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Windows SteadyState Disk Protection


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An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Microsoft's free tool, Windows SteadyState allow to control the programs access to the drive, internet, system and installed software. Windows SteadyState includes Windows Disk Protection feature that will cache changes on windows partition. Behind the scene, WDP creates and reserves a large (2 GB as a minimum) cache file to save all changes to the Operating System and program files. It needs at least 4 GB of unallocated space on your Windows partition to create its cache file, but the default size used is approximately 50% of the available disk space (40 GB as a maximum).

 If Windows Disk Protection is installed and enabled, you can choose it to:

Windows SteadyState is not compatible on a 64-bit computer. If Windows Disk Protection is enabled, it will use 50% of available disk space as ‘cache’. Users can change manage the disk space that Windows Disk Protection will use.  The minimum storage space to be use by Windows Disk Protection is 2GB.  Disabling Windows Disk Protection will clear the cache and removes the Windows Disk Protection’s driver.

In using any of the above programs, you can perform any operations in your system without putting your PC at risk. There is also no need to use another desktop or server as testing environment before applying in a production system or computers that you cannot afford to lose.  Malware infections, unusable system state and software update impacts are never an issue to organizations and individuals that take advantage of Try&Decide feature in Acronis True Image, ShadowMode feature of StorageCraft’s ShadowSurfer or ShadowUser and the Windows Disk Protection feature of Microsoft’s Windows SteadyState.

Chapter 6 Windows Disk Protection (Microsoft Shared Computer Toolkit for Windows XP Handbook )

See also Chapter 2 Prepare the Disk for Windows Disk Protection
September 16, 2005

The Windows Disk Protection tool protects the Windows operating system and program files from being permanently changed on a Windows partition. During a session, a user can make changes as necessary within the bounds of any restrictions placed on the user. When the computer restarts, Windows Disk Protection returns the Windows partition to its original condition, discarding any changes made during the user session.

This tool helps protect computers from users who might attempt to damage the operating system, and it also prevents malware and spyware from tampering with the computer.

Malicious software, which includes viruses, worms, and Trojan horses, that is designed to harm a computer operating system.

Potentially unwanted software that may collect personal information and is inappropriate for shared computers.

Each time the computer restarts, Windows Disk Protection returns the partition that holds the Windows and program files (called the Windows partition) to its original state. This provides the next user with a standard and reliable experience.

Before you turn on Windows Disk Protection, be sure that you have correctly prepared the disk and created, customized, and restricted the required user profiles as discussed in the previous chapters.

On This Page

 Turn On Windows Disk Protection
 Save Changes When Windows Disk Protection Is On
 Retain Changes When Windows Disk Protection Is On
 Retain Changes Indefinitely When Windows Disk Protection Is On
 Improve the Performance of Windows Disk Protection
 Manage the Protection Partition

Turn On Windows Disk Protection

The default behavior of Windows Disk Protection is to clear disk changes made to the Windows partition with each computer restart, thereby protecting the disk from unwanted changes. Operators can at any time choose to save changes made to the disk. Operators can also schedule Windows Disk Protection to download, install, and save critical updates to disk automatically while the computer is not in use.

Note Note  
For best disk performance, defragment your Windows partition prior to turning on Windows Disk Protection. Do not defragment the disk when Windows Disk Protection is on.

To turn on Windows Disk Protection and schedule critical updates

  1. Click Start, point to All Programs, point to Microsoft Shared Computer Toolkit, and then click Windows Disk Protection. Restart the computer if requested and then start Windows Disk Protection again.
  2. In the Restart Action section, click Keep On. If this is the first time you have used the Shared Computer Toolkit, Windows Disk Protection creates the protection partition. The computer requires a restart to complete the initialization process.
  3. After the restart, return to Windows Disk Protection to complete the configuration.
  4. If Windows Disk Protection identifies antivirus software it knows how to update, it displays a dialog box to this effect. If you see this dialog box, click OK.
  5. If Windows Disk Protection did not detect your antivirus software, click Set to specify an antivirus script you have created. You can configure other update scripts as needed to manage updates for third-party programs.
  6. In the Critical Updates section, configure the day and time at which Windows Disk Protection should download and install critical updates.
  7. For Microsoft Updates, Click Enabled to enable critical Microsoft updates.
  8. Click OK.
  9. Windows Disk Protection displays a message that states that the computer must be restarted for the changes to take effect. Click Yes to restart the computer.

