Windows XP Home isn’t always enough

Solent Youth Action has grown fast over the last couple of years – even faster than I’d hoped. And now it has meant that we are hitting a problem with one of my early decisions. 🙁

In the early days, when we were scrabbling around to get enough money to get PCs for our staff, one of the ways that I thought we could save money was to go with “Windows XP Home” – a cheaper version of Windows than the ‘Professional’ edition that you normally get on work computers. One of the restrictions on the ‘Home’ edition can be found in point 1.3 of the Home EULA:

1.3 Device Connections. You may permit a maximum of five (5) computers or other electronic devices (each a “Device”) to connect to the Workstation Computer to utilize one or more of the following services of the Software: File Services…

And this restriction is enforced in the software. If you network-share a folder, after five people have connected to it, the sixth person to try gets denied access with:

No more connections can be made to this remote computer at this time because there are already as many connections as the computer can accept.

When we started, as a project of Eastleigh Community Services, our PCs connected to their internal network and we used their file servers for storage. After we became independent, one of the transitions was to disconnect from their network, and maintain our own private network. At the moment, we’re using an external hard-drive connected to one workstation and shared as a network-drive. And now we have recruited our seventh member of staff.

So, we’re starting to bump into this restriction.

In the short-term, we’re using the advice in this Microsoft support article – essentially each workstation accessing the shared drive automatically disconnects after a couple of minutes, freeing up one of the 5 available connections for someone else to use. This will hopefully make life a little easier.

Next, I’m going to try ordering a copy of Windows XP Professional from the Charity Technology Exchange. I only heard of them for the first time very recently, but if our registration is successful, they offer Win XP Professional for £4! And we only need one copy – for the PC which is hosting the shared filespace.

Longer-term, we need to consider a better approach to file-sharing. One that will grow with us over the next few years. In hindsight, the saving in getting WinXP Home initially wasn’t the best move, but we’re a very different organisation today to the pilot project we were back then. So time to admit I was wrong, and review our options again!

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