How best to protect Windows XP machine after end of support?

Posted on 2014-01-16
Last Modified: 2016-10-27
I wrote an application using VB6 back in the 1990s for my customers, who are still using it. The program is a property management system that I have not been able to replace with any new software. Nothing out there does all the things my program does, so my customers want to keep using it.

They have three machines: two in the main office and one at a satellite. The satellite does not need to be networked with the other two, but the first two do. The first two are actually Mac computers running VMWare with Windows XP. The satellite is a brand new computer that a friend of mine built with XP.

The problem is that Microsoft is going to end support of XP in April of this year and that means no more security updates, so the computers will be vulnerable. Maybe some anti-virus company will step up to the plate and offer something to protect those old Windows XP machines.

In any case, I cannot make my software compatible with Windows 7 or 8 because I used third party tools that no longer exist. A wonderful calendar control, a data bound grid and something else I can't think of right now.

So, please do not suggest that I update the app, as this is not possible. The third-party tools would have to be re-written. So, I am looking for a way to keep these computers safe. My thoughts are as follows:

Make some kind of an image of the entire C: drive onto the additional E: drive. With that, in case of disaster, I can go back to that point in time. Of course, that means I would lose everything I did since that time.

So, I will also perform daily backups of documents and data files. When a disaster occurs, I plan to restore the full system backup and then apply the updated data files.

After I set it up, I will take a snapshot. Then, after my clients put all their stuff on it, I will take another snapshot. I would probably do this quarterly and make sure the backups are working by testing restores monthly.

So... here is my question:

What software should I use? I used to use Ghost, but I have no idea if it still exists or whether it is a good product. Windows has "system restore points" and I will use those, too, in case a problem is not catastrophic, but I don't want to rely on just that.

Can anyone suggest tools and methods to use to implement my plan?

Thank you.
Question by:jkurant
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Author Comment

ID: 39786850
I am really most interested in the standalone XP box.

After that I need to deal with the two main office machines. Those are Mac's with VMWare running Windows XP. I tried to cut off the internet from the virtual machines, but that cut off the printers, so I need a good solution for these computers, too.

I think I can just use Apple's Time Machine to save VMWare's virtual machines and also for my data files. So, I don't think I need any help there, but suggestions are welcome.
LVL 35

Assisted Solution

by:Dan Craciun
Dan Craciun earned 188 total points
ID: 39786881
I would suggest virtualizing the XP box too. Install Windows 7 on it, then use XP Mode/Virtual Box and install the minimum required for your application to work.

This will minimize the ways your machine can be compromised and ease the backup mechanism (just point your backup software - Cobian Backup, for ex, if you need a free one - to the vhd).


Assisted Solution

Steve earned 125 total points
ID: 39786949
Acronis makes a good copy util and restore.
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With the new era of mobile computing, smartphones and tablets, wireless communications and cloud services, the USDA sought to take advantage of a mobilized workforce and the blurring lines between personal and corporate computing resources.

LVL 24

Assisted Solution

by:Alan Henderson
Alan Henderson earned 94 total points
ID: 39786964
Acronis True Image, Macrium Reflect, Ghost are all good programs. If you wish to avoid using VMs you can set your XP machines up with your Documents folders and other data on a separate HDD or partition.

That way, when you restore an image of your main Windows partition you don't overwrite your data files.

I've written an article here about it a long time age. I'll track it down.

LVL 24

Expert Comment

by:Alan Henderson
ID: 39786984
LVL 28

Assisted Solution

by:Bill Bach
Bill Bach earned 93 total points
ID: 39786995
I like your idea about putting the machines on their own "private" network.  The problem with printing is likely that you lost name resolution on the network.  The workaround there is to start by using dedicated IP addresses for all XP machines, as well as the printers.  Then, create a HOSTS file that contains all of the computer and printer IP addresses and names, then distribute this to each XP computer.  Once you have resolve the name to an address, you should be home free, and a completely protected subnet should be able to run "mostly" clean.

As for answering your original question, I use NovaBACKUP, which offers both image and file system backup in the same product.  This makes it VERY easy to do exactly what you intend -- if anything ever fails, restore the full "clean" image, then restore just the data from the latest file backup.  

Also, as a big fan of virtualization, I use VM's (some even running Win2000, Win98, and even older), and I use standard file system backups to keep older copies of these virtual machines.  With the low cost of even 4TB external USB drives, this is a no-brainer solution.
LVL 92

Expert Comment

ID: 39787867
for imaging i suggest the paragon software -  there's even a free version :      

in case you want a fresh install, i suggest to make an SP3 install cd, and include as much updates as you can  : (i used this)

and down load all updates on cd, or disk, so you have them when support ends

Author Comment

ID: 39788772
@Dan Cracian: The machine I am most concerned about, the one at the satellite office, is a new PC that came with Windows 7 Professional that a friend of mine installed XP onto. I was going to use it as an XP box, but now I am thinking about taking your suggestion
... virtualizing the XP box too. Install Windows 7 on it, then use XP Mode/Virtual Box and install the minimum required for your application to work.
Well, I didn't know that was possible. So are you saying I can run a Windows XP "window" in Windows 7, having both operating systems running at the same time? Would I have to split the resources (memory, CPU) between the two machines? I guess I need to read up on "XP Mode/Virtual Box".

Author Comment

ID: 39788782
By the way, experts, in this case I am not terrible concerned with cost, so there is no need to ind a free solution. If it costs $1000 to protect the XP machine, that would be acceptible. So, I am thinking so far about using Acronis products, simply because I expect I would get good support from them, since I would be paying, and don't really know if any of the free or open source products come with support.

Author Comment

ID: 39788817
@Dan Cracian, I read this about XP Mode / VirtualBox on this page
Editor Update: Apparently there isn’t a way to activate XP Mode through VirtualBox using this method. You will however, be able to run it for 30 days. We have a new updated article on how to Install XP Mode with VirtualBox Using the VMLite Plugin.
So, that won't work, right?
LVL 35

Accepted Solution

Dan Craciun earned 188 total points
ID: 39788833
That link is for machines that don't support hardware virtualization. If your XP box is new-ish (bought on the past 3 years or so) it will support XP Mode.

On this page: you can find a tool that will check your processor to see if it supports hardware-assisted virtualization. It probably will.

If you have a license for Windows 7 Pro/Ultimate I recommend XP Mode. It's very well integrated and you don't need another XP license.

Author Closing Comment

ID: 39805613
There are so many great suggestions, and I can't try them all. What I have done so far is install Acronis backup and take full disk copies, as well as file copies and stored them on a second hard drive in the machine. These are proprietary backup files, and can be difficult to use in a crisis. Therefore, I also run a batch file I wrote that uses xcopy to copy my program's data and the user's documents as regular files to the other drive, so they are easier to access than Acronis backup files. As a fourth layer of protection, I have my code take a snapshot of the database after opening and compacting it. It also rolls through these copies, maintaining the last 50 copies.  As a fifth layer of protection, I will send the most important data to the cloud so even if the machine is lost, we will get all of our data back. I also copied all the setup and install programs and everything needed to install the software running on the machine.

Author Comment

ID: 39805631
What I really mean is I don't know enough yet to use your suggestions. I need to learn about VMWare and XP Mode / VirtualBox before I can be more useful.

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