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In Internet cafés or in casinos, the systems are protected by a special software that

  • ensures that you have paid
  • shuts down when the paid time is over
  • reverts all files to the previous state

I didn't find the software that I was looking for, but the Computer Management module of Intercafe (German) does something similar (a bit less advanced, since it will just delete and not revert).

I'd like to use something similar at home, and since I don't pay :), I'm only interested in the last part.

Technically it would probably be a file system driver that

  • reads from the original disk
  • writes somewhere else
  • if something was written, it is read from there
  • at boot time, the write storage will be reset into original state

You could also argue that this is similar to Windows' built-in volume shadow copy.

The solution

  • should be gratis
  • for Windows
  • redirects write access as defined before
  • is configurable regarding the folders that have write permission and those which don't

I am not looking for a VCS (version control system), since the files might be very large. In my particular case, I want to protect a 3.8 GB file. SVN would keep a copy in the .svn folder.

I am also not looking for a VM snapshop. In fact it's a QEMU image and I don't want to run QEMU in a VM. Also, this approach would require ~10 GB extra disk space for the VHD file and I'd need a license.

Disk mirroring (like True Image for which I have a license) is overkill. I don't want to mirror a 4 TB disk just to keep a 3.8 GB file clean. In addition this would revert everything on the disk, not only a single file.

  • A commercial product (the price is not mentioned on the website, so it's probably expensive) might be Deep Freeze – Thomas Weller Aug 25 '16 at 7:54
  • What about other solutions? Just keeping a copy of the original, then, at the end, wipe the file structure & copy back the original is by far the simplest way. However, this being Windows, user activity probably affetced the registry, so you might want to consider using a virtual machine, disk imaging, etc – Mawg Aug 25 '16 at 9:05
  • @Mawg: that's what I do today. It requires you to strictly follow the process. Once you mix up the two, maybe you copy the wrong one. I have True Image as disk imaging solution, but it's overkill to mirror a 4 TB disk if I just need 4 GB. A VM is also overkill: it needs ~10 GB for a Windows installation + a license. – Thomas Weller Aug 25 '16 at 15:34
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There is a free windows program called Steadier State which can do what you are asking. You didn't specify any Windows version. Steadier State lists Windows 7 Enterprise or Windows 7 Ultimate as requirements.

As for one which supports WindowsXP through Windows10, the Home Edition of RollBack RxPC is freeware and should do the trick.

  • Great suggestion. Unfortunately I only have Windows 7 Professional. – Thomas Weller Aug 25 '16 at 7:59

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