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Windows SteadyState for Standalone Servers

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Recently, I had the need to build a standalone system to run a point-of-sale system. I’m running this on a low-voltage Atom processor, so I wanted a light-weight operating system, but still needed Windows. I chose to use Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition.

Everything setup and ran fine, but I wanted to lock down the user account that was used for running the POS. I could use the native Local Group Policy Editor (gpedit.msc), but the interface isn’t that great, and the policies affect all users unless you do some registry tweaks. To solve my problem, I turned to Windows SteadyState.

Windows SteadyState, successor to the Shared Computer Toolkit, is designed to make life easier for people who set up and maintain shared computers. Unfortunately, it’s only available (and designed for) Windows XP and Windows Vista. When you try to run the setup on Windows 2003, you get an error saying that it’s not designed for this operating system. Well, I wasn’t going to let that stop me!

Windows XP and Windows 2003 are very similar. There really isn’t any reason why it couldn’t work on a server operating system, it’s just not very likely you would ever need to. In case you’re like me, here’s what I did:

1) Get a copy of Microsoft Orca. Orca is a database table editor for creating and editing Windows Installer packages and merge modules. This tool is only available in the Windows SDK Components for Windows Installer Developers. It is provided as an Orca.msi file. After installing the Windows SDK Components for Windows Installer Developers, double click Orca.msi to install the Orca.exe file.

2) Download SteadyState, and open the installer file in Orca.

3) I searched through the many entries, and came across this line in the LaunchCondition table:    
(MsiNTProductType = 1) AND ((VersionNT = 501 AND ServicePackLevel >= 2) OR (VersionNT >= 502 AND VersionNT <= 600))
[ProductName] requires Windows XP SP2 or higher, or Windows Vista.

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This entry is just a checker to see what operating system you’re running. It won’t affect any of the install files, so it’s safe to delete. Right-click on the line, and select “Drop Row”.

4) Save the MSI, and run the installer. It works!

I ran this modified installer on my Server 2003 box, and everything setup and configured perfectly. I haven’t come across any issues so far, but as always, take these instructions at your own risk.

Happy modding!

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