Confession: I just installed a fresh XP for a friend

It's true. I did. For some people, Windows XP is here to stay.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor

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 Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz.

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