Microsoft's SteadyState offered admins the ability to revert systems to a previously stored state every time it rebooted. SteadyState worked with Windows Disk Protection (WDP) to ensure any changes made to the Windows 7 OS would be redirected to an alternate, temporary cache. It was a (free) lifesaver for schools, libraries, and kiosk machine admins who needed to refresh the environment daily or even hourly with each new period. It was also great for Web cafés and such. But it was discontinued in December 2010 and fell out of support on July 1, 2011.
Returning a system to square one or to a selected frozen state with installed applications and such is a great way to eliminate worry about viruses, spyware, and other malware issues. It also comes in handy for eliminating applications installed without permission or cleaning out files that were downloaded or added to the system via USB stick.
[ Want to run Windows 8 on your PC (or virtual machine on your Pc or Mac)? J. Peter Bruzzese has a video that explains how to install Windows 8, as well as a video tour of Windows 8's key features. | Stay abreast of key Microsoft technologies with our Technology: Microsoft newsletter. ]
There are alternatives from third parties, of course, but it's hard for schools, libraries, and others in these tough times to buy a tool to replace what used to be free. Alternatives include Deep Freeze, Time Freeze, and Returnil, each of which costs about $40 per system.
In light of these developments, Mark Minasi, a noted technical speaker and journalist, has gone through the painstaking process of putting together the files you need -- for free -- to create a new boot option on your systems, called Roll Back Windows, when booting. After you select the option during a reboot, you can walk away for a few minutes and return to the system you originally saved as a snapshot. You can roll back all changes that have taken place on the system since the last snapshot was applied. It's a generous gift indeed for us IT admins who do this daily.