Important Important  
Do not attempt to change any partition after Windows Disk Protection is turned on because it tracks physical disk and partition numbers and they must not change. If you must change partitions, turn off Windows Disk Protection and delete the protection partition before making any partition changes.

Figure 6.1 The main screen of the Windows Disk Protection tool

Figure 6.1 The main screen of the Windows Disk Protection tool

The default setting for Windows Disk Protection is to Clear changes with each restart. This option ensures that untrusted users and malware cannot save any disk changes to the Windows partition of the computer. When the computer restarts, all disk changes that were made are removed, and the computer returns to its previous state.

The Restart Option will not become available to change until after the computer has been restarted with Windows Disk Protection turned on. This ensures that Windows Disk Protection is started with the default settings.

Note Note  
Services, such as event logging, that usually write to the Windows partition will not be able to permanently record log entries because new entries will be lost when changes are cleared. To keep event logs, consider moving them to a persistent volume. This process is covered in the “Improve the Performance of Windows Disk Protection” section later in this chapter.

Hibernation and Windows Disk Protection

If hibernation is enabled on your system when you turn on Windows Disk Protection, you will receive a message that indicates that hibernation does not work with Windows Disk Protection.

When a system hibernates, it writes the contents of the system RAM to a file on the disk. Because modifications to the Windows partition are cleared when Windows Disk Protection is on and set to Clear changes with each restart, hibernation will fail.

To disable hibernation, open Control Panel, double-click Power Options, click the Hibernate tab, and then clear the Enable hibernation check box.

Windows Disk Protection Status

When Windows Disk Protection is on and Getting Started is not configured to run automatically, a popup called Disk Protection Is On will appear when you log on as the Toolkit administrator. This popup provides a convenient way to open Windows Disk Protection when you have to save changes to disk.

Figure 6.2 The Disk Protection Is On popup

Figure 6.2 The Disk Protection Is On popup

If you want to stop this popup from appearing, delete the Check Windows Disk Protection shortcut from the Toolkit administrator’s Startup folder.

Critical Updates

When you turn on Windows Disk Protection, it will continue to install Microsoft critical updates using the Automatic Updates schedule you may have configured previously. It will use Microsoft Update, Windows Update, or Windows Server Update Services, depending on which of these is currently used by Windows. (Software Update Services is not supported.) You can enable or disable Microsoft Updates and set the schedule to suit your needs when you turn on Windows Disk Protection.

When Windows Disk Protection downloads and installs critical updates, it will log off the active user, restart the computer to clear disk changes, and temporarily disable local user accounts to prevent unapproved disk changes from being saved at the same time. After downloading and installing the updates, it will set Windows Disk Protection to Save changes with next restart and then restart the computer.

In addition to being able to save Microsoft critical updates automatically, Windows Disk Protection allows a script you select to save antivirus updates and updates for other programs.

Alternatively, you can schedule antivirus updates through the graphical interface your antivirus product provides. Schedule the updates to occur at the exact same hour and day(s) as the schedule you select for critical updates in the Windows Disk Protection tool. The Windows Disk Protection critical updates process will wait at least 10 minutes for other updates to be completed concurrently before it restarts the computer to save disk changes.

Windows Disk Protection will offer to perform antivirus updates automatically as part of the critical updates process if it detects an antivirus product it knows how to update. The Toolkit currently detects and includes scripts for updating the following antivirus products:

If you have another antivirus product, you might want to prepare a signature update script for it as described in your antivirus software manual. Look for sections that describe the command-line tools that perform signature updates.

Check the Microsoft Windows Shared Access newsgroup to see if anyone else has already created a signature update script for the antivirus software you have.

Note Note  
For more information about the Windows Disk Protection critical updates process, see Appendix A, “Technical Primer.”

