Shared computers present unique challenges. Microsoft® publishes software that gives users a great degree of flexibility, allowing them to customize their experiences by configuring their computers’ settings. In shared-computer scenarios, however, administrators want to limit users’ ability to change settings, particularly settings that would affect the health of the computer or the experience of other users. Privacy and consistency are very important in shared-computer scenarios.
Windows® SteadyState™ is a free tool from Microsoft that helps make shared computers easier to set up and manage. In scenarios where users share computers (for example, in kiosks, schools, libraries, or Internet cafes). Windows SteadyState helps make those computers more reliable, providing a more consistent experience for users. Additionally, it helps defend shared computers from unauthorized changes and restricts users from changing system settings or files.
Windows SteadyState is a useful tool for shared-computer access; however, it supports 32-bit versions of Windows XP and Windows Vista® only. It does not support Windows 7. You can learn more about Windows SteadyState, including the Windows operating systems it supports, at Windows SteadyState.
Even though Windows SteadyState does not support Windows 7, many of its features can be replicated by using native Windows 7 features and free tools from Microsoft. For example, you can configure many Group Policy settings, and prevent users from changing them. You can use the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) 2010 to quickly reimage shared computers and restore their original states. In addition to simulating many of the significant Windows SteadyState features, using these features and free tools has the added benefit of supporting 64-bit computers.