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Windows SteadyState Returns Your PC to Normal

If you have a shared access computer, it can be aggravating when other users make a bunch of changes to the settings. Today we take a look at SteadyState for Windows Vista and XP which lets you return the computer to the original state after a user session.

Windows SteadyState

Not only does SteadyState return the PC back to its original state, but you can set it up to restrict what the user can access. You can lock down virtually every aspect of the computer from programs to websites and more. Of course you’ll need to be the administrator, and the first thing to do is install current drivers and Windows Updates. Then install programs and configure settings you want to how you want the machine to be every time it’s restored. Once everything is set up and you create different user account, you can let the public have at it. Any changes they make to the configuration will be undone just by restarting the machine. Here we take a look at SteadyState running on a Windows XP machine.

When you install SteadyState you’ll need to validate your copy of windows with Genuine Advantage. If you don’t have the WGA tool already on your machine you will be prompted to download and install it.

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Add and Restrict a New User

When SteadyState starts you’ll get an overview of User Settings and Global Computer Settings. Now the fun part begins, you can make access as strict of lenient as you want.

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In the first part of the SteadyState wizard, add the username, password, and picture. Notice you can create the user on the system drive or an alternate partition or drive.

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In the next step you’ll start with General settings and adjust the time the user can spend on the system. Make sure to lock the profile so they can’t make permanent changes themselves.

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In Windows Restrictions you can restrict them from several aspects of the OS. You can set the restrictions from High, Medium, Low, none or customize them according to your needs. You can hide certain drives from the user as well, so they can’t mess around with any data on them.

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In Feature Restrictions you can lock down Internet access through IE and program menus and settings. The cool feature here is you can set the user home page and also create a Whitelist of sites they will have access to.

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In the Block Programs section you determine which programs a user can access.

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Windows Disk Protection helps protect system settings and data on the drive where the OS is installed. It is turned off by default and to turn it on click Protect the Hard disk.

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In the next screen you can turn it on and to complete the process a restart is required.

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After the restart you can choose a level of protection for the disk from always removing changes, retaining them temporarily, or allowing all changes.

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You can change the cache file size if you need to free up disk space. The minimum amount of space you can use is 2GB.

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Schedule Windows Updates and other program updates. You can also use your own script to schedule a time.

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Getting this to work in Windows 7 is rather tricky. I installed it using compatibility mode on Windows 7 32-bit, however not everything worked. Right now I see no official support for it. They were going to include a similar feature but it was scrapped. If you still have a public XP or Vista machine however, it is still a great choice.

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Conclusion

This is a great program for a public computer at a coffee shop, at a school, a library or just from keeping your young ones messing things up. It officially works with XP and Vista…Maybe some of you have gotten it to work on Windows 7? Leave a comment and let us know.

Download SteadyState

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 11/20/09

Comments (19)

  1. moopenguin32

    This sounds like a great program, especially if you have to temporarily share your computer with someone that you think may do some things to it they shouldn’t. It’s really a shame that it does not support Windows 7. Hopefully that’ll change.

  2. Sri

    Thanks for the review. I wanted one such software for a long time

  3. IT07

    Does this work under a domain enviornment? I have to delprof the computers every 3 months and somthing like this will really help

  4. Roi

    Yeah, I ran it in compatibility mode in Windows 7 32-bit but half of it didn’t work. Whenever I click on a user, it asks me to type the password, even they didn’t have a password. I decided to not type anything and I got an error message. I set a password for that user, did the same steps again, and I still got an error. When I decided to login to another user than mine, I got an error from Windows saying that the service that logs in has failed. Even after I uninstalled the SteadyState software, I still got that error. I did a System Restore, and I STILL got that error! Help!

  5. Dave

    where do you go to d/l this program

  6. Mysticgeek

    @Dave:

    http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/winfamily/sharedaccess/default.mspx

    I included the link in the article as well. Thanks for pointing that out.

  7. Roi

    Hey Geek,
    Can you please help me with my problem?

  8. Ortzinator

    Coo, it’s like a free, more robust Deep Freeze.

  9. keshav

    I installed this software, and looks great to control kids activity at home. But the “switch user” feature which is usually present at start on Vista DISAPPEARED!. Fortunately, I could find the missing registry on the web (after spending more than an hour on google to find the right stuff), and now I have Windows Steady state as well as ‘switch user’ feature on Vista. I am writing this to warn the people about this feature of steadystate software, which might remove “switch user” feature. I find “switch user” feature very much useful when me, my wife and my son switch the users without the need to log-off.

