Improving Windows XP for Families

August 14, 2007

the family computer

Now you’d think that ‘Windows XP Home’ would have been created to do what it says on the tin, be a system tailored for home users, in particular families with kids! Unfortunately without downloading a rather simple and free application from Microsoft, Windows XP is rather a poor offering.

In a family you would expect there to be a range of ages and that for some of the people using the computer you would want to restrict from being able to do things. ie. Not being able to install new programs, but it would be nice if they could run programs that had been installed – wouldn’t it?   Well what a nightmare that can become when you’ve got kids!

The Family PC

You set up your PC, give everybody their own login account, that way little Billy can’t get upset when little Maisie changes the desktop background to a pink puppy. Each of the kids are set to be a ‘Limited Account’ whilst Mum, Dad or both are setup as ‘Computer Administrators’, that way Mum or Dad can install programs and then the kids can play them, right? Wrong! Unfortunately there are a whole load of games out there that the kids are going to want to play and they are not going to work unless they are started as by an Administrator which could get to be a bit of a grind when the kids are changing from one game to another and constantly harassing Mum or Dad to come and start the program for them. Not only are Mum and Dad going to get thoroughly fed up but also the kids are going to learn that computers are not very user friendly. Why they can go and use their playstation or DS and it’s easy!

Windows SteadyState

Windows SteadyState There is no easy way around this in Windows XP, there are no nice easy little settings to go and set to make things run as you would want them to run. But there is something else that you can download, for free, and it’s quite easy to setup. What is it? It’s called Windows SteadyState which supercedes a product called ‘Microsoft Shared Computer Toolkit’. Just download it, install it and then run it. 


Windows SteadyState You can set the kids accounts back to being ‘Computer Administrators’ but you can now use this tool to limit what they can do. I would recommend that you set the kids accounts back to being ‘Computer Administrators’ before using the tool. The basic settings that I have found have worked to begin with are to set the settings to ‘Medium restrictions’ for both the ‘Windows restrictions’ and ‘Feature restrictions’ tabs for each of the kids accounts. You have the option to fine tune these settings in the right hand panel on each of these tabs.

Some other uses for SteadyState

Wait, its not just for families…

In the classroom

Classrooms and computer labs can offer groups of users a consistent and reliable computer learning environment more efficiently, while increasing the productivity of the teaching staff.

In an Internet café

Internet cafés, kiosks, and other businesses offering commercial access to shared computers can help increase customer satisfaction while reducing computer down time, administrative costs, and total cost of ownership.

At the library

Libraries and community technology centers can help protect computers against tampering cost effectively. They can customize shared user profiles to meet the needs of different patrons.

I hope that this will help some of the people out there that have been struggling with Windows XP’s lack of built-in easy to use features that would help it do what it says on the tin.



Related posts:

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  2. Restoring Windows XP Backups on Windows Vista
  3. Profile and Folder Redirection In Windows Server 2003
  4. Is That Windows Updates In Your Pocket?
  5. 5 Things To Do With Your Laptop When You Have No Internet Connection

Author: Support @ 8:00 am


  1. Great tip! I’m going to research it a little bit, and write my own version (and link you of course). This would fit in great with my blog.

    Comment by Jeremy Hobbs — August 15, 2007 @ 1:49 am

  2. I’ve found a great solution for the family PC, it’s called Peanut Butter PC (found at and it creates a rock-solid, kid-friendly environment which gives them freedom to explore, while protecting your computer and files from and danger… And believe me, a kid with a mouse and cause a lot of trouble on your home computer :-)


    Comment by Peter Brown — August 15, 2007 @ 3:07 am

  3. Jeremy, I look forward to seeing what you manage to dig up in your research. I like your blog, I think it good that you have a blog reviewing things for the average individual instead of the over the top reviews that proliferate the web.

    Thanks to Peter for the info on the Peanut Butter PC software, I’ll certainly check that out. Apart from my own kids I’ve got loads of friends with kids and they all want to know what they should be installing on their home PC’s to keep the kids safe.

    Comment by Robin — August 15, 2007 @ 10:41 am

  4. Small world! I just found a link to this post from TechNibble. We have several XP machines that are used internally but in a public-style capability so a tool like SteadyState could prove invaluable.


    Comment by Jason Slater — December 3, 2007 @ 10:57 am

  5. Jas – I actually did a google search the other day and one of our posts came up!


    Comment by Terinea Weblog — December 5, 2007 @ 5:00 pm

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