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Question: A Nuclear Option to System Security


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#1 justnukeit

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Posted 15 August 2015 - 05:26 AM

OS: Windows Vista
Type: Desktop PC
 
Hello,
 
Every year or so I come to the realization that my computer has become clogged with too much junk - viruses, bits of uninstalled programs, etc. Normally I would perform a System Restore, and reset the computer back to its Factory Default. However, this time I would like to find out if there is a better alternative.
 
I have been looking into software such as 'Deep Freeze' and 'Windows SteadyState'. These programs apparently roll back any and all changes made to a computer during a session after every restart, thereby protecting the system. From what I understand, this makes the computer almost impervious to viruses, and should also prevent the "clutter" that is left behind by programs which can't uninstall themselves properly.
 
What does everyone think? Does such software actually function as I believe it does? Is it the best alternative, or is there something even better? I have also heard of Sandbox and Virtualization software as solutions to this problem.  Does anyone have any recommendations as to what software, specifically, to download and use? Microsoft SteadyState has apparently been discontinued, so I will likely need to find alternatives from 3rd parties - preferably free alternatives.
 
I know such software is usually reserved for public computers such as those at a library, however I am tired of dealing with these annoyances; I want a nuclear option. What I'd really like to do is Factory Restore this computer, download a few key programs (Anti-Virus, Web Browser, MS Office, a few games) and then 'freeze' the computer in that exact state. If I ever wanted to add new software to the 'frozen' state, I could just restart the computer (refreshing it), install the software, and then re-freeze it. Preferably such a program program would also allow me to save certain types of files (such as Word / Excel / picture documents) if I specified I wanted them frozen as well.
 
My goal is to be impervious to viruses, clutter, and any other random crap that usually gunks up computers. I realize this type of program has its drawbacks and inconveniences, but I am a nuclear option kind of person. I love the smell of ashes.
 
Thank you in advance!

Edited by justnukeit, 15 August 2015 - 07:08 AM.


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#2 Sintharius

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Posted 15 August 2015 - 06:25 AM

There is Rollback Rx, which is a program that creates snapshots you can roll back to in the event of infections, corruption etc. The version for home users is free.

#3 1PW

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Posted 15 August 2015 - 06:38 AM

Hello justnukeit:

Another direction is disk imaging/cloning. The foremost freeware product is still Steven Shiau's Clonezilla Live.


Edited by 1PW, 15 August 2015 - 07:09 AM.

All viruses are malware but not all malware are viruses and if the malware doesn't self replicate it just isn't a virus.


#4 justnukeit

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Posted 15 August 2015 - 06:30 PM

Thread Starter here,

 

Thanks all for replies!

 

@Alexstrasza: Rollback Rx looks quite promising, although I noticed the same company also offers program called Reboot Restore Rx, which seems like it may be a little closer to the 'nuclear option' I am looking for?

 

I have tried a 'snapshot' program in the past, only to realize it required too much babysitting to function effectively. Basically, I had to manually create snapshots - each one taking ~20 minutes.

 

Even if the snapshots were instantaneous and automatic, I still worry that such a solution has too much potential for human error (forgetting which snapshot was prior to a bad installation, etc). I would prefer a "Fire and Forget" solution - something which will work regardless of how bad my memory is, or how many stupid programs I install. Basically, I'd like a program which works 100% of the time, regardless of any input from me, whatsoever.

 

Basically I dislike that, by default, computers save practically any change we, a virus, or a program make to them over the course of a session. I would like to reverse this default; I'd like the computer to revert any changes made to itself during a session after every reboot. I want the computer to actively protect itself from my stupidity, rather than me having to police myself all the time. If I want to install a new program, I would rather reboot the computer, install the program, and re-freeze it.

 

@1PW I believe the program I used in the past was a 'disk imaging/cloning/snapshot' program - it would "take a picture" of the current state, and was able to revert back to that 'image'. I thought disk cloning and snapshots were the same thing? I don't remember what it was called, but I do know it required so much user input that I eventually stopped using it.

 

The situation I ran into a lot when I used it was, for example:

 

I'd download a program off the internet, install it, and then realize it didn't do what I thought it did. I'd then pray I remembered to take a snapshot/clone of the computer before installing the program. Usually I had forgotten =(

 

Sometimes it took a long time to realize a program I installed was not what I hoped for, so I then had to remember which snapshot was taken before the program was installed.


Edited by justnukeit, 15 August 2015 - 06:33 PM.


#5 1PW

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Posted 15 August 2015 - 10:40 PM

Hello justnukeit:

 

One of many possible solutions for the thorough removal of applications is to allow Revo Uninstaller Pro 3.1.4 to actively monitor the initial installation. The installation logs will assist in an ultimate removal that exceeds that of an under-performing Windows uninstall. However, few uninstalls match the performance of a well maintained, purpose built, uninstaller/removal tool.

 

e.g. The last time I checked, Skype was making well over 5,000 changes to the Windows registry hive and added about 300 files/directories to the typical C: partition. A thorough automated process that logs the install process can only be surpassed by a good backup/image/clone.

 

HTH


All viruses are malware but not all malware are viruses and if the malware doesn't self replicate it just isn't a virus.


#6 SmokeViper07

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Posted 16 August 2015 - 03:45 PM

Another option, if you don't want to go so extreme and continue with what your familiar with, you could create a slip-streamed OS disc. Basically it works the same way as a normal install disc when you reformat your system, however, you can plug into it to have all updates and software you typically use installed all at the same time as your operating system. I don't recall the name of the software to make these discs off-hand but if you google "Slip-stream Windows 7" and etc. you should find it easily.

 

Just a thought.



#7 DatAngryNerd

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Posted 21 August 2015 - 04:24 PM

I tried a few of these programs in the past. Deep freeze is decent, although updating windows and programs can be a pain. Reboot restore rx is good but it's very bare bones. I think you should give Rollback rx home a try. I use that on myself and my girlfriends computer because you can go back to that point months in the past if you need/want to. Programs like Reboot restore, Deep freeze, and Steady state are essentially going to wipe your computer everytime and you could lose some data accidentaly.



#8 justnukeit

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Posted 23 August 2015 - 06:49 PM

Thread Starter here,

 

Thank you everyone for all the ideas! I have been looking into them. Luckily it seems I have fixed the issue which caused me to want to restore my computer in the first place, although I am still going to go ahead and do a system restore in the near future anyhow. It's just such a pain to figure out what does/does not need to be backed up before the nuke hits.

 

@DatAngryNerd: The trouble I've had with the programs which take snapshots and 'rollback' to them is that I end up completely forgetting what snapshot is the best one to choose. I usually only realize my computer has an error days / weeks / months after the error initially occurred - and it is often difficult to know from how long ago the problem originates.

 

The main thing that concerns me regarding Reboot Restoration software is that I may lose simple data such as Word / Excel files I create and forget to "freeze". I don't think I would mind rebooting my computer in order to perform updates, and then re-freezing it... but it would be kind of annoying to have to "freeze" such simple things as text files.

 

Library computers often allow 'accounts' to be made, don't they? For example, the user logs in to their account where certain types of files can be permanently saved (such as Word / Excel files). However, any software the user installed would be wiped. Does anyone know of some freeware software such as what libraries use?






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