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Ask Slashdot: Securing a Windows Laptop, For the Windows Newbie?

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the not-under-my-roof dept.

Operating Systems 503

madsdyd writes "I am a long-time user of Linux (since 1997) and have not been using Windows since 1998. All PCs at home (mine, wife's, kids') run Linux. I work professionally as a software developer with Linux, but the Windows installs at my workplace are quite limited, so my current/working knowledge of Windows is almost nil. At home we have all been happy with this arrangement, and the kids have been using their Nintendos, PS2/3's and mobile phones up until now. However, my oldest kid (12) now wants to play World of Warcraft and League of Legends with his friends. I have spent more hours than I like to admit getting this to work with Wine, with limited success — seems to always fail at the last moment. I considered an Apple machine, but they seem to be quite expensive. So, I am going to bite the bullet, and install Windows 7 on a spare Lenovo T400 laptop, which I estimate will be able to run both Windows 7 and the games in question." Read on for more about the questions this raises, for someone who wants to ensure that a game-focused machine stays secure.madsdyd continues: "Getting Windows 7 from a shop is surprisingly expensive, but I have found a place where they sell used software (legally) and can live with that one-time cost. However, I understand that I need to protect the Windows installation against viruses and malware and whatnot. The problem is, I have no clue how. One shop wants to sell me a subscription-based solution from Norton, but this cost will take a huge dip into my kid's monthly allowance — he is required to cover the costs of playing himself, so given that playing WoW is not exactly free, this is a non-trivial expense for him. On the other hand, he has plenty of time, so I guess he could use that time to learn something, and protect his system at the same time.

How do other Slashdotters provide Windows installations for their kids? What kind of protection is needed? Are there any open source/free protection systems that can be used? Should the security issues be ignored, and instead dump the Windows install to an external disk, and restore every two weeks? Is there a 'Windows for Linux users' guide somewhere? What should we do, given that we need to keep the cost low and preferably the steps simple enough for a 12-year-old kid to perform?"

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IT'S A TRAP !! (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41714985)

Don't do it !!

Re:IT'S A TRAP !! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41715035)

Use a VM.

Well, do it, but... (3, Interesting)

Penguinisto (415985) | about 2 years ago | (#41715159) word: Proxy.

Run your kid's network connection through it (enforce it via the home router if necessary), and whitelist what he is allowed to visit. Here is an example of how to set up SQUID to do that. []

That by itself will knock out virtually all threats from the network.

As for the machine itself, install CCleaner and AVG (which IMHO is among the least intrusive of the A/V solutions), maybe tweak RDP so you can sniff around in there from time to time remotely w/o his knowledge, and that should cover practically everything you really need to protect and control your kid's computer.

Re:Well, do it, but... (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41715283)

Can you give any concrete benefits of installing CCleaner? The only effect I see this software having on systems of people who've been suckered into installing it is that it takes them much longer to get to a usable desktop. I would also recommend against anti virus software, but many people are too brainwashed nowadays that infections will be blamed on the person who told them they don't need anti virus when they would have gotten infected regardless, so do install anti virus software and learn from your own experience. If you would like a tiger-repelling stone, I've got one that I could sell you. No tiger has ever come closer than a mile.

Also, if you feel you need to "sniff around in there [...] w/o his knowledge", then either you or him are not ready for him to have his own computer that can be used unsupervised. Any snooping should be in the open and agreed upon beforehand.

Re:Well, do it, but... (4, Insightful)

magic maverick (2615475) | about 2 years ago | (#41715307)

"Any snooping should be in the open and agreed upon beforehand."
Exactly. Any it doesn't matter if the child looks at porn. That's what teenagers do. Even better, find some sites with some non-extreme porn (no violence, and even no insults at the women) so that the child doesn't think that fucked up things are normal. It's not normal to insult and hit a women (unless she wants you to). Hell, maybe even just some naked pictures, no need to show sex at all.

Re:Well, do it, but... (4, Insightful)

Austerity Empowers (669817) | about 2 years ago | (#41715405)

He said his son is going to play WoW. That means visiting WoW sites, and possibly WoW guilds. This means he'll be exposed to keyloggers, malware and other crap. While I agree it's better to avoid the whore than to wear the condom, but if you know you're going to visit the whore anyway better suit up. Also, and I know many parents particularly on slashdot don't agree with me and that's fine, but my children get privacy once they reach majority and move out and establish financial independence. Until then their lives are my business.

If your son is going to play wow, make sure he has two factor authentication enabled. Especially important is to make sure he sets his email password differently than his game password (or better yet, you sign up for his account with one of your disposable email accounts, and let him create the battlenet account).

Re:IT'S A TRAP !! (-1, Troll)

poetmatt (793785) | about 2 years ago | (#41715311)

Much more simple.

Step 1: uninstall windows.
step 2: install linux.

IF you can't get WOW and LOL to work with linux, you're writing a fud-troll article because those are probably the two most compatible games to exist.

in short, article sucks and so do the troll suggestions.

Simple (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41714995)

Install Microsoft Security Essentials and forget about it.

Re:Simple (5, Insightful)

djl4570 (801529) | about 2 years ago | (#41715107)

I second Microsoft Security Essentials. Add Firefox with Noscript. Malware Bytes is highly recommended.

Re:Simple (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41715139)

*DING, DING, DING* We have an answer folks.

+1 A++++++++ Would read again.

Re:Simple (3, Informative)

wwphx (225607) | about 2 years ago | (#41715149)

MSE is surprisingly good. You could consider the free edition of AVG if you want a non-MS anti-virus product. Be sure to keep current on patches and service packs.

If you really want to increase your paranoia, you could install ZoneAlarm.

Re:Simple (-1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 2 years ago | (#41715249)

Install Microsoft Security Essentials and forget about it.

