Windows kiosk for kids
March 3, 2009 1:55 PM   Subscribe

I want to disable everything in Windows -- start menu, explorer, task bar, etc. etc., except for certain apps of my choosing, for a kiosk-style experience for my kids.

Is this possible to do with a shell replacement that basically does nothing? I could then start Rocketdock (or some other launcher) with a user script and load it up with shortcuts that I allow. Short of this, is there some other method such as Group Policy that would achieve the same thing? I'd like to do this with free tools, but economical options may be doable.
posted by greensweater to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Have a look at bblean. There may be a better solution, of course.
posted by dinx2582 at 2:07 PM on March 3, 2009

I think you can set up Emerge Desktop to do basically nothing, and if you set it as the default shell I believe it will stop explorer from running on startup.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 2:08 PM on March 3, 2009

Best answer: First off removing these things is not enough. You need to take away administrator rights from the user. Whatever login you use must not be in the administrators group.

Its not hard to do, but you'll spend some time googling for the reg keys or group policy objects. Goto run type gpedit.msc and you'll see most of these settings under User Configuration > Administrative Templates > Start Menu and Task Bar. Or just read the first few posts in this thread.

Id also add windows steady state on there to reimage the PC periodically.

I could then start Rocketdock (or some other launcher) with a user script and load it up with shortcuts that I allow.

A hotel I stayed at recently used something like this. I hit ALT-F4, broke out the shell, started explorer.exe, and had free internet and printer access.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:10 PM on March 3, 2009

Take a look at Windows SteadyState, a Microsoft solution for shared/public PCs.
posted by Jairus at 2:11 PM on March 3, 2009

i'm shooting from the top of my head here

local computer policy -> administrative templates. you'll find some things that might help you here.
control panel - disable access to control panel
secpol will help you deal with USB
start menu and task bar

try these locations. sorry if you've already done some of this.
posted by Davaal at 2:13 PM on March 3, 2009

Oh, and the actual items in the start menu can be removed by going to c:\documents and settings\username\start menu and either deleting them or removing 'read' permission from them.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:14 PM on March 3, 2009

How to run Internet Explorer in Kiosk mode

You could create a custom homepage with links to the apps/web pages you want them to have access to.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:17 PM on March 3, 2009

One more thing, you can remove DNS completely and just use a hosts file for DNS resolution. If they only need to visit one site then put that one site on there. Non-admin users cant add a DNS server or edit the hots file, so even if they managed to get to the control panel, it doesnt matter.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:20 PM on March 3, 2009

You could also reach this goal with a bootable CD.
posted by box at 2:22 PM on March 3, 2009

Response by poster: I already give the kids limited accounts (XP). However I'm trying to go all totalitarian on them. BBLean looks promising for a customizable shell. Some of these options are too inconvenient since other members of the family need to use the machine as well. Steady State looks useful too -- is it configurable per user?
posted by greensweater at 2:49 PM on March 3, 2009

Response by poster: Also, any easy way to configure DNS/hosts per user?
posted by greensweater at 2:50 PM on March 3, 2009

How old are your kids? And what are you trying to keep them from accessing or doing? If they're tiny things (up to maybe 8 or 9 years old), I understand that innocent poking around can lead to a whole lot of problems. If they're older, that's a whole different kettle of fish.

As for per-user DNS and hosts, I think you'd want to white-list things, which could be very time consuming, so limited options through browsers or browser extensions might be better. KidZui looks like an interesting kid-centric browser or Firefox extension with limitations, but it may take work adding sites (see 3rd comment). Glubble looks like another family-oriented web experience ... thing, which is also available as a Firefox Add-on. Mashable has more on Glubble. Here are even more kid-centric browsers. Sorry this isn't an actual review of products, but I figure this could be at least something new to try.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:25 PM on March 3, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for your replies. They're little kids, so basically I just need to prevent them from messing up the box. For now I think I will go the gpedit route. I did find some useful information on adding gpedit.msc to XP Home here. In the near future I will be running an Untangle server to keep a lid on browsing. By that time they'll need their own machine so I will run Steady State on it as well.
posted by greensweater at 9:18 AM on March 4, 2009

This is a little late, but I saw this today and it reminded me of this question...not sure if it's up your alley or not, but figured I might as well throw it out there.

posted by miratime at 11:03 AM on March 9, 2009

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