Other Updates from Microsoft

Windows Disk Protection only automates critical updates from Microsoft—it does not automatically install recommended updates, optional updates, driver updates, or special updates that may have their own license agreements. Review the updates available on Microsoft Update periodically, download and install the ones you want, and then use the Windows Disk Protection tool to save changes to disk.

Chapter 2: Prepare the Disk for Windows Disk Protection
Published: September 16, 2005

The Windows Disk Protection tool protects the Microsoft® Windows® XP operating system and program files from being permanently changed on the Windows partition— typically the C: drive. When Windows Disk Protection is on, users can work as usual and Windows behaves as expected. However, all disk changes made aren’t actually being made to the Windows partition—they are stored temporarily in another location.

Note Note  
If the terms in this chapter are difficult to understand, you might want to review the "Disks and Partitions" section in Appendix A, “Technical Primer.”

When the computer restarts, Windows Disk Protection returns the Windows partition to its original condition, clearing the changes made since the previous restart. This is a powerful security feature for shared computers.

Windows Disk Protection requires special preparation of the hard disk on the computer, which is explained through the following topics:

  • Windows Disk Protection requirements
  • Resize an existing partition


  • Size the disk during Windows XP Setup
On This Page

 Windows Disk Protection Requirements
 Resize an Existing Partition
 Size the Disk During Windows XP Setup

Windows Disk Protection Requirements

Windows Disk Protection requires a minimum of 1 GB of unallocated disk space. This unallocated disk space will become the protection partition—for storing disk changes temporarily when Windows Disk Protection is turned on. Some computer uses—such as burning CDs and DVDs—require large amounts of disk space (double the size of the project being written to disk). Keep this in mind and ensure that sufficient unallocated disk space exists when you configure computers that will be used for this purpose.

Note Note  
An alternative to increasing the size of the protection partition for burning CDs and DVDs is to configure your disk-burning software to place its temporary files off the Windows partition.

To turn on Windows Disk Protection, you must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Ensure that at least 1 GB or approximately 10 percent of the Windows partition (whichever is greater) is available as unallocated disk space.
  • The unallocated disk space must follow a primary partition; it cannot be at the beginning of the disk.
  • The disk that contains unallocated disk space may have no more than three primary partitions.
  • The Windows partition must be a basic disk. Dynamic disks are not supported by Windows Disk Protection.

    Note Note  
    The protection partition can also be created in free space in an extended partition, or you can use unallocated disk space on a second physical disk. For more information about each of these techniques, see the “Manage the Protection Partition” at the end of this chapter.

You can use the Disk Management utility to view the current partitions on the hard disk.

To use the Disk Management utility in Windows XP to view current partitions

  1. Log on as the Toolkit administrator.
  2. If Getting Started does not open automatically, click Start, point to All Programs, point to Microsoft Shared Computer Toolkit, and then click Getting Started.
  3. In Step 1 of the Getting Started tool, click the Open Disk Management link at the bottom of the topic. A shortcut to Disk Management is also included in the Quick access section near the top of the Getting Started window.

Alternatively, you can right-click My Computer, click Manage, and then click Disk Management.

The following figure shows the Disk Management utility on a computer with a single 40-GB hard disk. The hard disk has a 36-GB Windows partition (the C: drive) and 4 GB of unallocated disk space for Windows Disk Protection.

Figure 2.1 Unallocated disk space should be 1 GB or approximately 10 percent of the size of the Windows partition, whichever is greater

Figure 2.1 Unallocated disk space should be 1 GB or approximately 10 percent of the size of the Windows partition, whichever is greater

Note Note  
If you leave unallocated space equivalent to the size of the Windows partition, Windows Disk Protection will not be restricted by disk space and will be able to track all changes made to the Windows partition.

Note Note  
Most shared computers do not offer users a way to store persistent data locally, but some environments may want to offer this capability. Alternatives for storing persistent user data when Windows Disk Protection is on are described in Chapter 9, “Advanced Scenarios.”

To calculate required size of unallocated disk space

If you need to determine the required size of the unallocated space, you can use one of the following procedures:

  • Windows partition uses the entire disk. Divide the disk size in GB by 10. If the result is more than 1 GB, that is the required size of the unallocated space.
  • Windows partition uses part of disk. Divide the size of the Windows partition by 10. If the result is more than 1 GB, that is the required size of the unallocated space.

