Faronics Deep Freeze Standard review
Giving a child access to a computer can lead to some big headaches.
Aside from the obvious online safety concerns, it's a constant battle to keep the PC running smoothly with all the rogue downloads, altered settings and careless clicking within dialog boxes that goes on.
Windows 2000 and XP user accounts were meant to provide a solution to this problem. Unfortunately, many parents are unaware of this feature or find it unworkable. Many games, for instance, simply won't run without administrative privileges and we've even come across big-name applications that don't function properly under limited accounts. It's hardly surprising, then, that most users run as administrator. But this can lead to a multitude of problems that parents need to fix.
Deep Freeze is part of a range of security products from Canadian software developers Faronics that is designed to restore a predetermined Windows installation on startup, removing any previous tinkering or unauthorised software. The idea is that you set the PC up the way you want it and use Deep Freeze to lock its configuration. It doesn't matter whether programs are installed or settings get changed because the next time the computer is rebooted, Windows will revert to its initial state.
This program works well; we froze our test PC and installed a variety of programs, while uninstalling others. We also messed around with general settings, including creating and deleting user accounts. After a reboot, though, it was as if we hadn't touched the computer. Even documents that we created had vanished.
This last point in particular has obvious implications. However, during installation you are prompted to select the volumes you wish to be frozen. If you want a new file to survive reboot, it's essential that it resides on another volume or a mapped network drive, or it will be lost on restart. The complexities of networking or creating partitions and redirecting Windows special folders to a new location shouldn't be a problem for the technically aware, but may be an issue for some.
Deep Freeze can be suspended temporarily to enable changes or software to be installed. The computer must be restarted and Deep Freeze reactivated; it starts in its new frozen state at the next reboot. We experienced a slight increase in startup times. However, all attempts to trip it up failed.
It must be stressed that Deep Freeze does not actually prevent misuse and there is still considerable scope for the determined user to install software and generally cause mischief temporarily. However, with versions available for educational and network use, it's a simple way to keep a PC safe from unwanted changes. Just remember that you need to know exactly what you're doing in order to prevent files from getting lost.