Confession: I just installed a fresh XP for a friend

Confession: I just installed a fresh XP for a friend

Summary: It's true. I did. For some people, Windows XP is here to stay.

TOPICS: Windows, Microsoft

I have a confession to make. I installed a fresh copy of XP this week. I know. We're days from the end of support and I have been among the many geeks warning against using XP after April 8. And yet, I did the deed.

open eeebox 04032014
Yanking out the WiFi card

It was odd. I've installed XP hundreds, if not thousands of times over the years. But sometime in the last six months or so, I moved beyond XP to Windows 8, and emotionally broke up with XP. We were done. Over.

But I've got this friend. He's getting on in years. He's in his eighties and is comfortable with Windows XP. He refuses to run anything else. We got him an iPad, but he won't use that. We showed him the Chromebook, but he won't use that. A month or so ago, his wife found him in an Office Depot yelling at the sales guy because the seller refused to show him a "real computer". They were all Windows 8 machines with Metro tiles and my old buddy just didn't accept that as Windows. Period.

He doesn't like the icon bar at the bottom of Windows 7. He just gets agitated. He wants XP or nothing -- except he's not willing to accept nothing.

The other problem with my friend is he's a malware magnet. I don't know what the heck he does, but when he goes online, everything seems to land on his machine. The last time I looked at his machine, the only reason the keyloggers weren't sucking down all his banking information was because he had four or five of them, they were fighting, and keeping anything from working.

About three years ago, we cut him off from Windows. His wife and I discussed it, and we decided something like an iPad was safer. He has not been happy ever since. He wants his Excel and his Quicken (and yes, I know there's now Excel on the iPad, but that doesn't matter to him).

After a few years of his constant haranguing of just about anyone with a pulse, we decided it was time to give him back his precious Windows XP. But support is over and the OS is about to become a booming bad-guy bonanza. So the challenge was giving him his cherished XP but also keeping him safe.

I decided the only safe course of action was to take networking away. I was planning on installing XP on relatively recent eeeBox, which had built-in WiFi. That wouldn't do. I ripped open the box, and removed the WiFi card.

One side note: ripping open the eeeBox was hella-fun. Tearing apart these small machines can be a blast. It was a nice break from my regular daily work and the small boxes are more of a puzzle than your typical tower case. And yes, I put it back together. Have favorite screwdriver, will travel.

But the machine still has a bunch of USB ports and a wired Ethernet port. My old friend could still get a wild hair and decide to run a wire to the router. I considered plugging the USB ports and blocking the networking port (superglue was my favorite plan), but he was going to need to use a mouse, keyboard, and his cherished printer. The machine didn't have internal Bluetooth, so gumming up the ports wouldn't be practical.

I settled on a simple solution. I set the administrator password to something he won't guess and set him up as a limited user. I configured the network gateway to be and locked him out of changing network settings. That should (fingers crossed) keep him off the network.

I'll tell you this: he is NOT happy he's been blocked from the network. But since he's unwilling to use a more modern OS, or a safer machine, that's been my solution. I'm used to having people annoyed with me (have you ever read the comments here on ZDNet?), so one more person annoyed with me is simply a little tough love.

In the meantime, maybe he'll decide he wants to be on the Internet more than he wants to stay on XP, and he'll be willing to move to a Chromebook or something. Only time will tell.

XP is popping up warnings about being out of service, and hopefully that will also serve as an incentive. On the other hand, he managed to ignore pop-ups from hundreds of different virus signatures, so I'm guessing he'll ignore safety warnings as well.

Windows XP. For some people, it's here to stay.

By the way, I'm doing more updates on Twitter and Facebook than ever before. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz and on Facebook at

Topics: Windows, Microsoft


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Good for him - hold the line

    Probably even better, you could've installed Windows 7 and then put on an XP theme that faked him out, though, right?
    D.J. 43
    • Yeah, kind of surprised there.

      The thing about XP is it had a decent user interface. In my opinion, Win 8 isn't an improvement in that area when it comes to a desktop system.
    • That only gets you so far. David's "mitigation strategy" is sound but ...

      ... it would be so much better if the guy would accept a locked-down Windows 7 as is!
      M Wagner
    • D.J. - What XP theme?

      D.J. 43 - I'm just now using Win 7 for the first time and I'm struggling. Is there a moderate list of settings that will make it look and function exactly like XP?

