all these web browsers then...

    Ccleaner to run on boot...

    A silent defrag scheduled...

    And, um, as much protection as you can muster!

    I haven't tried these, but I'd be seriously contemplating sandboxie/deep freeze/similar.

    I'd also be looking at the kind of access you want to give users, and making sure there's a sound update process in place

    1. Piro Silver badge

      Re: public access?

      Defrag has been scheduled by default since Vista! (Unless you're on an SSD, of course, which Windows 7 will correctly detect).

    2. Goldmember

      Re: public access?

      CCleaner, yes, but having it run on boot might be a bit resource intensive. They don't seem to be high spec PC's. I'd advise the person (or people) in charge of the place to run it once a week or so.

      Also, some anti malware, either MBAM or SuperAntiSpyware in addition to the AV.

      This one might not be applicable to the userbase, but CutePDF (simple PDF printer) is a useful one I always install. It's light, free, and useful for creating PDFs of receipts and useful web pages.

  5. Spoonsinger

    An e-mail client?

    (ignore if WSUS offline includes the Windows Essentials stuff)

    Also Paint.Net & Notepad++

    1. BoatTown

      Re: An e-mail client?

      I love Notepad++. I really do. But in this case, if the bandwidth is low, the repeated updates to this would get quite annoying.

      Better a text editor with less features, but less release flapping.

      1. BillG

        Re: An e-mail client?

        Another +1 for Notepad++ for free text editors. But if you want the best, shell out a few dollars and get UltraEdit.

      2. Anonymous Dutch Coward

        Notepad++ updates?

        No need to enable automatic updates though...

    2. Lazlo Woodbine

      Re: An e-mail client?

      Not so sure about the email client, these are public access computers so surely all email would be web-based.

      +1 for, it's a brilliant little image editor

      +1 for notepad++

    3. oolor

      Re: An e-mail client?

      The first thing I thought was Notepad++. I haven't updated it since downloading it a while ago. The only reason I updated from using Notepad was find and replace.

      Also, NoScript and FlashGot are excellent add-ons for Firefox, that can help with protection and video 'borrowing'.

  6. Paul_Murphy


    Wouldn't Libre Office make more sense, I understand it gets better support and updates?

    Admin tools like Fing and advanced port scanner for networks, an ISO mount utility, a linux boot USB drive (and CD) for just in case a HD fails, Gpart, robocopy (does that come on 7?) or similar for backup tasks (will there be a NAS on the network?), printer & scanner drivers if necessary.

    1. John Arthur

      Re: OpenOffice?

      +1 for LibreOffice

      1. batfastad

        Re: OpenOffice?

        OpenOffice is gone. I've used both, alot, and the first year of LibreOffice saw more improvement than the previous 3-4 years of OpenOffice.

        So another +1 to LibreOffice

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: OpenOffice?

          Why use any open source when MS Office is provided? That is like suggesting using a unicycle to cross the Himalayas when a airplane is being offered.

  7. chuckufarley Silver badge

    As Paul says above, LibreOffice gets more FOSS love than OOo.

    Don't forget to install NoScript!

    If you want to make backups of the drives before upgrading I would recommend CloneZilla and if things go badly on an install you might want a copy of the SystemRescueCD. can point you to both.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      If you want to put up with NoScript ("Why doesn't that website work?" ... check drop-down menu ... JavaScript from half the Internet and possibly even off-earth hives of scum and villany are being pulled in ... "Well, it just doesn't"), then add Ghostery

  8. Ben 77


    I hate it, and I know it opens all sorts of security holes, but my guess is there will be a requirement to open PDF files. And Adobe Reader is a default for that. I'd also be tempted to include PDF Creator - which installs a PDF printer, although LibreOffice has a save as PDF option included.

    1. rh587 Silver badge

      Re: PDF

      SumatraPDF surely? Or Foxit Reader at a push - less lean than Sumatra but the download package and install footprint are both smaller than Adobe, and Foxit doesn't nag you constantly to update thanks to the bloody update processes it runs in the background "for your convenience", which on older hardware is going to compromise performance unnecessarily.

      If you are going to inflict something Adobe-based on them then be sure to clean out the update processes that sit in the background consuming CPU cycles, RAM and bandwidth, and just add checking for updates to the admin's weekly maintenance list along with running CCleaner and the like.

      And a vote for LibreOffice over OpenOffice.

      1. batfastad

        Re: PDF

        +1 for SumatraPDF. Used to deploy FoxIt but it became bloated adware.

