Restore Software for Personal Computer
Devices are often vulnerable to undesirable system configuration changes due to the constant exchange of files over the internet. Public access computers are particularly prone to disruptive changes since they are accessed by a number of users every day. For instance, a computer in a library is accessed by several users on a daily basis. These end users install add-ons, change settings, download files, and perform a range of other activities. System administrators, therefore, face the challenge of protecting the devices while imposing least restriction on usage of the workstations.
A simple solution to resolve such issues is system restoration, which rolls back the system configuration to a state when it was not affected by undesirable system changes. Performing restoration on a multitude of devices several times a day is a tedious task and also demands a dedicated IT team. Instant recovery software, such as Windows SteadyState is a viable solution in this case. These instant recovery solutions allow users to restore the desired point of configuration with just the push of a button. As systems are rolled back to a desired baseline configuration with every reboot, the scope for disruptions due to changes made by end-users is drastically reduced. Such continuous data protection software is available for both personal and commercial use.
What is Windows SteadyState?
Windows SteadyState was a free utility tool which Microsoft offered with Windows XP and Vista. The program had features to specifically address issues that IT administrators face pertaining to public access computers. It restored the system configuration back to the desired point after every restart. The changes to the computers by end-users could thus be eliminated, and the systems could be rolled back to the state preserved by the admin. This ensured desired protection for workstations while allowing end-users to have full access to them. It also reduced the workload of the IT teams managing public workstations.
Windows SteadyState performed restoration by caching the Windows system partition into its Windows Disk Protection (WDP) component. On a restart, the system booted from the cache and restored the saved configuration. The program lets administrators specify whether Windows Updates should be automatically enabled or not. Enabling this option ensures that necessary system software and firewall updates are not removed after rebooting. Windows SteadyState also allowed setting separate restrictions for each device. The state to which a specific device rolled back depended upon the security and configuration options locked down for that particular device. Similarly, the user account manager section of the software allowed specifying separate security and configuration restrictions for separate users as well.
Windows SteadyState was discontinued by Microsoft in 2010. The organizations that used the restoration software have switched to third-party solutions to meet their requirement. There are a number of restoration software available in the market today for the security of public access workstations.
List of Restoration Software
ToolWiz Time Freeze
ToolWiz Time Freeze is a restoration software which is available as a freeware. Its features are available for personal as well as commercial use. It has an intuitive setup and is easy to deploy. It is based on the ‘restore on reboot’ method of restoration. The software prompts users to configure the settings at the time of deployment. It uses a single cache file to save the changes made to the system. The cache file is stored in the C Drive, and its size can be increased depending upon the requirement. Users have the option to enable “Time Freeze automatically when Windows starts” as well as “folder exclusion when Time Freeze is on.” Folders specified under the latter option are not affected even if the software is switched on. ToolWiz Time Freeze has enlisted features, such as password protection, which enhances system security. All software installed, files downloaded, and settings changes made by an end user during a session are discarded as the device is restarted. The next end-user does not face any issue due to changes made by other users.
AOMEI OneKey Recovery
AOMEI OneKey Recovery is an instant recovery software and is slightly different from most of the restoration solutions available in the market. It makes a full backup of the system partition, to begin with, and then restores the entire storage drive when the device is rebooted. After the installation of OneKey, users need to create a backup using the software. It allows an old backup to be replaced with a newly created backup. The control panel of OneKey can be accessed by pressing A key or F11 during bootup. This software functions in conjunction with Deployment Tools of Windows AIK/ADK, which needs to be installed as well. Once the software and the mentioned deployment tools are installed, users can revert the system configuration with a couple of clicks during bootup.
Faronics Deep Freeze
Faronics Deep Freeze is a reboot to restore software for public access computers. It restores the device to a predefined configuration on every reboot. Leveraging patented technology, the software functions by redirecting changes made by end users to an allocated table. The system configuration at the time of its deployment, therefore, remains intact. When the device is restarted, the information saved on the allocation table is not referenced, and the saved configuration is restored. In libraries, schools, hotels and other places with public access computers, the IT administrators can revert the computers to its pristine state with just a reboot.
Deep Freeze allows users to retain changes by entering thaw mode in which the software gets temporarily disabled and allow changes to persist. Users may want to install specific driver software or download files that will be required later. Disabling Deep Freeze prior to such changes allows the changes to be retained. When the software is activated again, it creates a fresh baseline with the current configuration. Hence, the changes that were made after disabling Deep Freeze persists even after a reboot, while the changes made after the software was enabled again are discarded.
Deep Freeze is compatible with both Windows and macOS. Its enterprise version allows multiple workstations to be controlled from a single admin console. The software also leverages cloud capability to eliminate geographical constraints.
Maintaining industry standards in performance and security of computing devices is undeniably a daunting task today. With an increasing number of public places having workstations for their customers’ convenience, the complexity of the task continues to heighten. Reboot to restore capabilities of the software listed above is presently the most effective and efficient way to ensure security and maintenance of public access systems. These solutions considerably reduce the burden on the IT teams and provide end users with least restrictive access to workstations.
Reboot to Restore technology mitigates unwarranted configuration changes and resolves IT issues with a simple yet effective reboot.