      (I have Win 7 Pro 64-bit on the new machine and Win XP Pro SP3 on the old.) Thanks.
      • No

        But you can change your settings theme preferences natively in that to change it to look like pre-XP (grey bars and menus). Otherwise, theme packs are available through 3rd party software makers, like Windowblinds.
        D.J. 43
      • Try this instead of themes

        take a look at
  • "The other problem with my friend is he's a malware magnet."

    Given this what's the concern about Windows XP no longer being supported?
    • In fact, given this "magnetism"....

      it seems quite likely the magnetism will continue, REGARDLESS of any OS protection.... So, indeed, the safest approach indeed seems to have been to just cut off the surfing altogether. Isn't there some saying about "some people are never satisfied"...? Whatever the habits may be, they seem to be working to doom him towards being unhappy. Horse, Water, no drinking (?)
  • XP was at the forfront of the rise of computers.

    There is so much stuff made for XP and so many industrial machinery runs on XP without any chance of "updates" that I bet it's going to be around for 10 more years. It costs money to hire an outside developer to adapt all your systems, so many ppl are going to be "used to it" for a long time. It does the job, and if you want to surf, just get an iPad/iDroid.
    • Longer than that even.

      There are some printing presses that will be working for another 10 years at least... still running Windows 95.
      • gameing on windows 98

        I just rebuilt an old HP750n to 98 so I could run some old games like Microsoft combat flight simulator and old add-ons got it in a thrift store for 5 bucks it came with XP but it dose the job
    • just keep it of the network

      just take all the old machines that you need it run industrial machinery off line and you will be fine or a good anti vires and you can run for ever
    • I was interested to observe in my doctors office...

      yesterday (4/3) that the desktop system in every patient room is still running XP Pro... So, when he entered the room, I commented on it. Because he is part of a sizeable group, he said he is "pretty sure they have IT guys working on it"...
      I suspect the crux is the customized patient management software they run - perhaps not yet ported to newer OS, and doc's are so used to the interface they will not change to a different soft pkg...
      I just casually reiterated loss of XP support making continued use potentially more risky, as I know they use a public network - maybe it will spur some action, but maybe not if inertia is heavy...
      I do understand there are some (both good & questionable) reasons for "not leaving", but in this case, I must wonder how well thought out the risk is. (The same day, within 2 hours, I received email notice that my "visit summary" is available online.... Just sayin.)
      • And it won't make a difference because...

        In most doctors offices the machine in the room is running Medical Records keeping software. >>>>>>IT IS NOT ON THE INTERNET
        • Thanks ZDNet for clipping off most of my comment.

          (Rest of comment) ,
          • ZDNet still clipping off most of my comment.

            Get this fixed!
        • Define "IT IS NOT ON THE INTERNET"

          I'd be willing to bet that the machine that is "running Medical Records" is on a network. And THAT network is hooked up to the internet. At the end of the day, it processes all visits made and in turn starts billing procedures and bills accordingly. Gee, wonder how that billing gets done? Never mind if the office is a satellite office, or part of a group of physicians. Long gone are the days when a computer that isn't connected directly to a phone jack for internet connection did not mean it wasn't connected to the internet.
      • My doctor totes a laptop from room to room.

        I peeked over his shoulder and saw the round start button. I said to him, "I see IT upgraded you to Windows 7." He said "Yeah, the rollout happened about a week ago." I laughed. Talk about in the nick of time.
    • Or install any flavor of Linux,

      to a pen drive or external hard drive. Zorin is most like XP, from what I saw in Zorin 6 Ultimate, which I purchased on CD (download didn't work, it was a Linux tar.gz file, so is useless to an XP user). Next closest, is KDE on Fedora 17 (not 18, because the latter gives you ZERO CLUE how to use it for downloading). Next closest, is Linux Mint, which doesn't look like XP at all, but is intelligible in the same way (menu options, graphical, lingo is familiar).

      You can buy Linux sticks on Amazon and just plug them into your computer while it's off. They usually have Firefox as the browser, and Thunderbird as the email, both of which operate on XP also. It's still a learning curve, but less so.

      Moi, I prefer a full installation to the stick or external drive, as after 18 months of trying to make the sticks install with persistence and none do, that works best. I posted the instructions for this at . I'd promised to do it in some other ZDnet article I read yesterday, but now can't remember where.
      • Re: Or install any flavor of Linux

        "I purchased on CD (download didn't work, it was a Linux tar.gz file, so is useless to an XP user)."

        For the seemingly competent individual that you appear to be, download 7-zip
        (, the universal file archiver. (It's been around for years).
        Works on Windows and Linux.
        I couldn't live without it. It handles every archive type, including .tar and .gz