It hogs the CPU and makes the disk thrash like a Dickensian schoolmaster. So even if it misses any malware or viruses they won't have time to do anything nasty.

Re:Simple (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41715289)

SSDs are your friend.

Re:Simple (3, Insightful)

temcat (873475) | about 2 years ago | (#41715349)

It doesn't for me. And I have settled on it after trying several brands of AV software.

Re:Simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41715285)

a good HOST file
spybot search destroy
spyware blaster
a limited user account
delete JAVA a computer with it cannot be secured, too many drive by websites
firefox with noscript flashblock MSE

Re:Simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41715393)

Yes, install MSE but don't forget about it, become obsessive about keeping it up to date. Same with Windows Update. (Note: If Windows Update says that it is up to date it's probably lying. ALWAYS click the "Check for new updates" button. Damn you, Microsoft...) Yes, yes, you should set them to auto-update but making a habit of manually checking the first time that you sit down every day is a good idea. Scan weekly.

Also, you may want to consider OpenDNS to keep some of the nasties from getting to your machine in the first place. And if he's going to be playing World of Warcraft you MUST get an authenticator to keep from getting hacked. The mobile version is free. If that's not an option suck it up and pay for the physical key-fob version. I've seen teenagers in hysterics, it's not worth six bucks. ;)

Re:Simple (5, Funny)

DeathFromSomewhere (940915) | about 2 years ago | (#41715415)

Recommendation for a Microsoft product.

Not a snarky post about how he should install some obscure linux distro instead.

(Score:5, Informative)


value of your time (5, Insightful)

Moblaster (521614) | about 2 years ago | (#41715001)

Run it through your regular NAT router setup and tell your kid not to download nasty stuff!

And consider the educational value of having him get viruses. And the joy of reinstalling the OS.

Maybe he will appreciate dad's wisdom to date ;)

Re:value of your time (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41715027)

I shot a fart out of my very own fuck whilst I was reading your comment. You read that right: the fart emerged from my very own asshole, and it happened while I was in the process of reading your comment. How could such a thing happen to an esteemed individual such as I, you ask? What does it all mean, you ask? It means your comment is fuckin' garbage.

Re:value of your time (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41715163)

Your face is fucking garbage. And I'm fucking your dad. He likes it up the ass. He also likes to suck me off and swallow my cum.

Your mum likes to watch. She fingers herself a lot when I'm taking your dad. When I've finished, she then gets out the strap-on and takes him herself. Your parents are great, did you know that?

Re:value of your time (1)

fermion (181285) | about 2 years ago | (#41715119)

I am going to second this. Stuff on the internet is like candy to kids. There is no imposed consequence that is going to stop them, and no technology to prevent it. The only real way to stop it is the authentic consequence of not having a computer. Back up the computer, store files online, and let the kid go. When the kid breaks the computer, have a rule that it will be fixed the next weekend. Don't want to have to go days without a computer, then don't break it. Software will not break the computer. The computer can always be reimaged to the original state.

That said, install MS security essentials. That is it. If you want to filter, filter through the router.

Re:value of your time (3, Insightful)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 2 years ago | (#41715189)

At 12 years old, he's about an age where he can learn about malware, virusses and backups yet young enough that data loss will be marginal.

Ideally, set up a backup of any important files (homework, pictures, email) from Linux that the kid doesn't know about so atleast the damage can be repaired after he's learned his lesson. It should be easy to setup from whatever current backup solution you have running. If you have no current backup solution, you should worry about education yourself on security before you start educating your kid ;)

Re:value of your time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41715243)

+1 to this. It isn't worth spending money on, and certainly not too much time. After you've finished the installation, take an image of the disks so a wipe & restore is a fast process, and then just make sure no critical/confidential data is stored on the machine (or on any network stores that are ever accessed from it). If you're particularly paranoid, set up a network spur for it and isolate it from the rest of your network with a firewall.

Reminds me of a joke... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41715017)

Which is more secure: A Windows machine run by an experienced admin, or a Linux/Unix machine run by a noob?

Seriously, set up a second hard drive for 7 and use it only to play games.

My best windows admin tips come from *nix (5, Informative)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about 2 years ago | (#41715019)

I know you asked about securing, but there is more than just security that is often overlooked in windows, that can be learned from the *nix world.

First, don't give anyone admin privileges with their default account. You are just asking for trouble if you do.

Second, the swap file should have its own partition. In *nix this is pretty much dogma, and it well should be in windows as well. Everyone knows that windows loves to fragment the hell out of its own file system, and the windows swap (paging) file is no exception. If you put it on its own partition you will make defragmentation a lot easier later when you have to do it.

Re:My best windows admin tips come from *nix (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41715275)

Everyone knows that windows loves to fragment the hell out of its own file system, and the windows swap (paging) file is no exception.

The other solution to this issue is to disable the function where windows automatically resizes it from time to time (specify min and max size the same). A file whose size never changes cannot become fragmented. Although there's still performance benefit from having it stored at the center of the drive (higher cylinder numbers) where data transfer rate is higher, so may be worth doing anyway.

Re:My best windows admin tips come from *nix (2)

volxdragon (1297215) | about 2 years ago | (#41715353)

Real gamers disable swap all together on their gaming rigs i the first place - you don't want the disk slowing you down ever while playing and physical memory is cheap...

Re:My best windows admin tips come from *nix (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41715357)

No, you're wrong. By the time anything comes down to local limited user vs rewt, you've already lost the security battle. So what if kernel32.dll is safe, when all of your programs have every right to destroy all of your files anyways? The classic unix multiuser security mechanisms are only enough to keep honest men honest, in a world where you can still reach out and smack any jerk users. Outside of the isolated University mini of the 1960s, it's not that meaningful. The only line of defense is to have a damn good idea what executables are allowed to wander on the big, bad internet, and keep those crazy-up-to-date. Strip down to the bare essential browser plugins, and do a click-to-play on even those. Burn everything Adobe and Oracle/Sun.