      2. DropBear
        Thumb Up

        Re: PDF

        I myself prefer to use Foxit, but I have to admit I'm still looking for my jaw after I saw how Sumatra handled (and scrolled) PDFs of hundreds of megabytes (instantly), while both Foxit and Adobe Reader were within inches of a BSoD trying to open them...

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: PDF

      Unfortunately, I agree whilst I do use third-party PDF tools, I've found there are times when a PDF only renders correctly in Acrobat Reader...

      But definitely would install a PDF printer with preview, it is quite useful in preprinting webpages and then selecting only those content pages you actually want to print. unfortunately I use Expert PDF for this, which isn't free.

    3. Jon 37

      Re: PDF

      Google Chrome handles PDFs nicely. You just have to set up the file association yourself, since it doesn't do it automatically. It handles every PDF I've thrown at it.

      It's nice and secure - it omits the more advanced PDF features that have approximately zero real-world uses and account for most of Adobe's security holes. It also runs its PDF renderer in the same sandbox it uses for rendering HTML, so you'd need two vulnerabilities to exploit it.

      Chrome also does silent automatic updates, and only downloads deltas for the updates to save bandwidth. And if you're using Chrome as a browser anyway then you'd be getting the upgrade anyway.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Good luck with those for old PC kit, best installing Win7 32bit as you might be out of luck with some 64bit drivers.

    1. aregross

      Re: Drivers

      ^THIS! Don't even *think* about loading 64-bit on that old Hardware!

      ... and major kudos to you and The Reg for doing this! Big Thumbs Up!

  10. JDX Gold badge

    I can't see why The Gimp is a standard tool to install, it's a bit specialist and not very easy to use. Paint.NET is better if you actually need something, but I doubt you do.

    NotePad++ would definitely get my vote.

    I'd say use MSE rather than Avast.

    Surely Acrobat Reader is a requirement?

    Not sure on why bother with FF and Chrome, I'd say pick one as an IE alternative personally.

    AdBlock possibly makes sense but not script-blockers because it sounds like your target users will not know what's going on when pages don't work properly.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      MSE !

      Have you read any recent anti-virus tests of late and just how poorly MSE performs ?

      And as for acrobat , oh please - use Sumatra. Have you not been following the story about how bandwidth constrained they are. Besides if you were up to date you'd know firefox has a PDF renderer already built in.

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: MSE !

        I'd still recommend Acrobat because my motivation isn't to show how tech-savvy I am, but to provide standard tools people will have heard of.

        As for "if you were up to date you'd know firefox has a PDF renderer already built in" yeah great so does Chrome. Often, links to PDFs open directly in the browser and this is pretty great. But then sometimes they demand you download the file and I don't want to be opening local files with my browser.

        Also - I am up to date. That's why I don't use FF anymore.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: MSE ! @jdx

          So why do you recommend a bloated, malware prone application that requires frequent updating to people who are not tech savvy and are bandwidth constrained ? Thankfully you are not designing an office network for ten that only need simple file-sharing and backup. You would probably have them on three quad core xeon servers when a good nas will do.

          A lump hammer is a standard tool for a brick layer but quite useless to a watchmaker.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: MSE ! @rm -rf /

        All AV is basically a poor option, they often stop ~95% of stuff but there is so much that the remaining 5% will bite if folk are not prevented from running / installing stuff.

        And they really suck resources. On older PCs you have to ask if it is worth the continuous user pain versus to one or two re-installs per year.

        If your MS skills are up to it, try making the various temp locations and user's home directories (basically anywhere they can write to) non-executable using ACLs. Brutal, but one way to limit Trojans...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: MSE ! @rm -rf /

          Gone AC now have we JDX ?

          1. JDX Gold badge

            Re: MSE ! @rm -rf /

            Because obviously two people couldn't think you're an idiot.

    2. keithpeter Silver badge

      A few extras

      1) If GIMP then Inkscape

      2) If users can teach themselves GIMP, then Audacity with the LAME library and a few sets of headphones and a couple of USB microphones. Podcasts fun to make and can help with literacy development depending on local supoort (scripting)

      3) Scratch or LOGO or similar entry level programming tool with visual orientation

      4) Outlier: a community of 300 must have a few dozen teenagers - pure data music programming and some of the freeware synthesisers. Make truly satisfying types and quantity of noise. Reaper licence? Is there a free thing for Windows like Garageband?

      Coat on now because its raining and I use a different OS.

    3. Piro Silver badge

      I would personally use SumatraPDF over Acrobat Reader if I had the choice here.

