This is really, really handy. It's quite frankly beyond cool on at least 13 different levels.
There's a free (for personal use) app called Returnil
that will allow you to perform any hazardous act in Windows without actually doing it. This is accomplished by setting up a virtual mirror of your system in memory. This sounds like it would really drag down performance on even the most robust machine, but they somehow (I'm not exactly sure how) have overcome this. Minimum requirements are as follows:Operating System: Microsoft® Windows® XP/ 2003 Server/ Vista 32-bit
Processor by OS:
XP: 300 MHz
2003 Server: 750 MHz
Vista: 800 MHz
Memory by OS:
XP: 128 MB
2003 Server: 128 MB
Vista: 512 MB Hard Disk: 25 MB free HDD space (minimal configuration)Here's how it works: you start up the program and turn the protection on. That's it. The protection cannot be turned off except by rebooting. This means that even if you wanted to turn it off while you open that e-mail attachment from Nigeria, you couldn't (without rebooting).
I tested this rather extensively on (ironically) a virtual machine. I screwed with the virtual OS's registry, deleted critical files, exposed myself(
) to a rather nasty virus sample that I happen to possess, et al ad nauseum
. It was kind of weird attempting to wreck a system after spending years of my life preventing/cleaning up after such mayhem. I tried, I really tried, to sneak past the protective layer. No success. After getting to a point where I couldn't do any more damage (because the damage was too great already to interact with the system) I pulled the plug and rebooted. Windows came back to life unphased and undamaged.
There are some caveats and possible gotchas, though. For one, it only protects the volume on which Windows is installed. If you only have one volume/drive, then that's ok but those of us with complex partition set ups should take heed of that.
Second, the protection afforded to the boot partition is absolute; if you save a file to it with the protection on, it will not be there after the reboot. Period. The program provides for this by allowing you to create and mount a virtual drive wherein you can save things.
Definitely check it out!