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I have a dozen or so older desktop machines lying about. (laying about?) We'd like to loan them to some non-profits for web browsing purposes. On the cheap, of course.

We have XP volume license.

The plan was to put a clean copy of XP on 'em then tighten permissions down enough so that a local user account can run a browser and print but not much else.

However, how would I protect that volume license key? There are so many little utilities out there that can look at a machine and pluck out all the keys and I really don't want my volume lic. key getting loose in the wild!

I guess I could look at running the machines in some sort of kiosk-mode to prevent running/downloading apps but that gets dicey -- for instance, the users have to be able to download and read PDFs so I can't block downloads completely. And as soon as we have to spend money or time on this little project it will get pushed back in priority...

Thoughts?

One final note: I could considered running something like Xubuntu. Hit a couple snags though. The machines are old Dimension 2400's and the video cards get a little wonky with X -- I haven't tracked down the correct drivers. Also, the intended end users will have difficulty installing printers and such (no on-site *nix talent).

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2 Answers

You can't "protect the key". It has to be on the machine for the machine to work. You can "lock down" the machine all you want, but if someone has physical access to the machine they can get the key out.

The key is located in a place in the registry (HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion) that's not well suited for treaking registry permissions, either, so if the users can run arbitrary software on the machine they can also get the key out.

(Cue someone suggesting a full disk encryption "solution" and Software Restriction Policies in 3... 2... 1...)

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LOL! Yeah, full disk encryption for this would be a lot like swatting a fly with a buick. Definitely not going that route. –  Chris_K Sep 16 '09 at 14:53
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Immediately after posting this, I realized all these machines originally came with XP Home installed -- and they all have XP Product Key stickers. So, if I can track down an OEM CD to work with those keys then I think I'm golden. Or at least I'm not using my volume key :-)

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Heh heh... that works. Beware-- if they're "name brand" PCs you'll need an OEM CD from that particular manufacturer or they keys probably won't work (at least, that's been my experience). –  Evan Anderson Sep 16 '09 at 14:55
    
Your volume licence is prolly not valid for lending out to other orgs anyway. –  JamesRyan Sep 16 '09 at 14:59
    
This was my first thought, those machines probably have their original keys –  prestomation Sep 16 '09 at 15:01
    
in theory, looks like I can get the original CDs from my friends at Dell: support.dell.com/support/topics/global.aspx/support/dellcare/en/… –  Chris_K Sep 16 '09 at 15:19
    
Dell not only sent the CDs, they came Fed Ex. So yeah, problem solved and everything's legit, legal and groovy. –  Chris_K Sep 17 '09 at 16:39
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