Write Protecting the Hard Drive
To streamline their IT operations, ensure maximum availability, and to quickly resolve incidents, many IT shops find that it's best to write-protect the hard disks of their multiple-user computers. But physically write-protecting the harddrive won't let users perform even prosaic functions that require the creation of temporary files. So if, let's say, they need to be allowed to surf the internet (which caches webpages) or open Microsoft Office files (which creates backups of recently opened files) or perform many other everyday functions (which often create Windows temp files) then write-protection will be too restrictive. Now, you could change Windows settings to prevent the creation of these temp files but this would also reduce access times and prevent many productive uses of public machines. So many IT administrators have turned to Lockdown software as another way to write-protect their PCs.
Write protection was first introduced in the 90's as a hardware based solution. Essentially The Hard Drive Recovery Card was designed to protect PC hard drives from inadvertant user changes as well as automating the maintenance of PC - consistant system configurations on every restart.
Desktop Security / Lockdown Software
There is also available third-party lockdown software that restricts the public PC user's Windows account privileges by allowing users to create and modify their personal files or profiles while restricting access to system utilities such as the DOS command line, the Registry Editor, or other sensitive functions. This lockdown is also known as desktop security. This does make PC management easier but also necessarily eliminate useful Windows functionality and constrains the users' productivity.
And again, this isn't often practical since if you want to give users some, however small, access to the computer's resources such as Internet browsing, file viewing, file saving, or printing permissions, you'll find yourself constantly having to extend privileges. The ideal solution would allow users to configure the machines to suit their tastes and needs yet disallow or automatically undo any potentially damaging changes the public users may have introduced to the machines.
Physical hardware solutions to write-protect the harddrive aren't practical. Lockdown software entails the endless hassles involved in defining group policies. But there is a freeware that write protects your harddrive to prevents public users from making unwanted changes even while granting an unrestricted environment for patrons.
Reboot Restore Rx is a freeware utility that can be employed to auto-restore multi-user computers back to an administrator-defined configuration. This is also a non-restrictive approach to public PC management. This optimizes the use of shared computers since it temporarily allows any and all changes the end-user made to the machine and then simply resets to some predefined configuration once the user has logged out of their session. This avoids the endless hassles of determining rights and privileges. You, the admin, could then simply grant full admin permissions to everyone on the network. The other virtue of this approach is an enhanced end-user experience since public users aren't restricted from any Windows functionality. Having Reboot Restore Rx installed on all the network's PCs enforces a uniform configuration, simplifying troubleshooting.
Our mission at Horizon DataSys is to offer a painless method to confront threats due to changes that public users have made and return the machine back to an administrator-defined pristine state (or "baseline"). The secret sauce is our patented sector-mapping technology that enables admins to return the PC back to this baseline in seconds! Helpdesks can drastically reduce the number of service tickets, eliminate downtime, and quickly resolve issues by automating the resetting of their network's PCs. Horizon DataSys is at the forefront of this new IT management strategy by offering many powerful options to quickly return these endpoint devices back to a pristine state.
Related Article: Hard Drive Write Protection Made Easy