  10. Darryl

    I looked at this while I was deciding about Returnil. I have a 64-bit Vista computer, and found that SteadyState doesn’t work on 64-bit. However, Returnil does.

  11. Mustafa Farooq

    hey keshav, i installed windows steady state on windows 7 32 bit ultimate, and so far so good it works fine, and everything returns to normal when i uninstall it, but when i install steady state the switch user button disappears, and i would like to get it back, and want to use staeday stae and have switch user option, you think you can help me fix like you fixed yours…

  12. Tom

    I’ve been using Steady State for around a year now and it REALLY helps with keeping my kids from screwing up the family computer. I was continually having to undo some problem or other they caused, and now a simple restart fixes everything! Documentation is scarce but it’s not too terribly hard to figure out. I partitioned the main drive and moved the “My Documents” folder for each user into the “D” partition so that simply saving files you want to keep to the “My Documents” folder makes them permanent (since Steady State only locks the “C” drive). Great utility.

  13. Mike

    Yes I hate Microsoft (or anyone that designs shoddy products).

    So I install steady state. The ‘switch user’ option is removed (ok fair enough, although surely make this optional!? I _AM_ the user not Microsoft!!!!). But ok I let that design flaw go… however I then uninstall steady state hoping that settings return to as they were before… but of course that would be asking too much of Microsoft who are bad designers.

    I’m only using crappy Windows because I need it for work… the tool I need isn’t on OSX or Ubuntu. Anyone who thinks Windows is a good operating system doesn’t know much about good product design or computers. The best techies (and I mean the absolute superb ones) almost all run either OSX or linux. Go figure.

    Bye to any wannabes.

  14. Bryan

    Mike, I see from your confusion that you must be new to IT.

    The “Switch user” option is enabled by checking the box to “Turn on the Welcome Screen” under “Computer Restrictions.” The program is pretty solid for what it is. Sure, microsoft’s products don’t always have the most user-friendly interface; but its a lot simpler than setting up Domains and Active Directory.

    If you need something rock-solid and highly configurable you should look into setting up domain controls or creating your own images to be loaded at boot. You could get really fancy and download an Ubuntu live-cd and take credit for it too.

    You can’t always bash the manufacturers when 99% of the problem is between the chair and the keyboard

  15. Elmer Fudd

    repost from MS forum:

    Microsoft made a few quiet but great changes to its kid-proofing SteadyState tool for Windows 7, changing the name to Guest Mode

    This nearly-hidden feature called Guest Mode that is primarily aimed at shared consumer PCs that need to be returned to their original running state after being used by a child or guest. The feature can be enabled on individual user accounts; when user logs off or the PC reboots, those accounts are wiped clean and returned to their original configuration. Guest Mode is useful for small classrooms, libraries, and other shared computing scenarios, but is really designed for home use, where parents may want to configure the feature for their children.

    Guest Mode was originally called PC Safeguard. Its features:

    -Prevents system setting changes. Any attempts to change the system while running under a safeguarded account are prevented.
    -Prevents the installation of applications and other software. Once you’ve enabled Guest Mode, it is impossible to install or permanently configure already installed software applications.
    -Prevents the user from writing to the disk outside of their user profile.
    -Data saved inside of the user profile is deleted when the user logs off.

    To find Guest Mode, open Control Panel, User Accounts and Family Safety, and then User Accounts. (Shortcut: Open the Start Menu and click your logon picture in the top right.) Then, click on Manage another account. From the list shown there, select the account for which you’d like to add Guest Mode. Or, if you don’t have an account for this purpose, create one first

  16. Ian Norman

    When configuring a Guest account through steady state, how do you get back into steady state after you select “Restart Computer after Loggoff”, under User Settings? Found a post to this on another site that said to hold the “shift key” and “ctrl-alt-delete” twice at the welcome screen to bring up the admin user. (ctrl-alt-del is disabled through steady state). However 6 months later we are still unable to login to the admin side and there are a lot of updates needed…

  17. William Gailey

    its been a long time since ive used steadystate but as i recall its not how u login but how u log out that makes the changes such as updating stay without being wiped on restart

  18. marckyking

    So, what’s better Deep Freeze or Windows 7′s Steady State? Or alternatives like Rollback Rx?

  19. Paulio

    @marckyking – there is no SteadyState for Win7 – The following link shows you how to do this sort of thing with Win7 if the ‘Guest Mode’ mentioned above doesn’t do it for you:

    http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?FamilyID=1de3c7ce-5af8-4e54-84b8-1fab6161730f

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