Virtualize It: Easy Ways to Mirror Your System Configuration

Recently, while cleaning up my Windows Registry, I made a couple of changes that resulted in long waits for Windows to load and a few other annoying problems. Luckily, I had a backup of my previous Registry, but the incident still made me think about better ways to mirror my whole configuration, just in case. Malware infections aren’t the only problems that can sometimes cause you to wish you could take your configuration back to where it was before. In this post, I’ll discuss some very good “reboot to restore” and virtualization solutions, including a free one, that can bring you lots of peace of mind.

Returnil Virtual System Personal Edition is freeware that I highly recommend. It’s virtualization software that mirrors your whole system configuration, and it creates a virtual storage disk where you can save important files and data. Returnil’s system protection features also prevent against malware-driven or accidental unwanted changes, and the whole application is designed to let you just restart your computer to return to an optimized configuration.

I happen to try out a lot of software applications, so one of the benefits of running an application like Returnil is that you can install and try programs in a partitioned environment without worrying about making changes to your overall configuration. I also found performance to be snappy across the board with Returnil.

Of course, if you’re willing to pay a little, VMWare is outstanding virtualization software, and I’ve heard good things from Mac users who run Parallels. These products are widely used by people who want, say, Mac OS X and Windows running on the same system. DeepFreeze is also notable for its editions for Windows, Mac or Linux users. Like Returnil, it’s optimized to let you just reboot to restore a previous system configuration.

Most of us web workers run anti-virus and other security solutions, but malware is hardly the only way to end up wishing you could take your computer back to square one. Now that I’m running a completely mirrored version of my configuration, I have more peace of mind.

Do you use any of these virtualization technologies? Can you recommend any free ones?