Separate partitions on the same disk is also stupid. The partition mechanism is only designed to keep multiple different operating systems from stomping on each-other, otherwise let NTFS do its own work. Fragmentation only happens when a file is being grown, so just set a big fixed size on day 1 and leave it at that. Better still, buy enough RAM that it never becomes an issue. The max a laptop can, and ever will take is $70. This dollar figure will never get lower, supply will disappear into making DDR4 first.

Burn off the recovery DVDs, and make a copy of those yet (why do they block burning off two copies? Jerks). Do that on good, expensive media. Set up MS Security Essentials. Set up 1Password, or whichever you think is better, and show the user how to use it. Change all of their internet passwords (Pa$$word1) and print out a paper backup. Turn off "hide file extensions", so the user can actually learn and predict the consequence of double-clicking on different stuff. If you don't know what it is, google it before running. If you think .SCR is safe, I have some glass ornaments for your baby.

Something, something about backups. Whatever Windows has for Time Machine, I guess.

It's a little early in the market, but an Intel or Samsung SSD (I don't trust the rest of the seething masses) turns every computer into a "Velociraptor Rocketeer". They're still dropping in price, but how many average users will be just ducky with a $80 120GB?

Re:My best windows admin tips come from *nix (0)

loufoque (1400831) | about 2 years ago | (#41715413)

This is 2012, there is no need for swap files.

MSE (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41715021)

MSE from m$ is as good as any , combine that with not havinh the childs acct as admin you're there

unplug it.... (-1, Flamebait)

zerro (1820876) | about 2 years ago | (#41715045)

but seriously, how about a hackintosh?

Why not MSE? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41715047)

If you want to save a bit of money avoid going with the norton subscription and instal Microsoft Security Essentials.

Its simple, light on your machine, and built exclusively for windows...did I mention its free?

Perfect time for some learning? (1)

whizzter (592586) | about 2 years ago | (#41715049)

Let your kid roam on the computer and once it slows down teach him to reinstall the computer himself.

Anti-virus programs are reactive rather than proactive so you should expect a windows machine to be infected soon or later (unless used by a somewhat obsessive noscript,etc user that avoids most risks).

Let him deal with it (4, Interesting)

e065c8515d206cb0e190 (1785896) | about 2 years ago | (#41715051)

How did you learn? By making mistakes. Let him run his Windows 7. With admin rights. If he gets viruses, trojans, adware, malware, so be it. If he needs to reinstall every 3 months as you probably did when you had Win 95, so be it. That's how he'll learn.

Re:Let him deal with it (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41715217)

How did you learn? By making mistakes.

Let him run his Windows 7. With admin rights. If he gets viruses, trojans, adware, malware, so be it. If he needs to reinstall every 3 months as you probably did when you had Win 95, so be it. That's how he'll learn.

Completely agree, install it all, snap shot it and when it gets infected just restore, WOW will look terrible on an old lap top anyway, and you will be best buying a commodity ebay desktop within 6 months

Re:Let him deal with it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41715263)

Considering the background stated in the summary, he'll just drop Windows pretty quickly, or will learn the minimum set of reinstalling the OS and those games every week.

This isn't like 10-15 years ago, when you were severely limited. Today, you can play games, on a PS 1,2,3, xbox, wii, phone, tablet, TV etc. PC gaming, just isn't as important as it once was.

For the kid, I suggest this, run all traffic through a firewall, drop everything that isn't coming/going towards those games severs. Download/install the games with a usb stick from a linux/apple machine.

Oh, and after you finish doing that, find some software that freezes the partitions, he's still a kid after all.

Re:Let him deal with it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41715305)

That's how I became an IT professional. If the kid really wants it, he will make it happen. Give him the tools and don't help him unless he asks, and if he asks, teach him how (while you teach yourself).

Re:Let him deal with it (1)

jijitus (1478465) | about 2 years ago | (#41715371)

Sadly, this could be the only true solution. He'll also learn the wisdom of backing up regularly when a virus destroys all his information.
Anyway, this works for a child. For my mom's PC I prepared a restricted user account with no admin rights, and an admin account with a simple password (123). No viruses so far, but I have to manually upgrade her software regularly.

Re:Let him deal with it (2)

malakai (136531) | about 2 years ago | (#41715389)

This this this.

Kids need to try, fail, and learn. Your trying to put him on a bicycle in full body armor and rig some sort of support system that holds him up if the bike falls over.
Let him scrape his knee once.

I've seen first hands how fast kids learn when the reward is their favorite game working and or working faster. Minecraft alone has been responsible for an entire new generation of hackers who w/o it never would have figured out (or needed to) how to unpack a jar file, make a change, and repack it.

If I look back on my life in computers, my drive to learn and understand them was always driven by games. From C64 days of figuring out how to load and run games, to the DOS hell days of having to figure out how to eek out a few extra bytes of conventional memory to run the latest game.

Add into this, the meta-game of keeping your OS running, of finding out you have a virus because your performance is going down and you learn to pin down the process that shouldn't be in your process list. All of this exploration is fertile ground of new minds.

Just given them the laptop and the win7 license, and let them figure it out..

Good luck (4, Insightful)

Shavano (2541114) | about 2 years ago | (#41715057)

Your kid might not be satisfied with the way WoW works on an old T400 laptop. Check the graphics specs vs. the game recommendations. And for security, I'd just use Microsoft Security Essentials. It's free, probably works as well as any of the subscription-based anti-virus products and how much do you really care if your kid's game platform gets a virus?

Re:Good luck (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41715343)

Your kid might not be satisfied with the way WoW works on an old T400 laptop. Check the graphics specs vs. the game recommendations.

