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Is there a way to make Windows 7 boot from a read-only disk?

I want to have a system, that no Windows Update, no other Software will change. After a reboot everything should be recovered.

If there is not such an option, is there an option, that every reboot writes an image to the primary disk and boot it?

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The second option is doable using a PXE Boot infrastructure, and that's usually how people get it done. –  Kwaio Aug 30 '13 at 13:24

3 Answers 3

up vote 1 down vote accepted

When I was in college for Computer Science, I remember the computers in the tech labs were installed with Deep Freeze, which holds the initial image of the Windows install (I believe in a hidden partition?), and erases all changes and restores it every reboot.

While it wasn't exactly a "read-only" system, nothing you did was saved on the drive after the reboot. Even if you screwed Windows over royally, all changes were undone.

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Comment from @JacobRabinsun (not enough rep to comment at the time): "I, however, think that Deep Freeze, does different things to "freeze" a machine. Like it reverts back some settings, compares others with some initial settings, and possibly removes the files that weren't previously on the machine, and I am thinking does some other stuff virtually (it doesn't let them actually happen). But if you want your machine to be in the same state everytime you turn on your machine, install Deep Freeze. And don't worry, cause you could uninstall it or change its settings any time you want." –  Moses Aug 30 '13 at 14:57

You can do this if you build the Windows 7 box in VMware, there is an option to set the disk so any changes are temporary - it reverts on reboot.

Alternatively you can use WinPE for a read only (but limited) Windows system.

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If you are a home user, you could try Returnil for free. It works slightly differently, in that you have to turn it on by hand, but when you do, it will discard all changes until you reboot. The main advantage here is that it is super easy to set up, no complicated configuration needed.

VMs are also a good choice (I like VirtualBox), but the other answers have already covered them some detail.

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