Microsoft Windows XP Lockdown Toolkit

Update (2/4/2008): Since the time this article was written Microsoft has upgraded and renamed this product. The Microsoft Shared Computer Toolkit or Windows XP Lockdown Toolkit is now referred to as Windows SteadyState. This software was recently discussed on episode #129 of the Security Now! podcast. More information including a good description of the software as well as screen shots can be found on their website.

If you’re responsible for maintaining Windows XP computers in a shared environment such as a computer lab you’re probably aware of all the challenges associated with keeping the computer running and malware free. You may even be aware of commecial tools such as Deep Freeze which allows you to lock down systems and prevent users from making changes as well as reverting any changes when the system is restarted. What you’re probably not aware of, because it isn’t glamorous or well publicized, is the Microsoft Shared Computer Toolkit.

This toolkit is designed to help people just like yourself who need to maintain systems for public use. A few of the things you can do is clear user settings at every login, restrict users from making any system changes (even more so than the restricted/limited account type) and revert the Windows partition to its original state at every reboot. You don’t need to be running an Active Directory network for this to work, but if you are the toolkit includes group policy templates so you can control how restrictive the environment is on a per-user basis. If you’re looking for something to help you keep public computers under control and don’t have the budget for a commercial product you might want to give the Microsoft Shared Computer Toolkit a shot. The toolkit requires Windows XP Service Pack 2.

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