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What I want is to prevent new changes to be written to hard disk. Is there a program that will allow this in Windows? I want to use normally the PC but when shutting down I don't want to save changes or alter any files.

I remember very well that such programs exist(or at least existed), but can't remember what they are called. I remember we had one of those programs on my schools PC's so that students wouldn't make any permanent changes.

The correct terminology to what I want to achieve is to make the disk write-protected. But of course in a loose manner because while working I want to be able to create a file or something but I don't want it to be stored permanently, so when I reboot I want that file gone.

I found the following program: Windows Steady State http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?familyid=d077a52d-93e9-4b02-bd95-9d770ccdb431&displaylang=en which probably would do the job but I'll have to try it and see.

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2  
This sounds like a Very Bad Idea. –  Matt Ball Jan 25 '11 at 18:39
    
To be honest, the only way to practically implement this 'properly', I think, would be to write a filter driver. It has probably been done, not too sure. Hardly think configuring permissions could achieve this, however. –  Mr. Disappointment Jan 25 '11 at 18:40
    
Why? I know that programs for doing so exist but I don't remember what they are called –  Anonymous Jan 25 '11 at 18:40
    
Wouldn't just disconnecting power (instead of shutting windows down) serve the exact same purpose - and be much faster? Or are you thinking of preventing access to some files only? –  Patrick Echterbruch Jan 25 '11 at 18:43
    
What are you trying to achieve, aside from the obvious question? –  George Jan 25 '11 at 18:43

6 Answers 6

I've heard many organizations like schools/libraries use Deep Freeze to restore the machine after each user. I've never used it myself but I have done a disk CLONE using dd and restored that successfully.

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For Windows XP, yes Windows Steady State would be the choice. For Vista/Win 7, there is also Acronis - I believe it has a feature that allows you to set a point, do something and then restore back.

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There's PC cards which allow this. The cards look like this:

enter image description here

They are accompanied with software and work under Vista/7. I know where to get them in Germany, but I don't know how they're called elsewhere. Maybe you want to go this far?

The PC cards, though, only delete all changes done! They do not prevent.

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In VMware there is an option to lock the virtual machine and discard changes. I am also presently looking to see if it can be done easily in a Windows virtual machine under Windows 7's XP mode (a virtual XP machine within Windows 7).

The key for your data that you modify would be to save it externally – either to a separate disk, cloud based services, a NAS etc.

Once you exit your virtual machine, any changes to the operating system are discarded.

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Windows XP Embedded has such a tool.

For security and operational reasons, it might be undesirable to write to storage media in Windows Embedded devices. By redirecting all write requests to either a separate disk partition or RAM, a write filter allows the run-time image to maintain the appearance of a writable run-time image without committing the changes to the storage media.

Starting with Feature Pack 2007 for Windows XP Embedded Service Pack 2, the following write filters are available:

  • File-Based Write Filter, which operates at the file level

  • Enhanced Write Filter, which operates at the sector level

So do some/many/most virtual machine supervisors.

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Link-only answers are frowned up. You should quote the relevant parts in case the page disappears or changes. –  Synetech Jul 22 '12 at 1:58

Create a VM that resets back upon shutdown. I would do it this way.

Wipe your computer (after backing up) and install a stable OS (Fedora, Debian, Ubuntu.. aka Linux, keep it very light if you do not intend to use it for much of anything). Create a Windows VM using your recovery/installation disks and put all of your data back on the VM system.

The simple way to move forward is to do the following. Once your VM system is setup the way you like it. Copy the whole image to a different location and rename it '.ext.original'. This will allow you to just copy this image BACK overwriting the VM image that was just used and in effect, not saving anything to disk.

This would be very stable and contrary to popular belief, really fast as you can make the linux 'host' OS very small and stable.

Of course, if you do not want to go the linux Host OS route, you can always install VMware player and accomplish the same thing but it will slow down the VM system more than if it was on windows (statement from personal narrow experience... so take from it what you will)

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