Should work fine, I reckon. WoW is not a demanding game. The laptop has a Radeon HD3470, whereas WoW's minimum spec is an X1600 card, i.e. 2 generations older. The processor is also substantially better than the Pentium D minimum spec, and the memory is on spec.

Windows VM (3, Interesting)

Nerdfest (867930) | about 2 years ago | (#41715061)

If your machines have the power for it. you may be able to get away with running Windows in a VM. Install everything, get it set up properly, then snapshot it and restore to that point at the end of every gaming session. It's one fairly sure way of keeping Windows safe.

Re:Windows VM (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41715135)

Damn. Beat me to it.

I'd install XEN or KVM on a large box and install Windows 7 on a VM that can be accessed via a thin client from Linux.

Protect Windows 7 from viruses with Microsoft Essentials (which is free). Snapshot before use and restore snapshot after use.

Re:Windows VM (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41715183)

do you really think it will handle gaming?

Re:Windows VM (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41715179)

The problem with this is that VMs do not have access to the graphics card... Meaning it will be CPU rendered and unplayable.

I also think OP is underestimating the requirements for a game like WoW... You so need a decent graphics card to play it... Which a T400 may be lacking.

Re:Windows VM (1)

Lemmeoutada Collecti (588075) | about 2 years ago | (#41715219)

So his kid has to reinstall each and every addon to the games he uses every time he wants to play? And he loses all of his profile data (WoW does save some locally)? And now he has to also know how to safely update the image with the weekly WoW updates and patches?

I think that kind of misses the point of a gaming machine. It's supposed to operate as an appliance: boot, play the games, shut down, done.

Re:Windows VM (1)

Denogh (2024280) | about 2 years ago | (#41715227)

This is a good way to go, but you have to keep the snapshot up to date. I'd hate to sit down on raid night and find that I can't play for 6 hours because I just restored a snapshot from before $BIG_PATCH was released.

Re:Windows VM (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | about 2 years ago | (#41715297)

Yes, you re-snapshot after updates (both games and OS). Not sure about WoW, but can profile data be saves in a shared directory on the host OS? This would allow game state to be kept as well.

Re:Windows VM (1)

volxdragon (1297215) | about 2 years ago | (#41715377)

You don't want to do this for a gaming setup, it will impact performance...if all this computer is going to be used for is gaming, don't worry about security beyond Microsoft Security Essentials. Just remember, if something seems fishy, wipe and reinstall, it doesn't take that long...

Windows is fairly secure nowadays (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41715077)

Install Microsoft Security Essentials, don't use IE, stay up to date on patches - none of which requires any effort whatsoever - and separate out user accounts. And that's really about it, unless your users are complete numpties about email and things.

Back in the win 2000 days I was called around to family to fix viruses and the like on a monthly basis. Since installing XP, I've not had a single callout that hasn't been due to hardware failure. And win7 is better.

Easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41715079)

Free Antivirus is good enough AVG, Microsoft Security Essentials, Avast. Teach your son that things arent always what they seem online and also the value of Security updates.

Set the PC up, get it all up to date install software printer etc, take a backup image using in built software.

If there are issues , back up data restore image, update, restore data, take new image etc etc.

Truth is that with proper use there is nothing that should be of great concern.

Not possible (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 2 years ago | (#41715085)

You can use AV, be careful (i.e. stay the hell away from insecure trash like IE or Outlook), but that is it. Windows, when connected to a network, cannot be secured by itself against targeted attacks, unlike any Unix or Linux. In professional environments, restrictive firewall settings also help, but that requires firewalls not running on the host. Security-wise Windows is a lost cause.

PlayOnLinux (1)

squirrelthetire (2716659) | about 2 years ago | (#41715093)

You've got it right already. Windows is a set of problems implemented for the niche called "IT Professionals". PlayOnLinux does quite well at taking the difficult fiddly parts out of wine. IMHO, you will be better of if you get it working in linux (Considering that you are happy in every other regard). Just be sure not to use something with compiz. (like Unity), or it will hurt your performance pointlessly.

That being said, to answer the question that you really asked: Don't use Norton or McAfee. They just suck [up ram|in general]. That's about all the advice I can give you. Good luck.

A few things (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41715097)

1) Install a free antivirus program like Microsoft Security Essential or AVG. Most free antivirus programs are close enough to paid software as long as you pick the better ones.

2) Run the computers network through a filtering program or DNS server like OpenDNS with the filtering option enabled.

3) Limit user account for kid. Install the software he needs for him. This would be a major improvement in security with limited hassles as it's usually the user that is the cause of many security issue.

Bonus) Occasionally keep a backup image of the hard drive. If the computer does get infected, it's easy and faster to recover from.

Re:A few things (3, Interesting)

magic maverick (2615475) | about 2 years ago | (#41715129)

I like 1 and 3, but have another suggestion instead of 2. Install a firewall between the computer and the Internet, and block all inbound and outbound connections except on the ports used by the games required. No web browsing, no email, no chat (except in game) on the MS Windows machine at all.

Disclaimer, I've been using GNU/Linux myself almost exclusively since 2003 or something, and so my knowledge of MS Windows is also dated. But, if the worms can't access the machine they can't hurt it. If the child can't access the web, they can't have some ad network serve drive-by-download malware. Etc.

I also like the idea of letting the child learn about computer security themselves and do it all themselves. But that may cause more heartbreak in the end than my suggestion.

MSCE (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41715105)

Microsoft Security Essentials, if you can get it. Free, works well enough.

Wine - Get Crossover, But Also Get Windows (5, Insightful)

vinn (4370) | about 2 years ago | (#41715109)

Two comments -

1. If you're going to use Wine, go purchase Codeweaver's Crossover version. It's much better than the standard Wine. Plus, you can get a warm fuzzy feeling you're paying to support open source. PlayOnLinux is an option too.

