I spent the day re-installing WinXP on the kids’ computer, which had managed to get itself incredibly gunked up. The most irritating feature was the loss of the ability to log off, thanks to some maddening piece of software I actually paid for.
It took a couple of hours to interview each kid and figure out what they wanted to save, which we copied to a shared directory on my computer. Kid #1 had almost 3 gigs of documents, music and pictures. Kids #2 and 3 used the opportunity to clean house, and saved very little.
We hunted up all the disks and info that came with the computer. There was a brief moment of panic when we couldn’t find the Microsquish Certificate of Authenticity, but Kid #3 found it somewhere attached to the actual computer (where we wouldn’t lose it, I guess).
I did a clean install of Windows XP, then re-installed the video and sound drivers. The only other vendor-supplied program I cared about was Norton Anti-Virus, so it went back on, too, along with the Works Suite (ask me how much I wish I had gotten the kids Office Pro).
Then I started updating. It took three rounds to update WinXP (it had to install Service Pack 1).
Everything else was like killing cockroaches:
- Download Opera
- Create users
For every user:
- Disable Windows Messenger (open Windows Messenger, pick Tools | Options | Preferences, and unselect “Run this program when Windows starts”)
- Fix folder views (open any folder, select View | Details. Now select Tools | Folder Options | View. Unselect “Hide extensions for known file types”. Press the “Apply to all folders” button, then “OK”.)
- Remove Internet Explorer from the Start menu (click Start, then right-click on Internet Explorer and choose “Remove from this list”)
- Enable the Quick Launch toolbar and remove Internet Explorer (right click on the Taskbar, select Toolbars, then Quick Launch. Right click on the little IE icon on the Quick Launch bar and select Delete.)
- Run Opera and set it up – set it as the default browser when it comes up, then dump the Hotlist (View | Hotlist | Off). Turn off the Magic Wand password utility (File | Preferences | Security | unselect “Enable Wand”). Make pop-ups behave (F12 | select “Open requested pop-up windows only”). Get rid of all the search toolbars and select a nice skin (right click on the menu icon area, select Skin | Get Skins – I like Metal Blue small).
- Retrieve the files we saved on my computer and put them in My Documents
Now I’m hanging around as each kid uses the computer to help them customize whatever else they want. I forbade them (on pain of a lot of screaming) from ever downloading any RealMedia anything (because it takes over your computer in a very unpleasant way) or from upgrading Windows Media Player to version 9.
So far, they’re very happy, especially now that they can log off.