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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!



  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. Martin Budden

    Why three browsers?

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

  8. 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)

  9. Unicornpiss Silver badge

    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"

  10. Unicornpiss Silver badge

    If you want CD burning software...

    Imgburn is free and the best I've found.

  11. 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!

  12. 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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