2. However, do expose your children to Windows. It's what they're going to learn in school and possibly what they'll need in the workplace. (Oh, I'm sure some people would like to point out why I'm wrong, people have been predicting the demise of Windows for decades. It's still the de facto standard.)

Finally, just go download something like MIcrosoft Security Essentials or Avast for your antivirus. They're free and work.

Mod parent up (2)

laing (303349) | about 2 years ago | (#41715315)

No mod points here. I played WoW for 3 years on Linux using Crossover Games. Codeweavers has merged all of their Wine forks into one product so it's even more worthwhile to buy it now. There have been a few issues (such as memory problems on 64-bit Linux hosts), but overall it works pretty well. I had no trouble doing end-game raids (Vent works fine too).

Mac is not expensive... (0)

Lumpy (12016) | about 2 years ago | (#41715125)

I bought a used 13" dual core i5 for $550.00 off of craigslist.

If you are foolish and must only buy new for your kids, yeah, $1300 for a laptop is nutty for a kid laptop.

Re:Mac is not expensive... (2)

Barlo_Mung_42 (411228) | about 2 years ago | (#41715291)

$550 is quite a bit for a used computer.

VM, firewall outside the VM (1)

Lorens (597774) | about 2 years ago | (#41715131)

'nuff said

QUICK (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41715133)

Get a laptop BEFORE Windows 8 comes out! You got like 5-6 days.

Windows 8 is god-awful and you will regret it! Get Windows 7 Laptops and PCs while they last!

Re:QUICK (1)

rossdee (243626) | about 2 years ago | (#41715171)

I am sure you will be able to buy Win7 laptops for quite a while yet

Anyway, one important part of securing a laptop is to chain it to something, like a desk or your wrist.

Restoring is rarely necessary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41715137)

Microsoft Security Essentials, Chrome with extensions set click-to-run, and... that's about it.

Look take the long term view. (2)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 2 years ago | (#41715151)

Dont protect the machine. Let him taste windows the way Microsoft serves it. What does not kill him will make him stronger. Either he learns to protect the machine on his own and stays in Windows camp. Or learns that the few things in the Windows world is not worth the pain and suffering comes home to a real OS. At best you throw him a nickel and ask him to buy a real OS. [Growing a beard before throwing that nickel is optional.]

Basics and Intermediates (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41715161)

Three words: backups, snapshots, and scanning.


Look, no matter what you do, things will go to hell eventually. Either user error, bad update, or exploits/etc. Have a backup strategy in place. Since you come from the Linux world, boot disk + DD of the hard drive image would be the most straightforward. If you keep the OS, Applications(games), and page file on seperate disks, you will make backing up the OS and the Apps much easier. Not familiar with Windows 7's auto-backup features, so I'm suggesting the non-windows route on that one. You can even have a PXEboot environment setup and just boot the laptop over to PXE and have it perform a backup overnight. Keep 2-3 full image copies that auto-rotate say once a week, and you're good to go.

Another option would be an external hard drive + backup software on the Windows 7 system. Though my experience in the past with this has been mixed. YMMV.


Apparently, Windows 7/8 supports some kind of snapshotting. Like their "restore to last good config" feature, it's only as good as the system is stable. :/ My preference would be to virtualize and snapshot the virtual machine's disk images, say on a daily rotational basis for a 1-2 week window. However, you want to do gaming on the box, so virtualization puts a heavy penalty. Still, worth a try. If it works, you could even run the Virtualized windows on Linux. VirtualBox comes to mind.


Look, it's Windows. It is highly targeted. You need some kind of scanning software. It's open source and it is free.

There are other things you can do:
- Firewall on the laptop, both inbound and outbound. (Only let web/game port addresses out, only let relevant ports in). Won't stop infections that exploit the games/browser/files downloaded, but might keep it from spreading.
- Run the game in a restricted account. Once again, an exploit and promote itself out, but one additional layer of security.


I went through this a few years back. And ultimately, you end up either running the game native on Mac OS X, hope/pray for the game to be ported to Linux, or run the Windows OS inside of a virtual machine. Back then, there wasn't much 2d or 3d acceleration. However, these days, the graphics card pass through support is much better and a virtual machine(VMware, VirtualBox, etc.) may be viable. I would give that a go. If it works well, do the snapshotting for the virtual machine. Backing up is as simple as fully shutting down the VM and copying the files somewhere else.

You'll still want to run anti-virus/anti-malware scanning software, but should you get infected, it is more or less contained to the VM.

In either case, good luck. :) If nothing else, hope the link to the free AV/malware software scanner helps out.

Heroes of Newerth is the same game as LoL (2)

gQuigs (913879) | about 2 years ago | (#41715167)

and it runs on Linux natively. []

Obviously if his friends are already playing LoL it might be difficult to switch.

Re:Heroes of Newerth is the same game as LoL (1)

malakai (136531) | about 2 years ago | (#41715417)

If his friends play LOL and he plays HON he'll take shit for it. Honestly, I think HON and DOTA2 are far better games than LOL, but there's peer pressure here, and no one likes playing a game alone, if a few of their friends are playing some other game.

Don't worry about stuxnet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41715175)

Just reinstall Windows. No matter what you do at some point it'll get dog-slow anyway. Teach the kids to reinstall it, that will teach them. MS Security essentials, education and experience will do them good. Forget about it.

Never mind the laptop... (1)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about 2 years ago | (#41715185)

What about when the WoW/LoL servers themselves get pwned?

It's actually not a bad idea to run Windows in a VM that boots from a clean snapshot every time.

It would be an even better idea if the machine in question was ONLY used for the games in question, but all it takes is one "Let me look that up on Google/Start IE" or "Gotta check my FaceBook" to start the can opener.

