I love how I have my computer configured. It has taken me many years, but I am now at the point where the elegance of the configuration itself makes me happy. I have decided to give a down and dirty overview of my configuration. If there is any interest, I can go into more details.
I start with a fresh install of XP, fully patched (SP3) and install all of the needed drivers. From there I install StorageCraft’s ShadowUser which takes a snapshot of the configuration. I can then use my computer as I see fit, but it reverts to the initial configuration on reboot.
I configure ShadowUser so that one folder is excluded from that automatic reverting.
Instead of installing a lot of applications, every application I use is portable. For software not available in a portable form, I make my own portable versions using a combination of InstallRite 2.5 (application cloner) and AHK, or ThinApp. I place all of the portable applications in the folder excluded from automatic reverting.
By only using portable applications, I can run the programs that I want, but my system is not cluttered. The only changes I make to the fresh install of XP are adding shortcuts to the portable .exe’s.
This setup has two major advantages:
1) I don’t need to worry about security. I still keep XP patched and up to date, but I do not run a firewall (although I am behind a router) or a virus scanner. This speeds up my system considerably and frees me from the constant headache of configuring and updating them. I do not worry if my system is compromised, because all of the windows system files a restored on reboot any compromised file would be discarded.
2) I can install whatever application I want and not worry about bogging down my system. Like many of you, I am addicted to trying new software. The only problem with this addition is that it can quickly bog down any system. I previously had so many programs installed that my start menu, after spilling across about 5 columns, ran out of room. Most of the programs I installed I used one or two times and then never touched them again. Unfortunately they would remain on my hard drive cluttering system files and the registry until I did my every 6 month install of XP. With my current setup, because all changes are discarded on reboot, I am now free to install whatever I want. If I don’t like the software, I reboot my computer, and it is as if it never was. If I decide I like it and I want to continue using it, I make a portable version of it.
These two advantages result in essentially worry free computing. I’ll install anything now, even from questionable sources. I don’t need to hope that whatever virus scanner / spyware / firewall combinations I am using will detect malicious software. If I download software that seriously undermines system performance or stability, I reboot and I am back a fresh install of XP.
I used to be incredibly nervous when I would let friends or family use my computer; I was always worried about what they would muck up. Now I don’t care. I tell them to use it however they would like; install programs, delete programs; it doesn’t matter. After I reboot, everything is back to normal.
I’m sure this isn’t an original way to configure a computer, but I certainly enjoy it.