Advice from me

Setting up a museum computer

This is a reasonably technical document aimed at those with some technical knowledge. It tells you how to set up a Windows computer to run as a kiosk. It applies to Windows NT, Windows 2000 and probably Windows XP. I don't recommend that you use Windows 3, Windows 95, Windows 98 or Windows ME for kiosk use.

When setting up a museum computer you want it to do a number of things that normal office computers don't have to do.
1) Automatically start up when power is applied
2) Be able to survive having the power switched off without being shut down properly with no problems.
3) Continue to show the exhibit on the screen for the whole day without showing screen savers, shutting down etc.
4) Automatically log in to the system
5) Automatically start the exhibit
6) Make sure that if your exhibit crashes visitors can't mess about with the computer

How to set up the computer

Make it automatically start up when power is applied

First go into the BIOS. Usually a computer gives you the option of going into the BIOS (sometimes called "setup") when it starts up - sometimes by pressing the DEL key. Once the BIOS options come up.
- Switch off any "Power saving" options
- Make sure that the behaviour after a power failure is "Start up"
- In some PCs you have to change the BIOS to let it start up without a keyboard

Make the computer survive having the power switched off without being shut down properly

Make sure that all volumes of the hard disk are formatted with NTFS. NTFS formatting means that the hard disk won't become corrupted if you switch the power off without shutting down the computer first. To check your volumes are formatted NTFS, go in to "My Computer", select a volume and right mouse click on "Properties". It should then tell you whether its formatted using NTFS or FAT. If its FAT you need to change to NTFS. To do this open the command prompt and use the command
convert <drive_letter>: /fs:ntfs

Make the computer automatically log in without a password

In Control Panel, double-click Users and Passwords.
Make sure there are at least two account
- Visitor, should have username "visitor" and password "visitor", but restricted access to the machine. "Power User" is fine, but not "guest" or "administrator".
- Administrator, can have any password and username you like but I recommend that you use the same password for all exhibits within you institution. Otherwise theirs a good chance that people will forget the passwords once an exhibit has been installed for a few years.
Now you need to make the computer automatically log in to the visitor account. There are two different ways of the doing this. The first doesn't work in Windows NT and doesn't work in Windows 2000 if the computer is a member of a network domain. The second always works if you follow the instructions to the letter but is a bit tricky.

Auto logon first method

In Control Panel, double-click Users and Passwords. Select the visitor account. Click to clear the Users must enter a user name and password to use this computer check box.
Click the Advanced tab. Click to clear the Require users to press Ctrl-Alt-Del before logging on check box.
Shut down the computer and restart it - it should login automatically.

Auto logon second method

1. Go into the WINNT folder. Start Regedt32.exe and locate the following registry key:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \SOFTWARE \Microsoft \Windows NT \CurrentVersion \Winlogon
2. Establish your domain name, account name, and password, using the values you would normally type when logging on. You should assign the following values: DefaultDomainName, DefaultUserName, and DefaultPassword.

NOTE: The DefaultDomainName and DefaultUserName values may already exist. The DefaultPassword value may not. If it does not, create it. To do so:
1. On the Edit menu, click Add Value.
2. In the Value Name box, type DefaultPassword.
3. In the Data Type box, click REG_SZ.
4. Click OK.
5. In the String Editor box, type your password. Click OK and save your changes.

NOTE: If no DefaultPassword string is specified, Windows automatically changes the value of the AutoAdminLogon key from 1 (true) to 0 (false). This disables the AutoAdminLogon feature. This behavior also occurs if the DefaultPassword string is specified but the password is left blank or null.
3. On the Edit menu, click Add Value. Type AutoAdminLogon in the Value Name box. Click REG_SZ in the Data Type box. Enter 1 in the String box. Save your changes.
4. Quit Regedt32.exe.
5. Shut down Windows and turn off the computer.
6. Restart your computer and Windows. You should be able to log on automatically now.

Continue to show the exhibit on the screen for the whole day without showing screen savers, shutting down etc.

Log in as visitor. Right mouse click on the desktop and select properties. Change the setting for screen saver to "none". If you're using Windows 2000 change all the power saving settings to "none" or "always on".

Automatically start the exhibit and make sure that if it crashes visitors can't mess up the computer.

Create a new folder for the exhibit. Its generally a good idea to create an extra drive for the exhibit software - which helps you remember what is what. Download the "kill.exe" program and copy it to C:\WINNT folder of your exhibit computer.
Create a batch file to start the exhibit it should be called "exhibit.bat" and look something like this.

Del /f /s /q c:\temp\*.*

Kill -f explorer.exe

Start e:\exhibitFolder\exhibit.exe

Log in as visitor, create a shortcut to the exhibit.bat file and move the shortcut to the startup folder.

What this batch file does is first empty the computers temp folder to stop it filling up and crashing the computer. It then uses the kill command to kill windows explorer -which means if the exhibit crashes then you just get a blank desktop. Finally it starts the exhibit - you have to replace the bit after "start" with the path to your exhibit.

Help! How to do I get into my computer?

If you've done all this properly you should end up with an exhibit which starts up without a keyboard, logs in and starts the exhibit. If you then exit from the exhibit you end up with a blank screen. How do you get into the computer yourself?
1) Plug in a keyboard
2) Switch the computer off and then switch it back on
3) Wait for the computer to start logging in then hold down the Shift key. Eventually you'll get a login window come up. You can now log in as Administrator and make any changes. If you don't press Shift at the right time the exhibit will start. You can still log in by pressing CTRL-ALT-DELETE, then select "Logoff" and hold down shift.
4) Sometimes you'll need to make changes to the visitor account settings. To do this, first log in as Administrator. Open the "exhibit.bat" file and put the letters "rem" in front of the "kill" command and the "start" command. Save the file then logoff. The computer will then log in to the visitor account but not start the exhibit of blank the desktop. When you've finished edit the "exhibit.bat" back to how it was, save it and log off.

© Joe Cutting 2003-2005. You are welcome to use this document for your own purposes but you must retain this acknowledgment. You may not sell all or any part of this document or use it for financial gain.