      Tiny, fast, free, no background updater bloating things out. If these are old XP machines, you don't want any bloat.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Slip a used Mac Mini in your bag and save them some agony:)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Outback

      "Slip a used Mac Mini in your bag and save them some agony"

      Yeah, so the other trolls are all hanging out on the other thread. Why don't you toddle off there, grownups are talking about the actual subject on this one.

      On-topic, and constructively, it might be worth taking TCP Optimizer or something similar along, see if a little bit of tuning might help squeeze the most of that low-bandwidth link

  12. big_D Silver badge


    pre-install TeamViewer (or similar) on the devices, that way, if there are problems, you can provide remote support.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: TeamViewer

      pre-install TeamViewer (or similar) on the devices

      Windows 7 comes with Windows Remote Assistance out-of-the-box. It only takes a few clicks and an email to get help.

      Oh and to launch it ask them to click the start button and type 'ass' :)

      1. Steve Foster

        Re: TeamViewer

        Yes, W7 does come with Remote Assistance. And RA provides a better experience (than TeamViewer, IME) for the person providing assistance when it works. But I've also found it to be much less reliable at connecting than TeamViewer - particularly if the remote site is bandwidth-constrained (as is apparently the case here). So I tend to use TeamViewer by default, because it just works.

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: TeamViewer

        Teamviewer (and previously LogMeIn et al) are much better than Windows Remote Assistance. Remember the main reason you will need to access a system isn't to support a user session but to fix something on a machine, which you will typically be doing out of hours...

        On this vein, it is useful to set up the system standby settings to ensure you have a reasonable window of opportunity (ie. a few hours) to grab a system after a user has finished, before the system goes into a network disconnect and shutdown mode.

      3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: TeamViewer

        > "Windows 7 comes with Windows Remote Assistance out-of-the-box"

        > Follow the link

        > "To view this content you need to install ★SilverLight★ TM (c) (r)"


  13. anonymuos

    Classic Shell of course.

    1. dogged

      on Win7?

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        It's the only way to be sure.

      2. Chika

        Depends on the users. Classic shell adds a few bits and pieces on W7 that were on XP, especially on the explorer windows. I agree though - it's hardly a vital installation with W7.

  14. rob2014

    Web of Trust

    I install the software from on all browsers for computers I use. It could reduce the number of dodgy sites people try to visit.

    I'm not sure about Avast (mixed reviews - and it failed to detect spyware on a friend's computer) Assuming you stick with Avast, you probably want to disable the Avast toolbars for IE/Firefox/etc and just use MyWOT instead. The AV will still scan downloads, and I don't think Avast has the XSS blocking abilities of paid-for security software so there's little advantage to the browser addon.

  15. kimnz


    In addition to what Tom 64 said I find that having a copy of the drivers on an offline USB installer is very useful. It is also useful to run it on existing Windows 7 machines to update the drivers.

    Check out:

    In particular the Stand Alone Driverpack app:

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Divers

      Not much water in the outback, I don't think he really wants to take divers with him. ;-)

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Should a nasty get past the virus scanner, or if someone downloads something inadvisable this can help with the aftermath.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Malwarebytes

      Better still some BitDefender and/or Kaspersky bootable "rescue" CDs to deal with difficult root-kit like infestations.

  17. Piro Silver badge

    Windows Live Essentials

    They're not bad, you get a few fun things, such as Movie Maker and Photo Gallery to do simple changes to images.

  18. 0laf Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Deep Freeze is a good call.

    Turns a lot of support calls into "have you tried turning it off and on?".

    Good for library environment where you might need to let people do things that will probably break computers in a day or so.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Deep Freeze

      Whilst this is a very good tool and Faronics are really helpful, I'm not sure if the pricing model is appropriate for this and probably Drive Vaccine would be better.

      Note these tools effectively rule out the use of traditional AV software and really you would need to use a cloud-based AV (they rely on a having continually updated signature DB which doesn't go down well on a locked down HDD which after every user session reverts to it's old/non-updated state.

      A few years back I used Prevx SafeOnline (now part of Webroot) - basically because your main threats are against user browser sessions and this tool included custom support for banking, social media such as Facebook etc.. Other choices now include Panda Cloud AV Free (not used for real but looks promising) and tools such as Zemana AntiLogger Free.

      I would avoid installing a more functional free firewall, such as Comodo or Agnitum Outpost, because these do need configuring and a like more maintenance than the Windows firewall...

    2. Roland6 Silver badge


      Been doing a little more digging, having been reminded of EMET.

      Whilst it isn't the same as Deep Freeze etc. it does seem to offer additional protection over and above Windows (XP/7/8) normal/default operation as it forces the use of some security features in Windows, that if correctly deployed may help reduce the impact of undesirable programs.

