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How can I make my mom’s Windows PC bullet-proof?

Oh man I don't know what to do anymore. She just called, managed to break her computer again - and as a bonus, her daughters laptop too. Now I gonna have a fun Friday evening backup up their pictures, reformatting the hard drives, installing windows and setting up their software - yet again.

I'm sure this might sound oddly familiar to some of you.

Usually that happens every 2-3 month and when I come to fix it the computer is:

  • Slow as heck
  • Sometimes not even booting
  • Full of Malware & Viruses
  • Only rescuable by reinstalling the OS

Last time I switched them from XP to Win7, installed Anti-Virus and Anti-Malware software, enabled automatic updates installation in the background, even tweaked the Firewall on their router. Got them Firefox and deleted the IE Link from the Startmenu. I thought it would last.. oh so wrong I was.

Now this time I want at least 6 month of peace, I gladly incorporate any little tip or tweak, let me hear your suggestions!

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Administrator or regular user account? –  andol Jul 13 '10 at 20:01
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Start using Ghost or another imaging program. Oh, and this belongs on SuperUser ... –  Adrien Jul 13 '10 at 20:11
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Duplicate: superuser.com/questions/14424/… –  Hello71 Jul 13 '10 at 20:56
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migrated from serverfault.com Jul 13 '10 at 20:28

This question came from our site for professional system and network administrators.

marked as duplicate by Gnoupi Jul 13 '10 at 21:02

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4 Answers

I definitly recommend this software. We were using it for school and other places. If you don't know the admin password, you won't have to reimage anymore!

The way it works is quite simple... It puts a "layer" of the way you setup the machine over the windows kernel. You sister can install whatever she wants, as soon as the computer restart, a brand new layer comes on. Of course, you can disable deepfreeze while she installs a new software so it won't be gone when she restart.

Take a look at this, this is, for me, the best software you can have!

DeepFreeze

Driven by a desire to deliver a trouble-free computing experience, Faronics is focused on solving real world computing problems that threaten user productivity, system integrity, and organizational efficiency.

Reducing downtime, fostering productivity, and saving organizations money — Faronics makes it happen.

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I have used this for public access computers and it was a great help. Took some tweaking but was rock solid once running the way you want. –  Dave M Jul 13 '10 at 20:51
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There is not a whole lot you can to to prevent users from making bad choices. There are products that defend against this kind of abuse, we use them regularly in our Computer Labs here at my University. That isn't a valid thing for an end-user workstation that expects some persistence in their settings and the ability to install whatever the heck software they want to install.

Sometimes, you just have to make your life easier when it comes time to rebuild that puppy.

  • Invest in an external drive.
  • Invest in imaging software, Ghost and the like. There are some free options, but aren't as easy to use.
  • When it comes time to rebuild that computer, take an image of it before you give it back to them.
  • When it comes time to rebuild it AGAIN, get their data off, and flash the image you took the last time back onto it. Take this opportunity to update all the various software levels, patches, settings, and what not.
  • Re-image it back to the external drive.
  • Put their data back on.
  • Give it back.

It'll save you the hassle of having to reinstall the OS and a bunch of applications. You'll still have to do the data moves, that won't change. But it'll at least make your life a bit easier.

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I would take some ideas from sysadmin1138, and do other things to make your life easier when re-imaging the hard drive:

  • After backuping, format and create 2 partitions: one for the SO install and another one for user data.
  • Install Win 7, programs, whatever on the SO partition.
  • Change the User Profile folder to the other partition.

When you need to re-image the SO partition, you can keep the other partition intact, and remap the user folder again.

I'm assuming your sister will mostly user the Win7 user profile folder to keep her personal files.

DISCLAIMER: I've never done that, just giving you ideas! :D

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The simple act of redirecting 'My Documents' to another partition should greatly simplify the data-migration problem! –  SysAdmin1138 Jul 13 '10 at 21:02
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One more thing you could do is to set up non admin accounts for them to use on a day to day basis. This should prevent them installing a lot of dodgy applications, but the downside is that if they do want to install anything you'll need to do it.

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