I need some help here. I have "heard" of something like this but don't know how to really "Google" it. haha.

Basically, we have computers that the public has access to use unsupervised. And of course, people don't know how to use them correctly, logically or with respect. SO, it would be awesome to be able to set these computers to automatically restore maybe once a week, erasing EVERYTHING the user has done and bringing it back to a point of healthyness every week.

Any thoughts? We are talking windows xp here.... yea... I know...

  • There used to be a product called Rembo, but a quick google search seems to indicate it's been absorbed into an IBM product. They offered a product for internet cafe environments that essentially used PXE to boot an environment that restored the system to a known state by a combination of cached images on a hidden partition, and rsync-like behavior. Basically, it made sure the images were ok first, synced with the master if need be, then it used the cache copy of the image to restore the actual system partition to known good state, usually in under a minute. – Stephanie Jul 14 '11 at 3:39
  • serverfault.com/questions/95482/… is also very similar in nature. – Stephanie Jul 14 '11 at 3:43

I use Windows SteadyState for this purpose. You can lock it down and/or set it so go back to a given state after reboot/logoff. A great way to keep public machines running and virus free.


Have you looked at DeepFreeze? It can be set to restart on its own, and restore its state on each boot. You also get the option to run maintenance like Windows Updates with no user interaction (keyboard and mouse is disabled). You can also manually install software when needed, and even password protect DeepFreeze to prevent unauthorized changes.


Have you considered using XP's guest account feature?

Setting up a Windows XP Guest Account


System Restore... um, doesn't work like that. On a number of levels.

Let me give you the super-short version before I propose a better solution.

  1. System Restore for the most part leaves files alone, so if your users fill up the machine with bookmarks and downloaded files this won't help.
  2. System Restore only fixes changes made to the registry, to system files, and changes made through the system installer interface (a lot of programs work this way, but not all.) Though it can often repair malware, especially malware that relies on the registry to load itself, it won't fix everything.
  3. It won't stop your users from doing anything nasty if they're explicitly trying to do so.

The reason Google is being unhelpful is because this is a solution which Does Not Work(TM).

Now, as for repairing the problem entirely, you want to look into Policy Manager. This lets you enforce all kinds of crazy stuff on user accounts, from running unsigned executables to setting bookmarks to setting files to even right-clicking, anywhere, for any reason. You can even deny access to the filesystem if you're feeling saucy. You can even administrate these policies on a LAN-wide basis, so you won't need to make changes to each machine manually.

The downside is that as far as I know, Policy Manager is only available on XP Professional. If your machines are running XP Home, well, you need not to be running XP Home.

Alternatively, you could put Ubuntu on the machines. Very fine-grained permissions control is possible, and the inherent resistance to malware is a nice bonus. It'd work swimmingly for something like a library machine, and might even work for a more specialized purpose - a lot of Windows software can be run in Ubuntu trivially easily now thanks to the WINE project.


I use VMWare workstation for similar purposes, but in my case I am rolling back to a clean install when I want to test software. VMWare workstation will let you take a snapshot and then rollback when needed.


I would look into http://www.acronis.com/

It's typically used for backing up and restoring from disasters, but could be used to back up each computer to an external hard drive or hidden partition. Once a week you can revert back to this image.

Have you thought about making something like a Windows XP LiveCD? It's a similar concept to a Linux LiveCD. Set up the XP box how you want with everything and then once you reboot, it's taken back to it's original LiveCD settings.

Have you thought about just stripping the hard drive out and using a linux livecd? Ones like Ubuntu are very good now a days and pretty easy to use.

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