      Good article here:

      Aside: To download the EMET install package you need a Windows system that MS can validate.

      Also you will need .NET framework 4.0 for the latest version)

  19. ID10T


    A bit on the dated side but will open any kind of Image file you place in front of it (including psd and eps files).

  20. pmp

    +1 to both Team Viewer and Audacity.

    Training for a local on getting rid of unwanted browser toolbars etc that will invariably accumulate.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    VLC Media Player

    VLC Media player. Plays alnost anything that you chuck at it.

    1. Annihilator
      Paris Hilton

      Re: VLC Media Player

      Just as well they already mentioned that?

      1. Chika

        Re: VLC Media Player

        I'd be more inclined to use CCCP and Media Player Classic, but that depends on who is likely to use it and what they might be watching... ;)

        1. Flawless101

          Re: VLC Media Player

          CCCP comes with so much crap with it these days, there's better packs/setups out there to use with MPC for aficionados of media player setups.

  22. Yoru

    A few to consider:

    a) If you’re using Firfox, which I’d highly recommend, then add-ons are of course a normal part of its proper functionality. These would include:-

    1) Adblock Plus (essential)

    Annoyance eliminator.

    2) Speed Dial [FVD] (essential)

    Like Opera Speeddial, but better. Will focus the student on using preferred sites.

    3) Self-Destructing Cookies (essential)

    Has a white list for those you want it to remember, and ditch the rest.

    4) Add Bookmark Here (optional)

    5) Duplicate This Tab (optional)

    Missing from the standard Firefox.

    b) SUPERAntiSpyware (free addition)

    Has a focus on spyware, but also scans for Trojans, Worms etc. Can be set up to have a resident part, but useful as a stand-alone scan application. Finds spyware that Avast and AVG misses. Also gives the pre-flight option to remove undesirable add-ons and changes to home page etc.

    c) TDSSKiller (free)

    Originally produced by Kaspersky to find the tdss rootkit virus. Now maintained to find some of the most difficult rootkits. A small stand-alone scan application that even Kaspersky keep semi-covert.

    d) TuneUp Utilities (low cost) or similar

    Essential resident programme that can be set up to automatically keep the system in good health. Yes you can do most of what it does manually, but given the application there may not be either the time or the expertise available.

    e) LibreOffice (agree)

    1. dogged

      Re: A few to consider:

      Even if you're using Firefox, some links and stuff will still open in IE because they just do.

      So, once you get online head straight for in IE and install it.

      You might also want the Tracking Protection Lists

      - - get EasyList

      and especially


      Congratulations, you have just made IE into a usable browser.

      After that, if you want all-free and for-noobs and to offer some potential as to what's possible, I'd probably install Webmatrix from - they can learn something decent and download their own IDEs afterwards if they get the bug.

  23. SlowZone

    No firewall mentioned? Are you planning to use the Windows firewall or a free third party one, like you do for the anti-virus?

    I use the free version of Comodo on my desktop PC and ZoneAlarm on my laptops and can recommend both. I felt that Comodo used more resources on the low spec laptop where ZoneAlarm didn't have as noticable effect at the time.

    The big thing to be aware of when installing the free firewall or AV software is know how to install them without the extra "free" software, the ASK toolbar, etc.

  24. batfastad

    LibreOffice, ImgBurn, 7-Zip, Notepad++, SumatraPDF, CutePDF writer, Pidgin, IrfanView, GIMP, Inkscape, FileZilla, WinSCP, Audacity, VLC

  25. Alphabet Soup 1
    Thumb Up

    Close the gap

    No suggestions; just to note that this is a damn fine thing to do.

    Good on yer!

  26. SlowZone

    If the PCs have CD/DVD burners -> ImgBurn

    What printer & scanner drivers will you need? Do they have the installation media or will you need to search and download the drivers?

    If you plan on loading up a core set of free apps then Inkscape, VLC, 7-Zip and LibreOffice all get my vote.

  27. 1Rafayal

    Why MS Office?

    How come you are looking at installing Open Office or Libre Office when you have been given MS Office disks?

    Maybe MS Office doesnt need to be part of the installation at all? Or did I do a good job of not reading the reason why in the article..

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Why MS Office?

      Good point 1Rafayal, although I normally avoid installing Publisher unless the client demands it, because it's file format is highly proprietary and seems to change with every release of Office with each new version having limited or zero support for previous versions...

      I suspect that unless you know which version of Office is being supplied, it is wise to have an alternative in the back pocket.

  28. David Pollard

    Portable Apps

    It may be worth getting a bunch of programs from and putting collections of different types onto usb sticks, just in case they are needed.