MSE is good enough - but teach him to reinstall (5, Informative)

stillnotelf (1476907) | about 2 years ago | (#41715187)

Microsoft Security Essentials is the only thing I have running on most of the Windows computers I administer (note: they're XP, not 7). I've never had any problems. Install that and don't worry too much about it. Install noscript on Firefox and tell him not to use IE; that will avoid most of the remaining problems. Let all software autoupdate as much as it wants.

You do want to do two other things. 1) Keep that install disc, and make sure the kid knows how to install Windows himself, plus install his games himself. I think WOW and probably LOL are both cloud-based saves so wiping the HDD is no issue. Reinstalling Windows is generally 1/4 the time and hassle of actually fixing a malware problem.

2) Let him know that he is only likely to get viruses doing things he shouldn't. Drive-by downloads on legit sites are rare. Drive-by-downloads on warez, gold sellers (for WOW), and porn are a lot more common. If he is going to do that stuff (you can't stop him) at least make sure he knows that those are dangerous sites. If his computer is acting funny after visiting one, and a reboot doesn't fix it, then wipe the install.

Relevant story from two weeks ago (4, Informative)

neile (139369) | about 2 years ago | (#41715191)

What free antivirus do you install on windows []

Install Windows Security Essentials and you'll be fine. Seriously, it's not like by putting Windows 7 on a computer your house is immediately going to be invaded by zombies dragging every virus or malware known to man. Install WSE (or one of the other recommendations from the above thread), run with standard (not admin) rights, and that's pretty much all you need to do.


Flashblock (1)

Zaphod-AVA (471116) | about 2 years ago | (#41715193)

Don't use IE, and whichever browser to do use, install Flashblock.

Also, get an installer from for Flash, Reader, and Java. Set it to run every day.

Re:Flashblock (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41715229)

The kid only wants it for gaming.
There's no reason for any browser, let alone Java or Flash.
And no computer anywhere, regardless of OS, needs Adobe Reader. There are any number of better, secure, free PDF readers.

A few things to try... (2)

erp_consultant (2614861) | about 2 years ago | (#41715195)

1) Install Microsoft Security Essentials. It's free and works as well as any paid Anti-Virus that I've used.
2) Educate your kids on the types of website to avoid. Sites like Limewire (where kids get free MP3's from) are full of viruses and spyware.
3) Set them up with a non-Admin account. That way if something bad happens the damage is minimized.
4) Install some add ons for the browser. No Script is a good one. It blocks Java Script and the bad guys love to use that to wreck havoc.
5) Consider creating a separate partition for the OS. If something goes wrong it's nice to have the OS separate from your own files.
6) Consider something like Norton Ghost (there are free alternatives as well) that can create a full image of your HD. Take snapshots before doing major system updates. If something goes wrong you can just restore the image and everything is as it was.
7) Running Windows as a VM on top of Linux is a good idea. If something goes south you can simply copy the pristine image back over the corrupted one.
8) Stay on top of the System Updates. Microsoft has "patch Tuesday" where they typically release system patches. Some of them are important and fix known vulnerabilities.

A good parent says "No". (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41715197)

Just tell him there are better things to do with one's time than playing a stupid video game.

Have him learn a game programming engine, or a graphics program - anything like that is a much better use of his time. Or any other non-computer hobby would be great too.

kids need bicycles (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41715203)

seems like texting, social media ,and games are a drug to kids
its windows and warcraft today but thats a gateway to
skinny jeans and a shemagh, @ 300lbs .

Save your (kid's) money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41715205)

Antivirus software is snake oil. You don't want to start the young one on a barrage of warnings that are only designed to keep the customers well aware of the perpetually imminent threat that can only be defeated by continued payment. Current threats are tested against all popular antivirus software and modified until they pass undetected.

Make him do it (2)

murder_face (2574275) | about 2 years ago | (#41715209)

Why not make the kid do it? That way instead of learning that there will always be people out there to do things for him, he will learn to rely on himself(and google of course).

Here is my plan in 3 easy steps (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41715211)

I have been thinking about this as I am going to be turning my old laptop over to my Aunt when I decide to get a new one. She has had an infection every few months on her current tower.

Load a free Anti Virus, Avast or AVG should do nicely.
Install Firefox with NoScript.
Set IE to a proxy on the

The AV should not even be needed except to scan downloads. Protip be patient let the download sit for a few days until a few AV updates have come in.

NoScript if used properly should be able to prevent any drive by attacks. Help you son get a few of his favorite pages running explain how and why NoScript works. After that it's in his hands.

You need to use the browser with NoScript only, I would just disable IE.

IT monkey here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41715223)

I'd say some of this stuff would depend on how well your kid learns new skills or habits. If he has trouble doing chores, for example, some of the stuff he'll need to do (regular backups, for example) should probably be drilled. Fortunately, a lot of information security can be automated.

Since he's on WoW, if he's pretty good at the game he's developed a sense of strategy and planning. This is a great skill to have in information security (and really, sysadmin in general), because it means he can apply similar principles to securing and managing several systems.

If my assumption is correct, you should sit down with your kid using an idea collector (paper, whiteboard, tablet, PC, whatever) and plan out what you and your kid want to protect. A few no-brainers: his privacy, personal information, login data for and other services (get him a cheap smartphone and the Mobile Authenticator app, or the authenticator dongle), and probably a bunch of personal data like photos, music, movies, etc. Now think of how those resources can get compromised-- say someone manages to open fraudulent accounts using his address and SSN, or steal his WoW account-- and from there craft a strategy to prevent those compromises from happening, and plan ahead in case something does happen.

