New Life for Old PC

In this thread, the OP asked about how to wipe an old computer so he could re-use it without giving away personal files. Didn’t want to hijack that thread but I have a slightly different question…

I’ve got a couple of old PCs hanging around the house that had been for community use (ie, by three teenagers) and they’re gunked up with every type of downloaded software that loads on bootup – every IM app, browser plugin, etc. While they’re old, they could still be useful for basic web browsing or even as a file server if I could clean them up.

Other then deleting every app one by one, what’s the best way to get rid of all that stuff and get the system back to a clean state? Any apps for that. Assume that a) I don’t have any Windows OS discs and b) I don’t want to install a different OS like linux.

If the computer came with Windows installed, it should have a Windows sticker on the back with the license code. I’m pretty sure it’s legal to borrow a Windows installation disk (same version as was originally installed) and use the license code on the sticker to activate it.

Absolutely, you have paid for the license to use Windows, not the physical media it was delivered on. I’m pretty sure if you contact Microsoft with a legitimate license code they’ll ship you a replacement disc for a small fee, provided it wasn’t an OEM copy or volume license.

In my opinion I would put Ubuntu on them. Its free. Will run better than windows. It is also perfect for what you need. IM, Internet, Email, File Server. It also will not degrade like windows will and is more secure

Granted. However, if I want to run iTunes or Tivo Desktop to serve media files, then I’m out of luck.

On the other hand, the fact that a lot of Windows apps won’t run on it may be a good thing… keep the kids from mucking it up again. Any issues with peripherals? Will my USB printer and external hard drives work with Ubuntu?

I can use an Ipod with Ubuntu just fine. Do you actually like iTunes (are you kidding?) or do you just need it for your iPod? My iPod is easier to use on Ubuntu than Windows. The only issue I had was my Logitech mouse. I cannot reprogram the sensitivity buttons to something else (minimize, maximize). You can run “many” Windows programs with a program called WINE (WINE Is Not [an] Emulator).

I have a dual boot system I only boot into XP when i need to mess with my phone. I have not found out a way to backup my contacts with Ubuntu, but pretty much their is a work around for EVERYTHING its just finding it thats hard.

Linux has software for pretty much any windows App. I do miss windows sometimes and could see myself going back to it though.

There’s no magical solution here. You can uninstall them one by one or do a full reinstall of windows. What brand is it? I find most OEM discs work with most OEM licenses. If it came with XP then the drivers for it should be easy to find on the manufacturers page or elsewhere.

Considering the nightmare that is teenagers with computers, Id assume these things are more spyware and viruses collections more than anything else. Id nab an XP disc and try to do a reinstall.

>On the other hand, the fact that a lot of Windows apps won’t run on it may be a good thing… keep the kids from mucking it up again.

Once you have your reinstall done do this: Setup a new user account that is only in the user’s group (sometimes called a limited user in the home editions). Do not make this user an administrator. Dont tell your kids the administrator password. Now they can log in and do whatever they want, but if they try to change system settings or install software they will get a permissions errors. There are some guides on how to do this on the internet, just google for “XP” “non-admin” and you’ll find some.

This is a good place to start:

If push comes to shove and you cant find an windows disc or dont want to do a reinstall, just uninstall anything you dont want, do a full virus and spyware scan, and then make the limited users. Set the PC to do autoupdates every night at 3am and relax. Those kids arent doing much damage as limited users.
Good luck!

It’s almost impossible to get a much-used, possibly abused Windows installation back to that crispy fresh state like it was when it was new, without wiping and reinstalling.

Adding and removing stuff over the years introduces cruft in the registry, hidden device driver entries, redundant dll files, and so forth - almost impossible to clean up, no matter how you try.

Once you’ve done the reinstall though, there are utilities out there that will ‘freeze’ it in the fresh state and restore it back that way on each boot - so you can let anyone loose on it, and whatever damage they do will be gone at the next reboot (if you want to make permanent changes, you - as administrator - have to temporarily ‘unfreeze’ it).

Take a look at Windows Steadystate or Deepfreeze

That rather depends - the external drives should be OK but some printers can be impossible. Canon is one of the worst as they will not write Linux drivers nor release engineering details to enable Linux programmers to write drivers for them.

HP almost always work, just pick the model from a list - Ubuntu will detect and shortlist a selection of printers.

I just installed a new Brother printer. Looked it up on the Ubuntu forum and installed the drivers with two clicks.
If only the installation on the Vista machine had been that simple.

You’re pretty much going to have to reinstall windows. It isn’t very hard, you just need an XP disk and a product key. Oh, and you could download SP2 and SP3 to a flash drive and not connect the machines to the network until they’re patched.

Tip: research and download the drivers for your machine before you format.

Also, add a heap of RAM while you’re at it. It is dirt cheap these days. A video card might also improve things if the PC has an old integrated one. (Everything these days, even Flash, needs a non-horrible gpu.)

try looking for a program like windriversbackup, itll save alot of trouble by backing up all the drivers installed on your machine, in nice neat titled directories.

I don’t agree with this at all. I use both Windows (Xp & 7 beta) and Ubuntu. They’re both fine operating systems but I don’t find that Ubuntu runs better than Windows.

Not sure about your printer but I’ve had no problems using USB sticks and hard drives with Ubuntu.

Hard drives and optical drives just work (All but one, that wouldn’t work on Windows machines either :frowning: ).
Same with USB sticks - bought a 16Gig one last week and expected problems - none. Just worked as intended.
Also bought an LG DVD RW. again, just worked with no drama whatsoever.

And a WiFi USB dongle that I anticipated endless bother with. The only ‘problem’ with it was it installed instantaneously and was sat waiting for a response from me. All simpler than the Windows alternatives.

If you want to stream media and you can bear to have one PC simply sitting in a corner, look at getting a copy of Windows Home Server and a nice large HDD.

This is correct, but is a tremendous oversimplification. You need an XP disk which is the correct type for the product key you have. If your product key is for an OEM installation, you’ll need an OEM disk (this is likely if your product key is on a sticker on the PC itself somewhere). If you have a license for an upgrade installation (say you went from Win2000 to XP) you’ll need the original OS disk and an upgrade XP disk. A license for a full install disk, you need a full install disk.

And none of this takes into account the XP Home, XP Pro, and XP Pro MCE scenarios.