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My brother helps to maintain PCs for classes in children's public libraries in a pure/developed country.

The PCs are mostly low memory/CPU capable running Windows XP or later. There are nearly 10 classes in town with 5-15 seats each.

The usual problem he faces is:

  • users save files so permanent storage becomes full and requires manual deletion
  • users save personal files and forget to delete them
  • users browse sites, load other programs and forget to delete cookies / passwords / authentication data
  • users exceed time spent on in a sitting - fair use assumes no longer than 1 hour for 1 seat
  • users install 3rd party software, adware, malware, viruses which occupy space and make the PC dangerous for later visitors

I am looking for Windows management software which is able to:

  • prevent or limit installation of 3rd-party software and exceeding disk space
  • clean all user data (files and authentication data) after logout
  • track user logon time and block them after they exceed their limit
  • allow remote administration and statistic gathering

It should be free or freeware for many seats (with supplied 80-100$/m salary per public library worker by the government, it is not possible to think about buying licensed software)

To fight viruses it is possible to use high quality freeware Avast antivirus.

To perform remote administration it is possible to use the freeware TeamViewer.

But I don't know any solution for cleaning the PC seat after log-out, and for monitoring and preventing users from performing dangerous operations (like disk formatting, hijacking system files, etc.)

  • "exceeding disk space" is not physically possible, do you mean some kind of quota or preserving a safe margin for the system? – Nicolas Raoul Dec 16 '15 at 15:44
2

This might be too heavy handed for the library setting, but perhaps not based on the issues you described. Windows XP can be put into "Kiosk Mode" which basically allows users access to full screen Internet Explorer and nothing else.

Here is the Microsoft Support article on Kiosk Mode: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/154780

Hope this is helpful.

2

Maybe DeepFreeze could help, if I remember correctly it is a sandbox that will undo all changes made to windows after the PC is restarted.

On a side note there is a program called sandboxie wich runs the web browser in a sandox, so that changes made while surfing are kept inside the sandbox.


DEEPFREEZE:

I shall list what functions asked by the OP are covered by DEEPFREEZE and why it may help.

  • users save files so permanent storage become full and require leaning

  • users save personal files and forget to delete them

  • users browse sites, load other programs and forget to delete cookies / passwords / authentication data

  • clean all user data (files and authentication data) after logout

Deepfreeze will reset all the changes made to the computer after shutting it down. It means that changes made to the computer will be rolled back and files will be deleted.

You would only need to make an initial configuration of the computer. From that moment on, deepfreeze will reset the PC to this state.

  • users install 3rd party software, adware, malware, viruses which occupy space and make PC danger for later visitors.

  • prevent or limit to some kind installation of 3rd-party software and exceeding disk space

While it may not prevent 3rd party sofware from being installed , malware, etc. once the PC is turned off, all this changes will be undone.

NOTE 1: The sofware does not offer this option by itself, but creating a standard user in windows will restrict the user from istalling sofware.

WARNING: Sadly, it does not cover a very important feature. It is paid software.


SANDBOXIE:

This is a free sofware that creates a sandox for the browser. It may help the OP in the following manner:

  • Sandboxie will isolate the browser from the rest of the system. This means that any changes made during browsing will be kept in a safe zone.
  • Any program installed inside sandboxie will not affect the rest of the system.
  • If anything goes wrong while working inside sandboxie, the sandbox can be deleted and created anew.
  • Any malware, adware, etc. downloaded while browsing will not affect the pc.
  • It´s great for testing untrusted software.

While it may not cover all your needs it might be part of the tool that might help you to satisfy your needs.

2

For Windows XP there was software called Windows Steady State that did many of the things you wanted. It was freeware, limited installation of software, cleaned profiles, and tracked user time. However, there were no remote administration facilities.

Unfortunately Microsoft dropped support for Steady State once Windows 7 was released, and now it is difficult to find the binaries. Doubly unfortunately I know of no zero-cost alternatives that do everything Steady State did.

For those who have no budget and are using Windows 7 or above the closest solution I have found is the following:

  • Make all users "restricted users" in Windows (so they are not in the administrators group). This largely limits the damage users can do to their own profile. They still can install some software (eg Chrome, Dropbox, toolbars) but only to their own profile.
  • Use a utility like DelProf2 to delete the student user profiles when the machine restarts or upon logout (you can use a scheduled task for this).
  • Set up web browsers to use "Private Browsing" by default (which can be done by setting pref("browser.privatebrowsing.autostart", true); in a preferences file for Firefox, but which I don't know how to do in IE).

This does not track user time and force logouts (although if the users sign in then you could have a scheduled task that logs people out after an hour). It also does not do remote tracking.

You could also combine this solution with rollback software. There are some free alternatives in this space (such as Reboot Restore Rx) but all the systems I have found for no cost have two big problems:

  • The no cost programs give the end user control over whether to rollback the system, and end users can disable the rollback facilities.
  • Managing software updates is difficult, because you somehow want to roll back the system EXCEPT when you are doing updates.

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