If you are reading this and using an Operating System other than Windows XP you might be wondering “who is using that old thing anyway?“. As much as I respect you for your decision to upgrade to a better OS, let’s face the facts: more than 15% of the global internet users are still using the legendary Windows XP on their PC (as of April 2014). The reason might be a number of things:
- Your PC does not have enough hardware to power a better OS.
- You are still in love with Windows XP. Personally although I do not use WinXP, I still love it. It was, in fact one of the best from Microsoft. The simplicity of UI and feature packed utilities practically started a new era of personal computing.
- You use software that do not support latest Windows.
- The company you work on, would not upgrade their system (yet) and you are stuck with it, no matter how much you crave for a better digital environment.
- The server software would only run on Internet Explorer 6 (yeah! being a web developer, I consider this the ugliest fact).
If this is your case and you are not ready yet to migrate your system, then there are still a number of things you can do with your old PC. Let us not forget that Windows XP was a legend in Microsoft Operating Systems and (not so) surprisingly it has much to offer, even for today. Be it utility, security or entertainment, with the right set of software, Windows XP has you covered (at least for now).
Securing Your Windows XP PC
First things first, security. No I am not talking about how Internet is fundamentally insecure. I am talking about how you can protect your privacy by securing your own PC. Although Windows XP is considered to have a large number of vulnerability right now, I believe with the right configuration, it can still be used without compromising your privacy.
#1: Don’t install Adwares or Malwares:
This is 2014, and computer virus is kind of extinct now (although that will be hard to say for WinXP users). Exploiters use a new concept for infecting and collecting personal data, adwares and malwares. These “wares” do not do anything harmful to your PC but it can do a number of things which you wouldn’t like:
- Show unnecessary advertisements on your browser.
- Collect keylog and send it to the exploiter’s server.
- Show popups when you are connected to Internet.
- Show you falsified messages and force you to buy other software to “protect” your PC.
So when you open up Google.com and see a bunch of irritating advertisements you probably have adwares or malwares installed in your system. You might wonder, how it got installed, but trust me when I say this, you actually have installed it yourself. These apps come packed with other freewares (like uTorrent or fake versions of VLC player(http://www.vlcmediaplayer.org/) and when you keep on clicking next without reading what they are additionally going to install, this is what you end up with.
We will write a follow up post on how to remove adwares and malwares, but for now give this article a read. Although it is for Windows 7, all the software mentioned there are legitimate and works good with Windows XP too.
#2: Use a good Anti Virus Software and Firewall:
If you are not good with managing your security and identifying potentially harmful applications, then this is a must for you. I would recommend the following Anti Virus solutions:
- ESET Nod32 – Paid
- Kaspersky – Paid
- Windows Firewall and Microsoft Security Essentials – Free (This is what I use)
- Avast – Free & Paid
#3: Use alternative browser:
Running your server software on IE6 is fine, but do not use any version of Internet Explorer for your day-to-day browsing. Use something better like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. Here are also a number of things you can need to do with your browser:
- Regularly check for installed addons and disable and uninstall the ones you do not use.
- Install updates as soon as they are released. By default both Firefox and Chrome will regularly check for updates and will install automatically. Make sure you do not change the update settings.
- Setup Sync on Firefox and add your Google account(s) to chrome to backup your data (like stored password, bookmarks etc).
- If everything goes haywire, reset your firefox or chrome and restore from your backup (simply by logging in to your sync or google account again).
Utilizing your Windows XP
So now that you’ve secured your XP, let us see what options we have on utilizing your old PC.
#1: Use as an Entertainment Center
I believe this is the most apt use for your old PC. Instead of throwing it away, use it as an entertainment center. Play music and videos while you are partying with your friends and you wouldn’t have to bother if someone accidentally pours a glass of beer on your keyboard (although you might just need to get a new keyboard). With the help of the following software you can do it right away:
- Latest Windows Media Player for playing uninterrupted music.
- Latest VLC player for playing every video formats.
Both of them are free. Do note that playing those large 1080p videos with your old hardware might be a little difficult. So keep it low.
#2: Use as a Network Storage
Along with your entertainment center, you can extend your Windows XP PC if you have a home network. Say you have a few other computers, a network television which you wish to connect to your storage drive of your old PC. You can easily do that by enabling file sharing on XP. Please read this guide at kioskea to learn how to do it in a few easy steps.
#3: Use for low utility DIY projects
You can easily turn your old PC into a hub for small DIY projects. Here are some few ideas:
- Use it as a kitchen computer to look up recipes.
- Mount it on wall near your living room and use it to read news from the Internet.
- Host private family journal website.
- Use it as a router and load balancer to streamline multiple ISP.
- Make a digital photo frame.
Make sure you spend enough time on Google to learn how to do all these things.
#4: Convert to a home server
No we are not talking about server racks with plenty of cooling mechanism, which would produce buzzing noise when you try to sleep (although I will be amazed if your WinXP PC doesn’t produce that noise yet). We are talking about printing and hosting local websites and file sharing over browsers. Here is list of free software to get you started:
- WAMP – To host simple HTML or advanced PHP & MySQL driven websites.
- HFS – To share files and folders directly from browser. Other clients will connect to your file sharing server from browser and download the files they need.
- Print Server – Connect your printer to your Windows XP PC and print from anywhere within the network.
#5: Switch to Linux
At this point you should’ve spent enough time with Windows environment. How about trying something new for a change? You might have already heard about Linux distributions (OS based on Linux kernel are simply called distributions or distro) how about giving it a try?
If you are feeling adventurous then head to Ubuntu Download center and grab a copy of latest Ubuntu Desktop edition. You can dual boot with your Windows XP system and do a bunch of cool stuff (say after you install Ubuntu, press ctrl + t and type
sudo ps -ef).
If you want to embrace your inner geek, then read the following series of tutorials and setup your very own home server and manage it efficiently:
So that was all about using last bits of your old Windows XP PC. If you have something better in mind or want to contribute to the list, please leave your comment.