  29. Ian 55

    Presumably there is some remote sysadmin tool

    A ssh server should be enough but I don't know about what Windows 7 actually wants in this regard.

    The only sensible setup involves the PCs being automatically wiped and restored from some - as far as the users are concerned - read-only device between users. Otherwise, once one of them gets pwned* then they all are.

    That device can be updated remotely with the patches etc, because if they can't handle keeping a modern Linux up to date, they sure aren't going to be looking at the numerous sources for updates for a Windows PC.

    And next time, you - or whoever else it is - doesn't have to drive two hours there and two hours back.

    * We can have the sweepstake on just how quickly that happens another time.

  30. Gel

    PDF reader: Evince lets you copy and paste protected PDFs.

    On phones, off air gps map access. Eg: MOBAC on PC to capture maps and ORUX on the phone.

  31. out_the_back

    So I know Silverlight has been mentioned but what about Flash, latest .Net, Java JRE/JVM etc. at the low level. Just thinking about all those annoying add-ons etc. you get prompted to install to view web pages, play videos etc. over the web.

    At the, higher, apps level have you got a music maker/mixer/recorder in the list? No they may not use it now but music and the aural tradition is very important to the local culture I belive.

  32. Nick Ryan Silver badge

    AudioGrabber - it might be old, but it's stable and does just what is needed to rip CDs.

    AgentRansack - a great way to search for, or in, files without a resource hungry indexing service. One of the few tools other than 7zip and (a restricted) Notepad++ that I routinely deploy on servers.

    Picasa - works well on low powered systems and does a good job of all the basic photo manipulations you might need. You don't need to connect it online.

    1. Piro Silver badge

      Agent Ransack is a great way to avoid having to use Windows 7 search, which is basically awful and constantly doesn't find files that blatantly exist.

      Love it. But I don't think it's essential in this situation - a public PC.

  33. Trevor 3

    Java (JRE) standalone?

    I know its just there to be updated once in a while, but sometimes it's required, and its better to have it than not seeing as the place is a tad remote.

    1. Tom 13

      Re: Java (JRE) standalone?

      I was thinking along the same lines. It and Flash are of course absolute security nightmares, but I expect in that sort of environment they will be expected. So best to take along offline installers.

      Somebody above already mentioned CutePDF, I think its essential for people who don't pay Adobe for software.

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: Java (JRE) standalone?

        Office, Chrome and I assume Libre & FF all support print-to-PDF natively.

  34. ed 26


    I'm surprised you've not looked at MDT to create the install media...

  35. John Craick

    Lots of good stuff so far

    I'd add Avidemux, a good basic video editor.

    Already mentioned, so + my 1 for ...

    Irfanview, Inkscape, Audacity, VLC, Filezilla, ImageBurn, 7-zip, Adblock essential.

    Noscript, probably, but can confuse inexperienced users.

    A good AV media format converter could be handy. Handbrake ?

    MS Office comes with MS Publisher, good for community newsletters, posters etc,etc

    If not MS Office then definitely LibreOffice + probably Scribus for DTP

    How "powerful" are these m/cs ? Win 7 may be a bit much for them & a lightweight Linux, tricked up to have the standard Win XP desk top features really ought to be considered I think.

  36. Forget It







  37. Anna Logg

    I'd start by going over to, as that will create a custom link to automagically download the majority of programmes mentioned so far.

  38. SminkyBazzA

    Free Avast has annoying popups?

    When I've tried Avast! in the past, it would popup daily marketing messages in very large dialog boxes. Anyone know if this is still the case? Could be a source of confusion in a learning centre.

    Comodo Internet Security is my free go-to now - quieter day-to-day, and covers AV, firewall, and malware.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    SPybot S&D



  40. unitron


    Can't hurt to have a copy handy.

    Windows user icon because, well, Windows.

    (as in I've never had an excuse/reason to use it before)

  41. NogginTheNog

    When you're done

    Could you compile your notes, and all this good advice, in to a list of what to put on a new PC? I for one would find it VERY handy next time it comes to a rebuild!

  42. Defiant

    The Linux People Really Are Desperate

    I only clicked on this article because I just knew the Binux trolls couldn't resist trying to push their favourite operating system, an OS they can't give away and they've not let me sad are they

    1. Justin Stringfellow
      Thumb Down

      Re: The Linux People Really Are Desperate

      "how sad are they"

      troll, have a downvote.