This, in a nutshell, is the ISO information security management process (minus the reams of documentation you'd need to maintain to be certified and confirm you're actually following your own strategy), and IMO is a lot more informative than the usual "install antivirus, use strong passwords, implement backup" mantra, because it'll teach your kid why those are important steps but not the be-all end-all of security.

braggard (1)

wrench turner (725017) | about 2 years ago | (#41715237)

I only use Linux when I brush my teeth.

He thinks $100 for an OS is expensive? (1)

Walking The Walk (1003312) | about 2 years ago | (#41715257)

Getting Windows 7 from a shop is surprisingly expensive

He didn't even look. NewEgg is selling it for $99 [] . A 30 day WoW subscription is listed on the Blizzard store for $15 [] . So your OS costs less than 7 months of playing just one of the games you listed - tell me again what's expensive?

Re:He thinks $100 for an OS is expensive? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41715327)

Only problem with OEM is it's technically a single use install. Make full system backups after the install or be prepared to convince Microsoft you need to reactivate it after subsequent full reinstalls. Usually not a problem but can be an annoyance.

Image (1)

sociocapitalist (2471722) | about 2 years ago | (#41715259)

Install everything (Windows, Microsoft Security Essentials, the game(s), whatever else is needed) clean, update it all, then back an image and keep it handy.

Reinstall the image every month or three.

No Idea (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41715279)

Why you'd consider Apple before MS is beyond me, especially coming from linux, Apple is the most anti-free.

Install MSE.
Give him a limited account (If you want, but you will always have do installations and system changes).
Run it though a router.
Keep Java, Flash, Acrobat, (any adobe), any Apple junk (Quick time), the OS, and any browsers up to date.
Install adblock plus because much malware is served through adds.
Know how to reset web settings in IE. Tools > Options > Advanced > Reset

Other than that it's coming sense, if he isn't a click happy clown he will be ok. Any OS can be infected given a careless user :)

K9 Web Protection (1)

kootsoop (809311) | about 2 years ago | (#41715299)

If you're worried about your kid getting access to inappropriate things on the net, try K9: []

Unable to meet all requirements.... (4, Insightful)

Raxxon (6291) | about 2 years ago | (#41715313)

You want to keep the laptop secure. You want a 12 year old to use it. You want it to run Windows.

There is no solution. There will always be security risks and in some cases a negative time-frame to deal with them. Doesn't matter how good your AV is or what utilities you put on there, if it's connected to the Internet and there's a user at the keyboard then it is inherently insecure.

Now, how "secure" do you need it to be? If you're ok with putting that laptop on a separate subnet from everything else and teach the kiddo to do a proper update check every couple of days you should be able to mitigate most of the 'risk'.... but that seems a bit much to ask.

Windows 7 Pro should cost (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41715325)

About $90.00 New, i wouldn;t fooling arround with Used os's.

My security guide may be useful. (1)

vistapwns (1103935) | about 2 years ago | (#41715333)

I made a security guide for hardening Windows against threats, it's at [] - it may be useful, it's not professional by any means but I think the advice there can help a Windows security newbie.

I don't believe you. (4, Informative)

Zombie Ryushu (803103) | about 2 years ago | (#41715337)

WoW runs perfectly under Wine, even under a dirty prefix, and has for like 5 years, maybe longer. League of Legends you must clean Prefix, and install dx9, dotnet2.0, and vcrun2008. Then LoL will work. I know from experience that this shit works.

I went the other way (2)

future assassin (639396) | about 2 years ago | (#41715345)

and went all Linux in house. Told the kid to suck it up for any games that were not available on console. 5 years later I get a couple of complaints here and there but sure as hell beats reinstalling windows every 6 months. You can tell the kids to not download all you want but they're kids so it takes a few times to learn not to download files from all over the places.

VirtualBox (1)

XiaoMing (1574363) | about 2 years ago | (#41715359)

Before you give in, I highly highly suggest you try virtualizing windows on a working (ideally multi-core) Linux box with Oracle's VirtualBox [] .

It's completely free, frequently updated, allows control of everything, including number of processors and RAM to dedicate to the virtual environment, and the only exception is the lack of support for discrete hardware graphics acceleration (But for now should be OK for the games he wants to play).

Set it and forget it - my tips (2)

myxiplx (906307) | about 2 years ago | (#41715373)

As a log term windows admin who's cleaned up more home computers than I care to count, here are my tips:

1. Ensure windows updates are set to download and install automatically.
2. Install AVG Free, sure MS essentials is good, but I guarantee every virus is written to avoid it, I go with 3rd party AV wherever possible.
3. Install Chrome for web browsing, sync the account to google
4. Setup his account as a regular user, don't give him the admin password
5. Setup something to backup Warcraft, it's a huge download, you don't want to be doing it again if you need to reinstall

And that's it, it's basic security but win7 is pretty good, the above has been enough to keep our home XP machine safe for many years.

Ultimately it's a kids computer and they're going to click anything shiny, sooner or later it will get a virus. There are a few key points to bear in mind here:

1. It's going to happen, preventing it is pretty much impossible.
2. Your other computers are Linux, so the risk to them is negligible.
3. Most viruses these days are botnets or phishing, so long as he's not spending a fortune on a debit card, the risk to him is minimal.
4. All the software I recommended will update itself, so it's zero maintenance. That's a major factor in keeping windows secure.
5. If it does end up riddled with viruses, a quick re-install over the top, followed by a sync to google and it's all back to normal, including your files and settings.

Long answer (1)

Xacid (560407) | about 2 years ago | (#41715375)

I'm a Windows guy for the most part so I'll give you my various insights from that world.

First things first - have you tried WineX/Cedega or whatever evolution it's on to try running these things on your nix boxes? I've heard of various successes and I'd assume there's got to be a write up somewhere for how to do this - at least for WoW. Not sure about LoL.

"Getting Windows 7 from a shop is surprisingly expensive, but I have found a place where they sell used software (legally) and can live with that one-time cost."

