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A couple of days ago my mother asked me to set up a computer at her house, she wants to use it to basic web browsing, video chat and nothing more.

The problem is, neither my mother nor my sister know anything about using or maintaining a computer.

What I want is to have a working base install of windows 7 and just discard everything installed, downloaded, ... when it reboots. That way I can set up a partition just for saving files and whatever they do the computer will always return to a working state at start up.

can that be done?

PS: Sadly linux is not an option since my sister wants to be able to play some games with my steam account and not all of them run with wine.

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You can use Deep Freeze to get that functionality. It restores the system to a prior state on reboot, but leaves folders you specify unmodified. You could also try out Windows SteadyState, a free alternative, but it doesn't list 7 as a supported operating system. Often programs that will work with Vista will work with 7, though, so unless Microsoft have intentionally crippled it I suspect it may work. Otherwise, you might want to consider something like Comodo Time Machine, which can restore your data entirely back to an earlier state.

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Seems interesting, but since I only want to use it in a home pc I would prefer a free alternative. Either way If no other option comes around I'll consider it. – Artanis Dec 25 '10 at 7:30
Well, the only other ones I know of are Lethe ( ) and Windows SteadyState (… ), but the former only supports Linux, and the latter only supports XP/Vista. It may work with 7, but support has been discontinued and it doesn't list 7 as a supported OS. Otherwise, you could use something like Comodo Time Machine ( ), but it's not exactly what you're asking for (might work in your case though). – Matthieu Cartier Dec 25 '10 at 7:35

There's also Returnil - it's "Virtual Mode" does exactly what you're asking for: no changes allowed. After a reboot, the partition is returned to the same state it was in when activated.

There's currently a 1-year giveaway promotion going on now.

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Returnil is pretty limited -- especially in that it can only protect the system partition, which is obviously not ideal in a lot of circumstances. – Matthieu Cartier Dec 25 '10 at 7:49
I believe non-system partitions can also be included in the protection as described here. – Sparx Dec 26 '10 at 5:29

Horizon Data Systems Rollback Rx (on sale now, by chance) will automatically take a snapshot every day, boot or whatever. You can return the computer to the previous state or any prior state. I have used it for years. As it adds itself to the boot sequence it does not depend on any operating system to work. Not free though...

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