It’s now almost three weeks ago when I installed Deep Freeze on my machine. Time for a review.
I stumbled upon Deep Freeze via James’ retired blog when he talked about computer security and how it affects our Internet business and can become a pain. He recommended a small tool which is being used by Internet cafés and libraries, for example. With that neat little tool, there is…
- No need to run and install the latest version of anti-virus software
- No need to run and install the latest version of anti-spyware software
- No need to run and install the latest version of Windows Update (some of which destroy your Windows installation; isn’t that funny?)
- No need to run and install the latest version of firewall software
- No need to make a new, clean OS install every 1-2 years because the computer became too slow
- No need to worry about data loss due to hackers, trojaners, viruses, system crashes, etc etc
- No need to worry about whether or not Windows’ System Restore works (it never worked in my case)
Sounds too good to be true? Read on…
It came in handy because one of my three Operating Systems (“OS”), Windows XP German, did not run properly anymore. And shortly after this, the second one (XP English) as well not anymore. It seemed as if I had a virus, although I ran updated anti-virus and anti-spyware… (Sounds familiar?)
So, I found it to be a good time to give Deep Freeze a shot.
Preparation For Deep Freeze
Now, the tricky part was to prepare for The Day and set my system up properly. What I mean is this…
As the name implies, Deep Freeze puts your machine into a deeply frozen state. Once you reboot your system, all is back to normal. It is as if you’re bringing your computer back into the freshest or newest state possible.
Here is how one would normally install Deep Freeze…
- Format the system disk/partition
- Install the OS and all of the software you need on a daily basis
- Install Deep Freeze and tell it to freeze your system.
- Now, whenever you boot your system, all is back to the point where you installed Deep Freeze.
As mentioned, the tricky part for my particular case was the set up process. First thing I did was formatting my main hard drive.
There are four hard disks in my computer. The first one with 180 GB is for the operating systems. I split that disk into 3 partitions: #1 for Windows XP, #2 for Windows Vista, and #3 for “other stuff” such as testing a new operating system, or if the other two do not boot I still have one partition remaining to install an OS on and boot my computer to see what’s wrong with the other two partitions.
Then the next disk (180GB) is one I use to save all kinds of data (for several years already), more or less timeless stuff.
Then comes the third disk (500GB) which I use primarily for my SiteSell video productions, my Web sites’ files, product creation files, some more “stuff”, as well as for “My Documents” and the MS Outlook data file (which I do not use anymore though since I “outsourced” e-mail to GMail).
Finally, there is disk #4 (150GB) which I used to use as a backup disk for my most critical data (video production files, Outlook data file, Web sites files, etc), but because of Deep Freeze I can safely skip this step and use disk #4 for saving the day-to-day software programs there. (For performance reasons, it is a good idea to install software on a separate disk so that you have one disk for your OS and one for installed software.)
I still do use a hard drive for backup purposes, which is an external one and requires USB only, and it is excellent for when I’m traveling. (Seagate FreeAgent Go 160GB – I love it! :-)
Now, before I set up Deep Freeze, I was under the impression it would create images (i.e., clones) of all the disks that I want to freeze. To my surprise, though, it is a neat little program running in the background, which I notice by its taskbar icon only (and perhaps a 3-second message during restart).
Compare that with some of the anti-virus or anti-spyware programs out there and you know what I mean. Once you installed them, they immediately slow down your system in order to “do a good job”.
Deep Freeze, however, keeps your machine in good, fresh shape.
How Deep Freeze Works
The only thing that may annoy people and got me to change my habits: Deep Freeze resets everything.
Saved a URL in your browser’s favorites? That is lost once you reboot the OS. Saved a file on your desktop? Yup, that is lost, too. Changed settings in a software application? That’s also reversed to the previous setting. So, how do you save your day-to-day work or change preferences?
Two options for saving your day-to-day stuff…
- You let one disk (or one partition) in an unfrozen state. You can define that during installation of Deep Freeze. You specify which drive letters you want Deep Freeze to protect. In my case, I have disk #3 in unfrozen state, the one where I save and work with important day-to-day data. The crucial parts (disk #1, #2 & #4) are in frozen state though and therefore perfectly protected.
- You use a thumb drive, memory stick, or simply an external hard drive.
As for changing settings, preferences, or saving favorites, you simply tell Deep Freeze to restart your computer in an unfrozen state (by pressing the Shift key on your keyboard while double-clicking on the Deep Freeze symbol in the taskbar, then modify accordingly).
Once you reboot, you can change whatever you wish, save passwords, bookmark, etc. Once you reboot your computer again (so it’s in the frozen state again), all your changes are saved, and you can continue to work more conveniently and fully protected—without anti-virus nor anti-spyware nor any other of that crap.
Additionally, once I notice some weird happening, I simply reboot the whole system and that “weird happening” magically disappeared as if it was never there. (Just happened in a coaching session yesterday… black screen while still on the Skype phone. A quick reboot and it was solved.)
There is a downside though… Although it is supposed to restore everything, including your browse history, it does happen on my machine that visited URLs disappear from the browse history. (Though, I figured that to be a very minor downside.)
Also, in case you delete something, it restores it. Even when you hold down the Shift key while pressing Delete, it restores it. This may be a downside for some. But when you look at it from the other side, Deep Freeze is supposed to completely protect whatever you have installed and saved.
Just imagine you let one of your friends (or kids?) on your computer and s/he “accidentally” deletes crucial data. No worries with Deep Freeze… it’s all still there after reboot. :-) (That means, when you do want to delete something from protected partitions, unfreeze your computer, delete the file(s), and refreeze it again.)
The Bottom Line is that I now save a whole bunch of valuable time—at least a couple hours per month—fixing idiosyncrasies on an ongoing basis. And I can sleep a bit better now. ;-)