Configuring a Computer for Kids

March 20, 2007 at 8:26 pm (Links)

One of the truly challenging things is setting up a computer so that it will be both ‘Kid Friendly’ and ‘Kid Proof’. Here is how I do it.

I don’t like the idea of kids changing CDs. They are likely to damage the CD drive or lose or scratch the CDs. With hard drive space being as cheap as it is, there is no reason that you can’t copy the CDs to the drive and eliminate those problems.

HOWEVER, not all games are easy to configure that way. The process involves a lot of trial and error if the game instructions or website doesn’t include any information to help you.

First, install the game from the CD and see if it will run without it – some actually will. If not uninstall it and try the next option.

COPY THE CD DATA TO THE HARD DRIVE

If the CD data is required, create a directory on the hard drive and copy the entire contents of the CD to it. Keep the directory name short, as some games don’t like long names or special characters in the path. I have a directory I call CDDATA, and create subdirectories for each disc under it. Once the data is copied, remove the CD from the drive and run the installation program from that directory. About half the games I have tried will work that way. If the game gives you a ‘minimal’ install option, use it. The full install usually runs faster because it doesn’t have to access the CD as much, but in this situation the data is already on the hard drive, so it won’t make any difference.

MOUNT THE CD DATA USING THE SUBST COMMAND

If installing from a directory doesn’t work, uninstall the game again, and create a new directory called MOUNTS. Move the folder that you copied the CD data to from the CDDATA folder to the MOUNTS folder. Open a command prompt, and enter the command “subst F: c:\MOUNTS\<foldername>” If your computer already has an F: drive, or if you have already used F: for another CD, use the next free drive letter instead. Then run the install program from the F: drive, again using the minimal install if available. The vast majority of game CDs will work using this method. The only additional step is to set it up so that the mounts occur every time the computer starts.

To reconnect the subst mounts when the computer starts, you will need to create a batch file and put it in the startup folder. In the batch file, type the exact subst command that you used to mount the CD. You will need one line for each mount. Save the file. You can open it back up again later if needed.

CREATE AN ISO IMAGE AND MOUNT THE IMAGE

If none of the above options worked, you can create an ISO image of the CD, and mount it as a virtual CD. This is a bit more complex, but not really hard. First, you will need a way to record the CD to an ISO image. The easiest free utility for this is ISO Recorder, and it can be found at http://isorecorder.alexfeinman.com/isorecorder.htm . It installs as an extension for windows explorer, and you just right-click on the CD, and tell it to ‘create image from CD’, then give it the path and filename you want to use.

To mount the image as a virtual CD, use virtual CD control panel found at http://www.softwarepatch.com/windows/xpvirtualcd.html . It has some very basic instructions on how to install and use it. There are a few other things you may want to know…. When you add drives, it will start with Z:, and continue adding down. There is a limit of 8 virtual CD drives that can be used at any time. If you want the image to be available every time the computer starts, you will need to check the ‘persistent mount’ option when mounting.  Again, install the game from the virtual drive, using the minimal option if available.

Next time – Kid-proofing II

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2 Comments

  1. APuritanLady said,

    Thank you, Randy! (hmm, this whole “kids cramming a CD drive and/or losing disks” sounds strangely familiar 😉 ) I will definately have to go through their CDRs and try this.

  2. psalter said,

    You must have kids to know all about this don’t you? 😉

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