If the tool you use to resize partitions reports space in MB, multiply the calculated figures by 1024 to convert gigabytes to megabytes.

The following table provides several hard disk configuration examples:

Hard Disk Partition for C: Drive Unallocated disk space (1 GB = 1024 MB)
  30 GB   27 GB   3 GB (3,072 MB)
  80 GB   72 GB   8 GB (8,192 MB)
120 GB 108 GB 12 GB (12,288 MB)
250 GB 225 GB 25 GB (25,600 MB)

Note Note  
Some tasks, such as creating or copying CDs, use significant amounts of disk space on a temporary basis. If your computer will be used for these tasks, ensure enough unallocated disk space exists before the protection partition is created to contain the full contents of two CDs or DVDs.

Resize an Existing Partition

Most computers do not come with unallocated disk space—the entire disk is typically fully partitioned, often as a single C: drive. This section provides two options for creating the unallocated disk space necessary for Windows Disk Protection.

Note Note  
Microsoft does not provide support for third-party disk partitioning products. Please contact the product vendor regarding any support issues with these products.

If your computer already has Windows XP installed and you do not want to reinstall and reconfigure Windows and other programs, you need a third-party disk utility to resize the Windows partition and leave unallocated disk space for Windows Disk Protection.

This section describes how to use Symantec Norton PartitionMagic 8.0 to create the unallocated disk space required for Windows Disk Protection.

Alternatively, you can use TeraByte Unlimited BootIt Next Generation. Full instructions and downloadable trial software are available on the TeraByte Unlimited Web site.

You can locate other disk partitioning utilities by searching Windows Marketplace.

Note Note  
Start PartitionMagic 8.0 by starting the computer from the program CD—not by starting the program from within Windows. You should also make a full backup before you begin this procedure.

To resize a partition using PartitionMagic 8.0

  1. Insert the PartitionMagic CD into the CD-ROM drive on the computer.
  2. If the program starts automatically, click Exit.
  3. Click Start, click Turn Off Computer, and then click Restart. Ensure the computer starts from the PartitionMagic CD.
  4. After PartitionMagic starts, at the command prompt, type 1 for Norton PartitionMagic, and then select the language you want to use.
  5. In the main window for the program (shown in the following figure) choose a hard disk by clicking the drop-down menu on the main toolbar. The example in the following figure shows a 40-GB hard disk with a single primary partition.

    Figure 2.2 The PartitionMagic 8.0 main window

    Figure 2.2 The PartitionMagic 8.0 main window

    Note Note  
    Make sure you leave enough room for Windows XP and all necessary programs, typically at least 10 GB for the Windows partition. In this example, the 40 GB partition is resized to 36 GB.

  6. Click the partition that you want to resize, click Operations, and then click Resize/Move.
  7. In the Resize/Move Partition dialog box (shown in the following figure), in the Free Space After box, type the amount of unallocated space to reserve. Use this formula: Number of GB * 1024. The following example shows 4096 (4*1024). The exact number is not important, as long as it is greater than 1024 (1 GB).

    Figure 2.3 Resizing a partition in PartitionMagic 8.0

    Figure 2.3 Resizing a partition in PartitionMagic 8.0

    Note Note  
    In its user interface, PartitionMagic 8.0 refers to the required unallocated disk space as Free Space After.

  8. Click OK and then click Apply to resize the partition. It will take a few minutes to complete.
  9. After it finishes, click Exit, remove the CD, restart the computer, and log on to Windows as the Toolkit administrator.
  10. Within a minute after you log on to Windows, a System Settings Change dialog will appear that asks if you want to restart your computer. Click No.

The computer is now ready for Windows Disk Protection to be turned on.

After you complete these steps, proceed to Chapter 3, “Profile Management.”

Size the Disk During Windows XP Setup

If you plan to perform a clean installation of Windows XP, the best way to prepare the hard disk for Windows Disk Protection is to create a primary partition of the appropriate size during Windows XP setup. This option is only appropriate if you are willing to overwrite all programs, settings, and files on the computer’s hard disk.

