Some computer labs and internet cafes have software that resets the hard drive when the computer is rebooted. This is great from a support perspective, because most problems could be solved by power cycling the PC. What technologies, architectures or methods would let me automatically reset PCs like that?

My specific situation would be with Windows clients and a Linux server but useful answers could include technology that doesn't support this specific situation, if it states why it doesn't. For example if Mircosoft doesn't support booting from an iSCSI disk, that's still a related technology that I would be interested in.

  • Hi and welcome to SuperUser. This question is unfortunately considered Off-Topic because it is both opinion based and too broad to answer. There are multiple ways to achieve these, so it is impossible to say for sure how they have done it. For example, a Virtual Machine can do exactly the same. Thin Clients also have this mechanic build in. And there's more.
    – LPChip
    Commented Jan 19, 2018 at 17:07
  • Can I reword the question to be more on topic? I'm not asking "what is the best way to X?" I'm more looking for "What technologies could enable me to do x?" I need some direction in my research since googling "Windows machines reset on reboot" is rather unhelpful. :-) Commented Jan 19, 2018 at 17:18
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    A good, reconcise wording of your question is : "Resetting Windows PCs on boot" "Some Windows computer labs have software that resets the hard drives when they're rebooted. This is great from a support perspective, because most problems could be solved by power cycling the PC. What software or method lets me automatically reset PCs like that?" Commented Jan 19, 2018 at 17:24
  • It's true that we try to avoid hardware or software recommendations here, for several reasons. In your case you've seen it and understand the capabilities, but didn't catch the name. (Answer below). Commented Jan 19, 2018 at 17:26
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    perhaps it'll be better to change the title to "How to restore Windows to a stored/saved configuration on restart/reboot?" you're looking for something similar to System Restore in Windows, but with more options, such as restoring system to the saved configuration (state) on restart. So, now you know what to ask for, edit your question, to get more answers as possible. The more details the more responses you'll have.
    – iSR5
    Commented Jan 19, 2018 at 19:35

2 Answers 2


In your case, I don't know which would be better option for you, so giving you some details before going into conclusions would be our best bet.

1. System Restore

On System Restore (Windows XP and above), it keeps a shadow clone of the files while you use the primary files, this is also known as Versioning which saves a version of the files on each modification, similar to text processing. This would gives the user a save point, which can be reverted to whenever needed.

As for my knowledge and experience in System Restore, it won't make a restore point on every single move you do, but mostly, will save points when you un/install applications, updates, drivers. But for regular files, it would be another case (read more about Shadow Copy). However, if you create a custom restore point, it'll be saved and you can revert to that point in any time you want, but it's not 100% guarantee would revert everything back to the saved state. So, there is always a chance of a restore failure.

2. Backup and Restore

Another method is to use Backup and Restore

This may be effective if you're using it on one machine or you have a Windows with VLK license that a one copy will serve all other machines. It could be a hassle if there are many different machines with different OS or licenses. But with some management plans, this would be effective as it would save a full backup with its current state (configurations) and restore it whenever you need.

3. Creating a Recovery Partition with Custom Image

You can create a custom installer image and then prepare it to fit your needs. Then, you either keep it on to go, or just create Recovery Partition on the machine, which would be useful in recovering the machine to its factory settings whenever needed. If you have multiple machines share the same settings, OS, and license, you could just do it on one drive, and clone the rest.

4. Virtual Hard Disk (VHD).

It's possible to use virtual hard disks, meaning, you could make an OS on VHD and save that file. This file can be reused as much as you can. it's similar to the actual drive, but in a virtual form.

4. Using Third-party tools

If you are into a third-party tools (as for my poor knowledge). I'm sure there are tons of tools out there, but I needed to give you something to help you survive your journey.

  1. DeepFreeze (Paid)
  2. Reboot Restore RX (Paid)
  3. ToolWiz Time Freeze (Free)

I tried to give you something to hold on, but that doesn't mean it's your solution, as I mentioned I don't know which would be better option for you, but this is just something to help you on your search, and you might figure out a better solution yourself.

  • This is very close to what I was looking for, a list of possible approaches to solving the problem. My research is turning up things like network booting, virtual machines and thin clients (all of which are related and I'm still trying to untangle them). It would be nice if your answer covered the differences or pros vs cons. Commented Jan 19, 2018 at 23:49
  • @intrepidhero as third-party tools, I only used DeepFreeze in the past and it basically makes a virtual clone of the drive and all user changes will be saved into a temporary location (virtually) then when you reboot the system, it reverts to the saved state (which is the first state that it has been configured on). The only hassle that I experienced was to configure it on each client machine. They might now have newer features that will adopt today's tech. (talking about 15 years ago)
    – iSR5
    Commented Jan 20, 2018 at 0:31
  • @intrepidhero the more information you give the more results you get. Explain your needs and the environment you're trying to apply the solution on. At least we will know what we're dealing with.
    – iSR5
    Commented Jan 20, 2018 at 0:33

One solution is "DeepFreeze" by Faronics. There are other similar products, but I've used that one in a school lab and it's great.

There are other ways to do it, like netbooting, that require more work to set up and much more knowledge on the part of the lab technician.

  • Can you elaborate on the "other ways"? Is netbooting the same as PXE, the same as iSCSI? Does DeepFreeze require a server or work solely on the client machine? I'm really curious about the technology behind some of the products I'm finding. Commented Jan 19, 2018 at 17:36
  • I haven't used them, except that I've used PXE booting in order to flash (image) workstations with a standard image, and then use them normally afterward. A quick Google search told me that PXE and Netbooting are different. I hadn't used iSCSI before, but Google tells me that Microsoft does support booting from it. Sorry I don't have deep exposure to them. Commented Jan 19, 2018 at 21:24

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