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11th of December 2018

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Reboot to restore software - A preferred Windows steady state alternative for educational institutes

The role of computers and other digital devices in education is no longer open to question. Computers are used for both educational and administrative purposes in schools, colleges, universities, and other learning centres. Computers have become a common fixture in all areas of study, given the options they offer with regard to creating better learning opportunities. Increasingly, students are being introduced to digitally powered classrooms with devices for each pupil. This has exponentially expanded the number of computers employed in the educational sector.

With the increase in the number of computers, IT professionals find themselves requiring an endpoint management solution that is easy to deploy and execute. Maintaining the optimum performance of every device becomes a formidable challenge, especially in computing environments where each system is used by multiple individuals.

Before its discontinuation, Windows SteadyState was one of the most widely used tools to maintain and manage computers in multi-user environments like school labs, classrooms, and public libraries. However, its termination left the users desperate in search of a feasible alternative. To this end, software solutions leveraging the Reboot to Restore technology emerged as a potent substitute that enables IT personnel to maintain optimal functionality of workstations and devices.

Windows SteadyState: How it worked

Windows SteadyState allowed users to restore a system to the desired configuration with a reboot. After being installed and configured, it protected systems from all user-made changes. It starts with write-protecting a hard disk and saving changes in the cache. The software gives IT administrators the options to discard, retain, and commit the changes.

The ‘discard’ mode cleared the cache when the system is restarted. This reverted it to the previous configuration by wiping all changes made by users and saving the system from the consequences of any detrimental change that may have been made during a user session. The ‘persist’ mode let IT admins retain any change made by users that might be considered beneficial. However, these changes would only be saved for a particular period of time. Only by enabling the ‘commit’ mode could changes be saved permanently.

SteadyState was available for 32-bit versions of Windows XP and Windows Vista. It was quite effective in helping IT professionals prepare and manage multi-user computing environments. It allowed them to create unrestricted computing experience, which is especially important for students and scholars doing research. However, it also allowed for certain restrictions, such as access to system settings and files. For example, of the ability to disable Windows Command Prompt or turning off the Control Panel.

With the introduction of 64-bit versions of the Windows operating system, Windows SteadyState became outdated. In 2010, SteadyState was terminated. It must be mentioned that Windows 7 continued with features like ‘System Restore’ that resembled (to an extent) those offered by SteadyState. However, they did not serve as a viable alternative to SteadyState.  

The discontinuation of SteadyState left workstations susceptible to potentially harmful changes, whether inadvertent or purposeful. Machines running Windows 7, 8 or 10 require a solution in addition to ‘System Restore’ that can serve as an alternative to Windows SteadyState.

Reboot to restore software - A powerful alternative to Windows SteadyState

The rapid digitisation of educational infrastructure has increased the possibility of attack from a variety of threats such as malware, zero-day threats, and the like. Reboot to Restore Software solutions have emerged as the perfect solution for endpoint management concerns of educational institutes. 

When deployed on workstations, a reboot to restore software captures the configuration at the moment. This serves as the desired baseline configuration for system restoration. If a user makes a change, it is redirected to a temporary storage that holds users’ inputs to let them work on the device as usual. When the computer is restarted, the software does not refer to this table and rolls back the system to its predetermined baseline configuration.

IT admins can save changes permanently by disabling the reboot to restore software and making the desired changes. After being enabled, the software makes the modified configuration (including the changes) the new baseline and starts discarding the user-made changes on reboot again.

User-friendly features of such system restore software offer a significant advantage to educational institutes and similar multi-user computing environments. For instance, every student and staff member in a school, college, or university cannot be expected to navigate complicated troubleshooting processes to keep workstations in the optimal condition. If any issue emerges, it has to be reported to the IT team, which is bombarded with service tickets for even minor concerns. With reboot to restore software deployed on the computers, most of these issues can be dealt with by simply restarting the device, which literally everyone can do.

Reboot to Restore software allows IT personnel to keep devices in learning centres running flawlessly without interruptions. Students do not have to lament over malfunctioning computers and hinder their research. Administrators do not have to summon IT support and wait for hours before they can access their system to perform critical administrative tasks.

Given that Windows SteadyState was only functional on 32-bit versions of Windows XP and Windows Vista, reboot to restore software is an excellent option for computers running higher versions of the OS. Unlike SteadyState, which worked only on Windows, the latest reboot to restore solutions are compatible with both Windows and macOS.

Educational institutions have recorded tangible results after on-boarding a feature-rich reboot to restore software. Not only are computers more often available for use, but the need for IT intervention is also drastically reduced as well. Anyone coming across a malfunctioning system can simply restart the computer to resolve the problem almost instantly. This maximises device uptime, resulting in a clear increase in productivity for students, teachers, and the administrative staff.

Jose Richardson, Marketing,  Reboot and Restore TechnologyPhoto credit: Anton Watman / Shutterstock

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