OEM copies are a cheap route and the only main difference is that Microsoft wont provide support directly. You're basically buying as a computer builder and saying you'll provide the support yourself. If you're anything like me you've probably never even considered that option for a consumer machine and would likely just google it or...ask slashdot. :p If you've got a domain/ldap set up at home to manage your gear and want these machines under that you'll want the professional version (home doesnt support joining a domain). Otherwise Home edition is probably fine for the kiddos. Also make sure you get the proper architecture you need (32 bit or 64bit) depending on your gear. Last I saw you could get the OEM ones through Newegg and haven't had problems with the ones I've gotten from there. Note, make sure you don't accidentally buy an upgrade version - you'll need full. ($99 from Newegg here: [] )

However, I understand that I need to protect the Windows installation against viruses and malware and whatnot. The problem is, I have no clue how. One shop wants to sell me a subscription-based solution from Norton, but this cost will take a huge dip into my kid's monthly allowance — he is required to cover the costs of playing himself, so given that playing WoW is not exactly free, this is a non-trivial expense for him. On the other hand, he has plenty of time, so I guess he could use that time to learn something, and protect his system at the same time.

Screw the paid route. Use Microsoft Security Essentials and be done with it. It's actually not a bad product surprisingly. The only changes I make after installing is going into settings and having it scan removable media when inserted and also creating a system restore point during each scan (VERY handy when things get jacked up). Also, your kid is 12, so chances are good some internet training will go a LONG way. Teach them about about all the evils of the information super highway and let them know it's ok to simply ask you if they're unsure.

Also, he's at that age where he's totally going to be looking for porn. Let's just admit that can get that out of the way. Go ahead and install Spybot and Ad Block Plus as that'll help a bit. Spybot you/he will need to run manually periodically unless you set up scheduled jobs for it. You can either go the route of "if you're going to surf, surf safe" or you could try blocking those kinds of sites via whatever software works for you (I've got no experience with this). Chances are good they're going to find the stuff one way or another so I'd assume the worst and protect the machine from such environments. I'm sure other slashdotters will have better input for this topic. It'll also help to make them a lower privilege user - though that takes away from their autonomy and thus ability to learn how to admin their own box. Your call though - you're the parent.

How do other Slashdotters provide Windows installations for their kids? What kind of protection is needed? Are there any open source/free protection systems that can be used? Should the security issues be ignored, and instead dump the Windows install to an external disk, and restore every two weeks? Is there a 'Windows for Linux users' guide somewhere? What should we do, given that we need to keep the cost low and preferably the steps simple enough for a 12-year-old kid to perform?"

If it was me I'd just have something like Acronis that can do full backups (that can restore to bare metal) in case things get really jacked. And they will. I was no exception at that age and recovering from my shenanigans is what taught me the skills to eventually become a professional geek. I would consider placing the backups on a network share on a home server which then runs a nightly cron job to rsync the files to some external device or secondary drive in case your kid decides he wants to delete all of his backups for some silly reason. There are other variants of this depending on your diskspace and gear you've got of course. I suspect you're geeky enough to have fun with this one. :)

Install EMET too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41715381)

Microsoft EMET with default "full" profile is a good addition. Gives some additional protection against 0-day exploits in flash, java and other addons.

Been using it for some time at work with no problems.

Lenovo T400 does not meet WoW's minimum requiremen (3, Informative)

Clomer (644284) | about 2 years ago | (#41715383)

See title. I feel it important to point out that the Lenovo T400 does not meet World of Warcraft's minimum requirements. The Intel GMA 4500 GPU that this laptop has is specifically listed on Blizzard's website as not being supported. What this means is that even if you manage to get it to run, performance will be poor and the game really won't be any fun. In fact, I have to wonder if the problems you've had related to getting it to run in wine are more hardware-related - the computers you are trying to do this on simply aren't beefy enough.

Other specs on the system are borderline bottom for barely meeting the requirements. Don't subject your kids to that. Get them a new computer with Windows 7 preinstalled. For virus protection, Microsoft Security Essentials does fine (free with Windows 7, though it is a separate download).

You may prefer Linux, and it may even work for you, and for you that is fine. But we live in a Windows world - you are doing your kids a serious disservice by not giving them Windows exposure now. They'll need that experience in 10 years when they are trying to get a job - any job - that isn't Linux development.

orange (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41715403)


Almost no harm can be done (1)

Milharis (2523940) | about 2 years ago | (#41715427)

Since he will be the only one to use it, and for games, there should be nothing of value on the computer, so some malware are not going to be the end of the world.
At worst, he will have his battlenet account hacked, so just teach him to use secure passwords and an authenticator. (You probably already did.)

As some others have already pointed out, the best is to let him experiment by himself. However, there aren't that many (common) ways to get malwares; if it happens, you'd best have a talk with him about not going to shady websites, or download random stuff (plus you don't necessary want him to go to porn websites too).

You want a windows appliance eh? (4, Insightful)

RandomFactor (22447) | about 2 years ago | (#41715429)

Translating - you aren't a windows guy, and you aren't going to become one for this, but you don't want to waste time reinstalling every couple of weeks or listen to your kid crying his account got hacked.

With that premise

  - Set Windows updates to nightly download and install automatically.
  - MSE (AV from MS) is fine, oddly enough. Its even light enough you can run a second one such as Avast! if you wish.
  - NAT router in front assumed
  - Leave the Windows Firewall on, don't enable file sharing
  - Install Firefox, make it the default browser, load two addons - NOSCRIPT and AdBlock Plus. Remove the IE icon from the desktop.
  - Council the kid that this is NOT his general internet browsing/use machine. It is dedicated for the games. Continue to browse etc. on the systems you know how to maintain.

With the above, you have no cost, minimal maintenance and the machine is very likely to stay secure for years.

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