Important Important  
Deleting partitions will destroy any data on that partition. Use this method only if you do not need to preserve any information on the computer and are willing to reinstall Windows, all necessary programs, and all necessary drivers.

After you start Windows XP Setup (which you can do by starting the computer with the Windows XP installation CD in the CD-ROM drive), and after you accept the Microsoft Windows XP Licensing Agreement, Setup displays the page shown in the following figure.

Figure 2.4 Configuring partitions during Windows XP Setup

Figure 2.4 Configuring partitions during Windows XP Setup

To size a partition during Windows XP Setup

  1. The example in the previous figure shows a single hard disk that has 40 GB (40,955 MB) of unallocated space. To create a partition, press C to display the page shown in the following figure. This page shows the minimum and maximum size you can designate for a new partition.
  2. Type the appropriate size in MB for the partition you want to create and then press ENTER. For example, to create a 36-GB partition, you would type 36864 (36 * 1024). Leave the remaining space unallocated for use by Windows Disk Protection.
  3. Use the arrow keys to select the partition into which to install Windows (if it is not already selected) and then press ENTER.
  4. Use your arrow keys to select Format the partition using the NTFS file system (Quick) and then press ENTER.
  5. Windows XP Setup copies the necessary installation files, and then restarts your computer. Continue with the installation of Windows.

Figure 2.5 Creating a new partition during Windows XP setup

Figure 2.5 Creating a new partition during Windows XP setup

Important Important  
Create the C: partition only during Windows installation. You can create an optional persistent partition using the Disk Management tool after the Windows installation completes. This procedure is covered in Chapter 9, "Advanced Scenarios."

Old News ;-)

Windows SteadyState Disk and System Protection

Undo your worries with Windows Disk Protection

Windows Disk Protection keeps everything on the Windows disk partition from being permanently changed by users. This means every change made during a user session can easily be undone and the computer returned to its original state.

Create a consistent experience

On a shared computer, the goal is to create a consistent, uniform environment for all users. They should not be able to modify or corrupt the system. However, activities performed during a user session cause many changes to the operating system partition. Program files are created, modified, and deleted. The operating system also updates system information as part of its normal operation.

Windows Disk Protection clears all changes to the operating system partition whenever you restart the computer—or at whatever interval you specify.

How Windows Disk Protection works

When disk protection is turned on, it creates a cache file to retain all the modifications to the operating system or program directories. Histories, saved files, and logs are all stored in this cache file which has been created on a special partition of the system drive. At intervals you designate, Windows SteadyState deletes the contents of the cache and restores the system to the state in which disk protection was first turned on.

Set it and forget it

Choose the disk protection level that fits how your computer is used and whether or not your users need to save data for a specific length of time.

Use Windows Disk Protection, Try&Decide or ShadowMode to secure your PC

Malware infection and unwanted system changes are the biggest concerns by organizations and individuals. It’s easy to be infected nowadays if the anti-virus’ real-time protection failed to detect malicious behavior while a user is surfing or installing unknown programs. It’s also easy to have unusable system if an update or software installation contains bugs or incompatibility with existing applications.

The above problems will be solved by using ShadowMode, Try&Decide or Windows Disk Protection. For screenshots, please refer to below images.

1.  ShadowMode feature in ShadowSurfer, ShadowUser and ShadowServer:

StorageCraft’s ShadowServer, ShadowSurfer and ShadowUser include a feature called ShadowMode. ShadowMode will create a virtual volume so you can run your PC or server in a virtual state. Unwanted changes or malware infection will not affect the system if ShadowMode is enabled. If you will install software, updates or make a major change on the system but later realize that it is not what you like or the update has unknown or known issues, you can simply end the ShadowMode session and go back to the previous system state.

ShadowSurfer and ShadowUser are compatible on Windows 2000 and XP systems. Vista system is not supported yet at the time of this writing. ShadowServer will run on 2000 and 2003 editions of Windows Server. You can commit the changes on files, folder or entire system; continue a ShadowMode session across reboots; schedule automatic reset of the computer to previous state and schedule to enable or disable a ShadowMode session if you will use ShadowUser and ShadowServer.

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