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We have a bunch of Windows 7 computers deployed at remote locations. To keep things consistent and reduce troubleshooting, we'd like to reboot them daily and reset to a clean state on reboot.

Is it possible to keep a partition with a disk image that can reimage the windows computer ever reboot? That way, any settings and installed apps can be reset to a clean state.

Are there any products or tools that can make this possible?

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4 Answers

Is HyperV image and snapshot / differencing disk an option? You can do some very interesting scenarios with HyperV and VHD disks.

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This would have been more suited to a comment not an anwser. –  t1nt1n Dec 27 '11 at 18:18
    
you are correct. I'll see if I can delete / move it to comment. –  James Jan 17 '12 at 16:59
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Microsoft use to have a tool called "Steady State" to meet just this need. While it no longer works under Windows 7, Microsoft has an official write-up on how to accomplish the same thing using native Windows 7 features and free tools.

This write-up is available directly from Microsoft at http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?id=24373. The Overview is provided here:

Windows SteadyState does not support Windows 7; however, many of its features can be replicated by using native Windows 7 features and free tools from Microsoft. This document is intended primarily for IT pros who configure shared-computer access in business environments, but partners who support shared-computer access in schools, libraries, and Internet cafes will also find the information useful. The document set includes:

  • Creating a Steady State by Using Microsoft Technologies (this document), which describes the native Windows 7 features and free tools from Microsoft that you can use to create a steady state on computers running Windows 7.

  • Group Policy Settings for Creating a Steady State, which is a reference that describes Group Policy settings that you can use to configure computer and user settings and prevent users from changing those settings.

  • The SteadyState Reference worksheet (.xlsx file), which you can use to look up and filter settings that this document and the reference describe. For example, you can quickly find information about settings that are related to Start Menu restrictions.

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+1 Not just for the answer but for providing an excellent example of an answer where others may have been inclined to just post a link. –  John Gardeniers Dec 25 '11 at 22:21
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@John Er...really? This is an "excellent example" of a stand-alone answer? If that link breaks this answer will be useless –  Michael Mrozek Dec 26 '11 at 5:46
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Even if there is a broken link, this lets you know what to search on Google: windows 7 steady state. I would never have guessed that on my own. –  sq33G Dec 26 '11 at 9:08
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@sq33G - It takes so little effort to provide a quote though, that it is disappointing when someone doesn't bother. –  Mark Booth Dec 26 '11 at 11:50
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@Michael, read what I wrote, not what you think I wrote. –  John Gardeniers Dec 27 '11 at 20:27
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For remote computers like this, you may be best served by using Windows Embedded / Thin PC. This has a facility called Enhanced Write Filter which effectively turns all writes to a specified drive into writes to a ram disk. Although while Windows is running, it looks like the drive contents have changed, in reality it hasn't. When you restart windows the contents of that drive are exactly the same as when you turned on the EWF,

We used to use this with an embedded vision PC which could lose power at any time. We set EWF on the boot drive and left another drive writable for storing images. Nothing that happened could cause the boot drive to be written to, so it was pretty much guaranteed to always be able to boot.

The big advantage of EWF over cloning is that you will never have to wait for your clone to complete before restarting.

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You can use something like Deep Freeze to keep the configuration consistent or you can just re-deploy images nightly with WDS and some BIOS configuration settings.

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