| By Fred Langa |
If you want or need free ways to make Windows reset itself to pristine condition after each use, here are two approaches.
With Microsoft’s SteadyState application or a virtual PC snapshot, Windows can start each session completely fresh, perfectly set up, and with no record of any previous activity or changes.
Make a clean ‘copy’ of Windows in seconds
Reader Nancy Todd wants to set up several PCs to revert to a known-good state after each use.
- “I have a couple of unused machines with XP on them. I would like to be able to use them for one-time use and then during shutdown erase anything that was entered during use, like the PCs I see at the library or in secured networked workstations. Is there a way for a home user to do this on a single machine?”
You can grab a copy of SteadyState from Microsoft’s Shared Access download page. Read more about SteadyState in Window Secret’s April 8 Top Story.
But there’s a much more environmentally friendly way to do this, if your aim is to build a self-healing setup just for yourself or other private use. Instead of running SteadyState on a separate, standalone and dedicated PC, just fire up a virtual PC inside the machine you use every day.
A virtual PC is a hardware system that’s fully emulated by software and run as an application inside Windows. Inside the virtual PC, you can install and run the OS of your choice, along with other software; you can go online and do just about everything you can do on a real PC.
I use Oracle’s free VirtualBox all the time. To write this column, I’m constantly testing techniques and apps — and sometimes things go badly. So rather than risk my daily-use production system (or wastefully running a bank of separate, standalone test machines), I’ve set up a number of virtual PCs (VPCs) in my machine for testing.
Creating a VPC can take time. It requires a full setup, same as with a real system. But VirtualBox has a handy feature called snapshots — fully functional clones of the virtual system. Setting up one or more snapshots takes only seconds. You can then use the snapshot like a fully functional PC — except that when you’re done, you can simply delete the snapshot along with whatever happened inside it. The original VPC and my production system remain unaffected, ready for another test.
For more information on VirtualBox, check out its online documentation.
Running defragmentation alongside other apps
Andy Conde is cautious about his defrags — and rightly so.
- “I have an Intel Quad core CPU I720 in my laptop, with 6GB of RAM, running Win7 64-bit.