Prepare a Computer for Primary School Work (Windows XP)





Introduction: Prepare a Computer for Primary School Work (Windows XP)

I'm a primary school teacher and, in the lastet years, the only way to have computers for school is to accept them as gifts from parents or offices that dismiss them. Lots of time, these computers are full of datas and programs that aren't useful for school and maybe they're slow, full of virus and errors.

Please, note, as ever, that I'm not a native English speaker, so maybe you can find some mistakes in the language of this tutorial.

Sometimes ago I've made a guide ( to prepare a computer for primary school work. I've decided that it could be useful even for teachers that can't speak Italian, so I try to translate it.

What you will need:
  • a computer with minimum requirements for Windows XP (see here:
  • a valid serial number for Windows XP
  • CD of the third parts components (but in the most of the cases you should find the drivers on line)
  • an Internet connection

Step 1: Recover the Serial Key

On the computer case, you should find a label with 25 digits key.  With this key you can certified that the software is legal. You don't need to have the original CD if you have this label, because the software is not sold as a CD, but a license to use the software, and this license is this label.

Note that you'll need a different type of Windows XP on the base of what you read on the label:
  • Windows XP Professional (retail)
  • Windows XP Professional OEM
  • Windows XP Home (retail)
  • Windows XP Home OEM

You have to use the right CD or the key won't work.

Step 2: Format C:/

Now, let's format the hard disk. This step will completely erase the datas, so save the important ones before doing this part.

Put the Windows CD in the drive then reboot the PC.

When the PC starts up with a CD in the drive, at some time it should tell you that if you want to boot from the CD-Rom you should press a key. Do it.

If this doesn't happen, you should enter the BIOS to set it up. You could do this by pressing a key at the bootstrap, generally Del or F2 (read it in the first screen).

Look for a "boot order" in the menus (you'll have to use the keyboard because mouse won't work) and change the setting like this:
  1. CD-ROM
  2. HD
  3. any other device, it doesn't mind

Once you have done this, reboot and start the computer from the CD-Rom.

It will start the installation. Accept the agreement for Windows (F8), then you have access to the screen with installation options. Select the hard disk and tell the program to erase the current partitions (you need to have only unallocated space).

Select the "unallocated space". You are going to create two partitions, one for the operationg system and the other for the back up of it, so you won't need to follow all this long tutorial the next time your pupils will mess up with the PC.

Keep from 5 to 10 GB for the back up and use the others for the operating system. Note that the back up partition should be the second you create, for example:

HD = 80 GB
C: = 70 GB (operating system)
D: = 10 GB (back up)

Select the hard disk and the formatting mode NTFS. This will take some minutes.

Step 3: Installing Windows

Select the first partition ad tell the program to install Windows.

Now let the computer alone and go to do whatever you want. This part will take from 20 to 40 minutes, but it' s more or less completely automathic.

You'll have to choose your time zone and time, the name of the computer and of the first user when the installation is almost complete.

Tips for primary school teachers: I've given to the computers of my school names of animals (cat, tiger, panda, frog....), so for the littler kids is more simpler to identify them. I've noticed that this metod work very good for adults too ;D

Step 4: Drivers and Service Packs

Once the computer is ready, with the classic Windows XP background, you have to install the various drivers, for example video, audio and LAN card. If you have the CD, no problem, just put it in the drive and let the programs make their magic. If not, you have to search  the Internet for the right drivers to make them work.

If the LAN doesn't work because it has no drivers, you'll have to use another computer to find them.

To find the right drivers, just google the brand and name of your computer. You'll find them on the productor's website.

If the computer has no brand, you'll have to find out what motherboard it has. To do this you can open you computer (very important: disconnect the computer from the elettrical power before open the case!) and read the name directly on the motherboard, or you can use some software, one is AIDA32 - Personal System Information (

When you've finished with all the drivers, you'll have to install the Service Packs. Windows XP has two service pack, 2 and 3, you can download then free on Microsoft website.

Step 5: Back Up the Operating System

This is a very important step: back up your brand new clean operating system. You can use Drive XML Image, that is easy and freeware.

Download it from , install it and run it.

You'll have only to choose the location of the back up (remember the partition D: you made before installing Windows? Yes, you use it now!) and wait some minutes.

This back up is useful when you'll have to reistall the system: with the image DXMLI has done, you won't need to follow this totorial step by step, just restore the back up using BartPe or WinPE (look here: ).

