What to do with my old XP system?
March 28, 2014 10:05 AM   Subscribe

My XP system is going off-line in April. It will stay in operation, running in tandem with a new W8.1 system, that will be its conduit onto the web. I need to keep XP running because some of my $$$$$ drafting software will not run on 8.1. 8.1 is also, IMHO, irritating. Can my Dell T3400 workstation, 4 GB, be used as a music center with a sound card upgrade? I have tried the system, as it is configured, with Sennheiser TR220 headphones. The sound is horrible. The CD player in my truck sounds better. Part of the sound problems are caused by background processes that interrupt the sound output. Clearing most of the Start Menu and everything concerned with internet operation should stop this part of the problem. I am considering an ASUS Xonar Essence ST Headphone sound card. Would this card in my XP system with the Sennheiser TR220 headphones be reasonably equivalent to a good stand alone sound system? Might another card be better than the Asus? I am avoiding a separate player due to limited space in my office.
posted by Raybun to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I own one of these and it sounds really good. It's discontinued now but something else like it might be a good solution for you. There's really no reason to mess with internal cards when USB works so well for this.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:29 AM on March 28, 2014

A kinda sideways answer, but anyway:
As a long time (15+ years) winXX die-hard I switched completely to Linux (Mint in my case) two years ago. Never looked back.
Well, except for when some crucial software NEEDS to have its winXX.
Then I use virtualbox with a winXX on it.
Seriously: Try Linux Mint Cinnamon. you don't have to install it, just run a live-CD instance and check it out. SO much nicer. Antivirus? Forget it. Update a few clicks, and ALL your programs are up to date. I could go on :-)
Feel free to MeMail me if you have questions.
Best of luck!
posted by Thug at 10:30 AM on March 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

The sound is horrible. The CD player in my truck sounds better. Part of the sound problems are caused by background processes that interrupt the sound output.

If you've got an XP box where one of the CPU cores spends most of its time running flat-out (check by hitting Ctrl-Alt-Esc to bring up the Task Manager), you might just be experiencing this Windows Update issue.
posted by flabdablet at 10:56 AM on March 28, 2014

It will stay in operation, running in tandem with a new W8.1 system, that will be its conduit onto the web.

Assuming your LAN is behind a NAT router, this configuration is no safer than having the XP box connected directly to the router. XP will become increasingly exploitable by stuff running in the browsers; putting more layers of NAT between you and the public internet won't stop that happening.

One strategy that should reduce the risk of an XP-targeted browser exploit is to avoid downloading any content from advertising servers. Better still is to avoid Web browsing with the XP box altogether.

You can make Windows 8.1 quite a lot less irritating by installing Classic Shell.
posted by flabdablet at 11:09 AM on March 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

The ASUS soundcard might be nuclear overkill for what you need. The T3400 is a budget machine with on-board sound, it appears, and thus nearly any PCI soundcard will be an improvement of some kind, and you might be able to find something for more like $30. What I would start with is getting a used soundcard first and seeing if the interruptions are still present. It's hard to say without this diagnostic whether a soundcard will free you from the interruptions, or cost more money to have the same thing.

Anything with the Soundblaster brand on it will be a perfectly good testbed, and you should be able to get one that's older or used for really cheap. Diving into a $200 soundcard really requires this initial test. I just threw out my accumulated cards about 3 months ago, or else I'd offer to send you one. But you should be able to get your hands on an XP-era card for about $10+shipping.
posted by Sunburnt at 11:23 AM on March 28, 2014

I'd go so far as to literally disable the web browsers in XP. It's no guarantee, as if your main machine gets infected, your XP machine will likely be infected from being on the same network. I don't think it will be long before there are serious, major exploits for XP where it's flat out not safe to use on the Internet.
posted by cnc at 11:56 AM on March 28, 2014

Response by poster: The XP system will have no internet connection. The network card will be disabled or removed. The only contact between the two systems is a shared drive that is not exposed to both systems at the same time.
posted by Raybun at 12:03 PM on March 28, 2014

Check to make sure any audio interface you get has drivers that will work for your OS.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 1:54 PM on March 28, 2014

You're approaching the problem the wrong way.

While I'll stipulate that 8.1 sucks, and reinforces the idiom about skipping every other MS release, why are you forcing your $$$$ drafting box* to be your music server?

Dude, buy an Ipod.

*(If I had to run XP, like it sounds like you do I would keep that thing off the net so hard, I can't even tell you.)
posted by Sphinx at 6:51 AM on March 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

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