Friday, December 19, 2008

SteadyState

Many people I've talked to lately have either had some kind of spyware infestation, the notoriously scamacious Antivirus 2009 (or 2008), or just something that the kids did weird that messed up their computer.

In looking around for something to help keep computers under control, I found Windows SteadyState, which is a free program put out by Microsoft for locking down Microsoft Windows. As much as I dislike some of Microsoft's business practices and their frequent security problems (stop laughing Mac fans - the Mac OS has been bitten by malware as much as Windows has lately), this is a program that appears to have what it takes to really lock down a computer. It won't help in cleaning one up after the fact but in keeping it from getting messed up in the first place.

I used it to create an account for the kids. The account is locked down so no programs can run except Internet Explorer. Then IE is locked down so it is more limited than normal. You can set it up with a whitelist or only specific sites that can be visited, but I didn't turn that feature on.

If something strange does get installed even with the limited version of IE that is running, when you log out of the account, all changes made to the computer are automatically removed. Pretty cool. You can unlock the account so you can make changes and then just lock it back up.

I'm still playing with it, so I don't have a full review for it yet, but I recommend trying it out.

If you don't want to totally lock down your computer to just a small list of websites but still want good protection, I recommend K9 Web Protection from Blue Coat Systems. It's free for personal use. It lets you pick from a huge list of categories of sites that you can block and logs all sites that are visited.

And if you do happen to get the Antivirus 2009 trojan installed on your computer, I've found System Restore, which is automatically enabled in both Windows XP and Vista, to be the easiest option to remove it.

3 comments:

Melissa Megan said...

Hey Rob, Sorry for replying late here. I know, its too much old post now. There are many alternative restoring software for steadystate are now available. I would like to ask you about using restoring software like Deep Freeze as an alternative to Windows steadystate or is there any simple way to use Steadystate for Windows 8.

robmba said...

Hi Melissa. SteadyState is dead. If you've got an older OS with it already installed, you can probably keep using it, but here's an article from Microsoft discussing its demise. There's another one here discussing various tools that can be pieced together to replicate SteadyState functionality in Windows 7. Of course, if you're in Windows 8, I have no idea how well those same tools would translate over.

That said, I have used DeepFreeze quite a bit. I have not used it with Windows 8, but I have used it on older versions of Windows, and it worked great. It's available for Mac and Linux as well. Basically, you reboot your computer in Thaw mode by using a hot key and entering your password, and then anything you change on the computer will be changed when you reboot. If it is Frozen when it boots, everything you do will be lost. You can choose certain drives in DeepFreeze to not be frozen, and then you'd store your documents in that location, thus allowing your system and software to be unchanged but still store your data. It might be tricky to set up, but then you could use DropBox in conjunction with DeepFreeze to backup your data files automatically. If you're managing a whole lab, the Enterprise version of DeepFreeze allows you to manage the whole lab from one place, which is nice. It also can automatically thaw itself and check for updates at a time you specify, and refreeze itself. The thing I like best about DeepFreeze is that it allows the user full rights to do anything they want on the computer, install new software, delete things, change the desktop, do whatever they want, and once it reboots, it's back in pristine shape. So I guess the only thing that wouldn't work is software that requires a reboot to fully install.

Melissa Megan said...

Hey Rob, Thanks for helping me out. I have also read good reviews about Deep Freeze. It is a good product by Faronics. I'm going to use it now on my windows 8. Thanks again.