Step 6: Software for School

Ok, maybe you can find a lot of guides for the previous steps, but I did this guides in Italian to explain free software for school, too. So, here we are: free suite (writing, drawing, ect.) -
ClamWin: antivirus -
7zip: a zip/unzip utility -
Firefox: the best Internet browser -
Foxit Reader: a free pdf reader that's very light -
Tutore Dattilo: teach and learn to type -
Ivana Sacchi: school programs for kids -
VLC: multimedia reader -
Irfan View: to view images -
CDBurnerXP: to burn CDs and DVDs -

Now enjoy your clean PC :)

Please note that you can find this tutorial in Italian on my blog:



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    @Computothought, sorry my answer is so late. In the meantime a father who does this for work, is reviewing the IT class. I could agree with you, I too like open source software and so on. But, as I wrote in the previous comments, the choice is not only up to me: I have to keep in mind that the computers in my school are used by other teachers and pupils too. I can not put an operative system that they're not familiar with. Putting Linux on these computers will mean block them and this is not what we want in a primary school. Windows XP is no more supported, but we don't have founds. Italian school is poor, unluckly. We have to use what we have. For now, Win XP is good for teachers and pupils. We should change people's minds, but this is not so simple.

    An interesting thought---

    Just yesterday I was talking to the head librarian of the county library about what to do with the growing pile of old PC's. I am their IT person so its partly my responsibility. Or county library is pretty small compared to most but we do replace PC's every year.

    I know your from Italy so a little explanation about counties. The US is divided into states, that most people know. But each state is then subdivided into counties. A county is a form of local government that handles all the local needs such as law enforcement and school districts. A lot is done at the county level that takes care of the needs of day to day living. Some counties are very large with large populations and some are small. Montana is a less populous state so our counties have far less people in them. So the local governments tend to be smaller. The library is funded through the county so its a small one compared to some.

    Anyway, we have computers to dispose of. Is there a way to ship them to you for a reasonable cost? Would your school be willing to cover the shipping? If I make a recommendation to the library board I know they would agree to give them to you , the problem is how to get them there. Oh, as a bonus I would work through them all to make sure they are all in working condition. Many of them have versions of MS office installed. Is it an idea worth persuing?

    Thank you very much, Vyger, I really approciate your offer but unfortunately shipping from USA to Italy is very expensive, and my school can't even pay me for the overtime work I do (and I do a lot). But I really appreciate your offer and thank you. I just wish we lived nearer!
    BTW, I knew about US type of government: Italy is more or like the US, we are only state, yes, but it is divied in "regioni" (more or less county), that are subdivided in "province", that are subdivided in "comuni". Some of the matters are managed locally and some nationally.... it goes all wrong, but well.... I try and do my little part to make it right.
    Live long and prosper.


    a little out of date but try this link

    best of luck // do not forget to read the ula , sometimes kind of weird like institutional use is different from personal use. With windows you don't own it you need the proper licence.

    Still // Best of luck with your project.

    To recover the Windows Key for an installed system when the sticker is unreadable, there is a utility named "RockXP". This can be found via internet search. I do not provide a direct download link because the newest version is the best way to go.

    HERE is a link to a review.
    HERE is a link to the author's webpage for the utility.

    I didn't know this one, thank you. I've mentioned KeyFinder ( in the Italian version of the tutorial, but I lost sometimes in the translation ;)

    You are welcome.

    Another suggestion comes to mind, regarding software that could be useful.

    Portable Apps main webpage.
    Portable Apps Software Suite.

    These are not required to be run from a USB storage device. They can be run from the standard hard drive partition or from a dedicated partition. I have my portable apps on the memory card for my digital camera, and a backup set stored in my iPod and my Sansa Fuze. The apps can and do run from the camera card (when inserted in the card slot of my laptops and netbooks) and from the iPod and Sansa Fuze (connected to any USB port in USB mode). This should work just fine from any other device that can connect via USB in USB mode.

    Thank you, I'll keep those in mind. I've tried to install some of these on an old (prehistoric) notebook (with Win 98....) sometimes ago, OpenOffice Portable to be precise.... I0ve got some problems. First of all it was however too heavy. Yes, you could say "That notebook was really a nail" (Italian slang nail = not slow, stopped!). Then, my collegues can't use them, beacuse they're too used to the double click. :D But I'll keep them in mind. I've tried to used Gimp, for example, but I'm not still good at it (I'm coming from Paint Shop Pro 4).

    I did not like OpenOffice, either. When I tried it, it would not always reliably open my MS Office documents and when saving OpenOffice documents, they were not always usable when sent to other people.

    Some of the portable apps have been useful. ClamWin is an example. It isn't great, but it is much better than nothing and it is free. For people who possibly can't afford a better antivirus package, ClamWin is available. Firefox Portable is very nice, in my opinion. Audacity Portable has been very useful when I am not at one of my main desktop computers.

    What I really like most about PortableApps is the continuous development of existing applications and a continuously growing variety of new alternative applications.

    I too prefer MS Office to Open Office for a lot of "spoilers" i use. But in my school we don't have the money to buy MS Office license, so Open office was the only option. For what we do at school, is more than okay.