  43. Salts

    Not sure how much bandwidth...

    you have or disk space available on the older PC's, but for remote locations with limited bandwidth, we download, wikipedia and set the browser home page pointing there

    Khan Academy Lite with an RPi as a server is good for everyone not just the kids.

    Probably outside the remit of what you are trying to achieve this visit but for the future?

  44. Robert Moore

    Two suggestions.

    Dban CD.

    The software equivalent of taking off and nuking the site from orbit.

    In fact you only need to run it for a few seconds to make sure that you are starting with a fresh partition table. This technique has solved problems for me more times then I can count. Virtually impossible for a virus/malware to survive dban. Old machines frequently have partition table strangeness, Hidden partitions, restore partitions etc. I have gotten to the end of a Win7 install with no errors, and found the machine would not boot. Dban, and reinstall and everything is good.

    A large quantity of your favourite pain killer.

    Upgrading machines speced for XP to Win 7, is going to be a painful experience.

    Good on you for doing it.

  45. MartinBZM

    And remember ...

    To bring the registration keys on paper and schtick. Activation on a slim bandwidth is generally a no-go, specially when doing multiple machines.

  46. Truth4u

    The free AV has to be MSE, Avast will start showing ads and the users will click whatever link it shows them and almost certainly mess the entire system up in the process.

  47. EddieC not Gimp has much less of a learning curve than The Gimp, it's free, and it does everything most users need.

    +1 for 7-zip and LibreOffice.

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In a learning/education environment Greenshot is very useful

  49. Mikel

    Needed software

    All that stuff is available for Linux, even antivirus which is shoes for snakes. If you go there you may as well install Linux Genuine Advantage for your activation and license control needs.

    Seriously though, if they are that innocent then putting an XP skin on your preferred Linux is the way to go.

    1. dogged

      Re: Needed software

      take a day off. I'm pretty sure nobody's paying you to sell linux installs and the author stated explicitly that he'll be installing win7.

  50. shuckie

    Panda Cloud A/V?

    If the hardware is on the older side & the machines may have limited resources as a result, would it be worth considering Panda or an alternative free cloud-based antivirus solution? Provided their bandwidth is sufficient to cope, it should leave the PCs with enough resources to run other processes as required.

  51. g00se

    Give it away

    >>the Binux trolls couldn't resist trying to push their favourite operating system, an OS they can't give away<<

    Tell you what, why don't YOU agree to give away every device in your possession that runs Linux? The sysadmins can take them with them on their project.

  52. Roland6 Silver badge

    Other bits and pieces

    Looking through the original list and the comments so far and comparing to systems I've built a couple of additions:

    1. eReader: Whilst we can debate whether they need Kobo, Kindle etc. an abilitiy to read ePub files will be useful. I use MobiPocket, but there are many to choose from. Be warned that many (eg. Kindle) need to be installed by logging into each individual user account and then installing - they don't seem to handle a general admin install.

    2. Touch typing tutor: I've tended to install Rapid Typing Tutor - remember the satellilite link effectively rules out online tools such as the excellent

    3. Password Manager: Whilst these are public machines, it may be handy to use a password manager to retain all those default passwords that permit these systems to access standard resources.

    4. iPads/Android etc.: For simplicity just install Collobos Presto on the 'server' system. Whilst not free, it is probably the easiest way to enable iOS to send stuff to Windows printers.

    Finally, I recommend giving some thought to the final user environment configuration. Trivia like:

    - Tidying up the Windows menu's so the user doesn't get to see entries like "Windows Anytime Upgrade" etc.

    - Buttons, such as changing the default setting on the "Shutdown" button to "Logoff".

    - Setting the various auto updaters so that user's aren't distracted by them.

    - Pinning relevant stuff to the desktop, Menu bar, start menu etc.

  53. Paul 77


    Just a thought. Once you've got the installation done, maybe image to hard drive (or maybe a partition on the machine's hard drive) and take them through restoration? Probably won't need it, but I think its a "would be nice to have" in case TSHTF.

  54. Retired Spy

    HDD, Hardware Updates, and Burner Software

    If you can discover the motherboard make and model, take an optical disk with all the mfgr's latest updates, BIOS, etc. Some OS upgrades require a newer BIOS. All require drivers. Don't forget a copy of all the motherboard documentation you can get your hands on.

    An old computer in a hot dusty environment calls for a new(er) HDD. Take the old one out, install and update onto the new. If things go badly you can do an instant restore by putting back the old HDD. After the install you can probably set up dual boot to boot back into the old OS if and when required. Don't forget cables, lots and lots of cables. And cable ties. And cutters, pliers, screwdriver and assorted fasteners.

