Prepare a Computer for Primary School Work (Windows XP)




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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

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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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    15 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    @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.

    2 replies

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    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?


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    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.

    5 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    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 ;)


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    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).


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Linux is cheaper, faster and doesn't have to a 10 year old operating system with plenty of holes and viruses.
    Take a look at
    also you can run it from usb stick or cd with out installing to hard drive.
    Also you can use multiple Languages on a machine.
    is for Primary Schools / It wouldn't hurt to look and maybe make up a live cd and take a test drive or allow youths to try it out to see if they like it?

    3 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Linux however is not for everyone. Mainly, people who want to do other things with their computer that are productive outside the realm of compiling code or writing/rewriting drivers and/or scripts should look away from Linux.

    I have had two computers with Linux installed, for over 20 years. I don't grok package managers. My former wives and girlfriends were my package managers. I have no desire to grep or finger other people and other things. My Linux boxes don't get used much (still use them once or twice a week, for practice). When Linux eventually has a large selection of easily installable and usefull applications that are geared toward other tasks aside from building itself, I may find them more useful. The power is there, but there's relatively not much to use that power on - compared to the tens of thousands (if not more) applications available to Windows users.

    I use a Windows PC for video editing and playback, manipulation of graphic images, processing audio files, email, gaming, managing my lame websites, and so much more. Linux doesn't work well at those tasks for me.

    MicioGatta titled this instuctable in general words, but the contents clearly reference MS Windows. Linux preaching doesn't really fit in well here.

    Most schoolwork is more efficiently done on a Windows computer, although Apple Macintosh's do serve well for some things related to schoolwork. Linux is predominantly more useful to students taking classes specific to computer software and hardware, Windows might be the lesser choice in rare instances, but is the major choice almost always.

    Linux has made some progress in the past decade, but still has a long way to go, for the majority of personal computer (PC) users.

    All platforms have their own merits. There is a reason that Windows is the most widely used operating system. Availability and variety of applications, general ease of use, and compatibility are strong points for Windows and Macintosh (not as many apps). But not quite so true for Linux. Linux is vastly more configurable and personalizable (word?), but not easy to do for most people. Linux uses the power of the machine better and more efficiently (usually). Linux is just not refined enough and simplified enough for general use, yet.

    I tried to go cold turkey regarding Windows, back in college. I gave Linux 6 months, and my grades suffered due to the amount of time I wasted struggling with the Linux Learning Curve, general lack of anything useful, and constant driver problems. I had owned a Macintosh back in the 80's, so I then tried a newer Macintosh. It was easy to use, too easy. I felt like I had a toy instead of a tool. I also had trouble finding all the apps to replace a Windows computer. Some things just don't (or didn't) exist for any other available platform. So I went back to Windows, and all is now well (as close as possible, at any rate).

    In a realm populated by the blind, a one-eyed man should easily be king. Linux is the one-eyed man. But he's hard to get along with and self-centered. Windows is mostly friendly and generous. Macintosh is a bit of a narrow minded underclassman and his family is getting smaller. Thus, Windows took power as a generally accepted democracy or mostly benevolent dictator.

    MicioGatta has chosen the tool he/she intends to implement for reasons determined by himself/herself (probably because they are the most prevalent thing cheaply available in that general area and because they are already familiar to the intended users). We should endeavor to assist him/her with what he/she wants, instead of trying to take a side-path or proselytize.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I agree with you (BTW I'm a woman :D). I never had the chance to get a Macintosh or Apple as a gift for my school. When I put a computer in a school, I have to keep in mind what the pupils (they are from5 to 11 years old, the 5/6 years old don't even know how to write and read in Italian, you can understand how it be illogical and absurd to use an Operating System that is in English - and yes, Ubuntu was partially translated, but the most of the things are still in English) and I need to teach them something they can use at home too (and the 99%.... maybe100%.... of the families of my school has Windows at Home). Programs like Ivana Sacchi's (free!!) and Erickson's ones, that are largely used in Italian Primary Schools, would not work if not under Windows yes, there could surely be a way, but I cannot put too difficult things in a school).

    On the other hand, my collegues are not computer geeks. They never formatted a PC, they sometimes have difficults in formatting texts.... The first time I've put Open Office (instead of MS Office), some of them went to the Principal saying that they want MS back, accusing me of sabotaging their work. Can you imagine what would happen if I put Ubuntu on the PCs? Torchlights and pitchforks! For Open Office I had to do a real battle, but, last but not least, PC with Windows licenses were given to schools as gifts. :)

    Maybe I have to change the title of this tutorial.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Of course Linux is better, I've used Ubuntu for a long time, Edubuntu for sometime (but there's very little in it in Italian), but the problemi is that lots of children have Windows at home, and a lot (all?) of teachers don't want to use an operating system that's not Windows.
    In this tutotorial I talked about computerwith a legal Windows operating system given for free.

    All the freeware they mentioned in the instructable or equivalents are available for Linux. One exception is that the open source community is now using libreoffice (Better!) instead of open office. Microsoft no longer supports MSWindows XP. Do not expect any updates. I was a MSWindows admin for over ten years at a college. You could not pay me enough to go back to the nightmare of Microsoft products. I will not bore you with the details. Now I keep an xp machine just as a token system. We have been MS free for over five years. Ironically, now MS is being a copycat of linux in a lof of ways. I also taught computers at the college level and there is not anything except maybe some proprietary program that you can not do on linux. I use ubuntu, but prefer Deban or Mint over it. I also use Fedora, Centos, Freebsd and the like.

    By the way, with community linux you do not need a serial number and you can put it on as many machines as you want.

    Linux can update your system(s) for you without have to go look for some package. The linux foundation has some great videos.