    Take a new(er) optical drive too, one with the latest firmware already installed. One you've verified can read your optical disks. An older optical drive may not recognize the new optical disk types. And a spindle of CDRs and DVDRs verified to burn on the new optical drive.

    Computers (and live distributions) love RAM. See if you can scrounge up extra RAM for the machine if it hasn't been topped up already.

    It probably wouldn't hurt to also replace the fan(s).

    Of course, if you don't know how to control static, best you don't crack the case open ;)

    As for software, install Nero (if you can) or CDBurnerXP (take several versions, there are problems with some newer versions on some hardware).

    I also like to carry several live distributions including Knoppix and SystemRescueCd. If I can get Knoppix to boot, I've found it to be an excellent test, debug and download environment.

    Finally, take some old flash drives. Newer flash drives don't always work on old hardware.

  55. Thaumaturge

    As others suggested

    I agree with Foxit pdf, IrfanView pic viewer, 7-zip, spybot s&d and Malwarebytes. I run all on my windoze boxes.

    Foxit in particular is noticably faster than acrobat (wow, had to think hard to even remember acrobat!)

    IrfanView is the best free pic viewer -that I know of- and with add-ons will handle just about anything you throw at it. Likewise 7-zip is a great compliment to resident winzip. The last two are great non-intrusives for doing a quick scan for nasties.

  56. Arc_Light

    My long list...

    Some suggestions for useful utilities are as follows (some are repeats, some not - am just running down a selection of files in my utilities folder):

    * 7-Zip

    * Audacity

    * Bitvise SSH Server (if you want to do SSH-tunneled RDP securely later on - I remote administer a bunch of PCs this way, it's very handy and very easy to install / configure / use - Bitvise SSH Client being the connection tool of course - supports terminal, SFTP, RDP, etc.)

    * CCleaner, Defraggler and Recuva (all Piriform)

    * CDBurnerXP or ImgBurn (the latter I like better these days)

    * Passmark Disk Checkup (or some other free SMART monitor, in case a drive starts to fail - only annoying thing is it sometimes locks USB keys such that Windows will refuse to eject them)

    * DNSCrypt Windows Service Manager Package (makes DNSCrypt / OpenDNS setup that much easier - see

    * DoPDF (nice free print-to-PDF driver)

    * Exact Audio Copy + LAME (+ RazorLAME if you want a nice frontend) + MP3Tag (if they'll be into CD ripping)

    * GIMP + InkScape (though I may have to check out given the posts here)

    * LibreOffice

    * Locate32 (a million times better than any Microsoft search utility - turn off indexing / disable and use this instead)

    * VLC Player or Media Player Classic Home Cinema + CCCP (I prefer the latter, YMMV)

    * Notepad++ *or* Metapad (I like both - the latter seems faster / lighter weight to me actually, even if - or maybe because - it's rather old)

    * PDF-XChange Viewer (I like it because it's the only free viewer I found with an equivalent of Acrobat's typewrite function, which for me is critical)

    * Pidgin + Skype (if you're in to that sort of thing)

    * Process Explorer, Process Monitor, TCPView, WireShark and RegSeeker (more for you than users though)

    * PuTTY, or even better, KiTTY, and WinSCP (again, a bit advanced / redundant with Bitvise SSH client to some extent, but if you want)

    * Traffic Shaper XP (excellent for, well, traffic shaping :) - seems potentially useful in a bandwidth-limited environment)

    * XMedia Recode (*awesome* transcoder, tons of easy to understand presets) and maybe VirtualDub

    * VirusTotal Uploader (always a nice thing to have, especially since it hashes the file first to confirm whether upload is necessary - good with limited bandwidth)

    * VMWare Player (in case they want to eventually try out Linux without the commitment of nuking their Windows install in the process or the trouble of setting up dual boot after the fact - superior to VirtualBox in terms of compatibility as far as I've seen, I love that I can run a 64-bit Ubuntu guest in a 32-bit Windows host :)

    * Western Digital Data Lifeguard Diagnostics (if you have any WD drives installed, anyway - simple utility for SMART / disk testing)

    * WinDirStat (excellent for answering that nagging question of "where did all my space go?")

    * XnView (very nice picture viewer, also handles simple resizing / batch conversion, can play some media files as well)

    Now, if we're talking web browsers, for security it's Comodo Dragon or IceDragon I would say, but if you want speed and like a FireFox type environment, I currently favor Pale Moon. Between that and Thunderbird, recommendations for plugins are as follows:

    Firefox / related:

    * AdBlock Plus

    * BetterPrivacy (good / unobtrusive)

    * Calomel SSL Validation (not essential but handy)

    * DoNotTrackMe (pretty friendly in that it explains itself)

    * DownThemAll! (nice downloader that I can see as being particularly useful in a bandwidth-limited environment, between throttling and restart capabilities)

    * Flashblock (*highly* recommended - will save on bandwidth and improve security too)

    * Forecastfox (who doesn't like to talk about the weather...)

    * Ghostery (also pretty user-friendly)

    * HTTPS-Everywhere (good / highly unobtrusive)

    * NoScript (less sure about this - maybe too intrusive?)

    Thunderbird related:

    * Awesome Auto Archive (OMG, how did I live without this - really *is* awesome)

    * Extra Folder Columns (minor improvement but handy for tracking message count / size)

    * Mail Summaries (not essential but cool)

    * Manually Sort Folders (not essential but might relieve some user frustration?)

    * MinimizeToTray Revived (well, *I* think it's essential :) - works for FF too)

    * Simple HT Jumper (very handy for occasionally switching to HTML messages if you need to)

    * SortPref (as above, not essential but might relieve some user frustration?)

    PS - In addition to my faves above, I've picked up some new and useful tools to try, so thanks to everyone for the posts!



  57. Osgard Leach

    Wonderful, wonderful stuff (Ladies and) Gentlemen. A learning centre in the dusty remoteness, connected to hardly anything at all by the skin of it's teeth, getting £100???????? worth of battle hardened advice from front-line officers, gratis, proposing solutions that are themselves free, done and dusted in 48 hours flat with a chap on the ground ready to execute. Wonderful,wonderful stuff.

    Let's hope El Reg stays in touch.

    Anyone remember the old "A Meeelion people do the Times crossword every day / Imagine if they did something useful" Disinformation schlock TV thriller from the 80's? Russians planted some Infernal Device, emitted Bleeps/did Nothing/Baffle the Boffiins type of thing.

    At one point a young woman with a certain curl of the lip got out of bed wearing only her knickers, had Norh Sea Trawlers in it, all ended badly, Bomb.

    Can't remember what it was called but funnily enough, to this day, women with a certain curlp of the lip...

    Aaaanyway, this is rather like the opposite of that, if you see what I'm saying.

  58. Mussie (Ed)


    Greenshot an excellent (free) prgram for taking and editing screenies (like Snaggit) useful for making doco ect.

    Drivers for connecting the most common phones for accessing photos (maybe not viable as there are so many models)

    The latest drivers/software for any printers they are using, I prefer the non bloat where versions when i can get them.

    Also maybe put a folder on the "all users"/public desktop with some very basic tools like batch files that show the system IP address,

    ****************** Show IP Address Batch******************

    @echo off

    ipconfig/all |find "IPv4 Address"




    In that folder there you should have important links for instance I use logmein to assist with my remote computers, so i have a link to the client access logmein webpage which the user has to go to for me to access their machine.

  59. Martin Budden Silver badge

    Why three browsers?

    You say in the article you are taking IE and Firefox and Chrome. At least one of those is redundant, Shirley?

  60. FrogInABlender

    Final Few Bits

    Three of my faves were mentioned once (no comment):

    = Bitvise SSH

    = Recuva (esp for remotes admin)

    = Everything (Filename keyword finder)

    Several tools I use regularly have no other entries so far:

    > StalledPrinterRepair (clears print spooler)

    > Cleanmem (for low RAM PCs)

    > CAlibre (ereader reformat & database)

    > Mozbackup (for FF)

    > Xplorer2 lite (dual pane viewer) ... esp useful for selective low-tech backup

    > MoffSoft FreeCalc

    Thanks for doing this ... it's been helpful to me both for new utilities & confirmation of my existing toolkit. (Probably also pretty useful for the target community !)

    Best regards to the whole team.

    JimBob (Montréal)

  61. Unicornpiss

    How about the Sysinternals suite?

    For troubleshooting, you can't beat the sysinternals utilities. Minitool Partition Wizard may be pretty useful too, so may "Rescatux"

  62. Unicornpiss

    If you want CD burning software...

    Imgburn is free and the best I've found.

  63. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If your going to be installing Windows 7 forget the WSUS update disc. Instead prepare a preupdated windows 7 install.wim using the simplix update pack. Then create a bootable usb installer with this new updated install.wim and you wont need to install many updates at all as they'll all be preinstalled!

  64. Starlite Lemming

    Alcohol 52%

    I would suggest including Alcohol 52% (freeware CD imager and emulator). Shame about the name, I suppose.

    Also Irfanview (*the* image viewer) and FreeCommander (a file manager).

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