Should You Deep Freeze Your Hard Drive?

Category: Hard-Drives , Security

There’s a software tool that claims to make your PC or Mac computer indestructible. It does this by 'freezing' your hard drive, so your computer's software and settings can be returned to a pristine state every time you start it up. Let's take a look at how Deep Freeze works, and find out if it's a good solution for you...

Here's How to Make Your Computer Indestructible

Deep Freeze by Faronics Corp., is a software solution that lets you restore a computer to a specific state by simply rebooting it. In the company's terms, Deep Freeze "freezes" the computer's configuration so that it cannot be permanently changed, unintentionally by the user, or maliciously via malware.

Any changes made to your hard drive, such as downloads, new software, or changes to system settings will not be permanent. And of course that includes any non-intentional damage done by viruses, spyware, ransomware, and zero-day threats. Faronics refers to the effect of Deep Freeze as "reboot-to-restore" and indeed, it's appears as if your computer is magically returned to a factory-fresh condition every time you turn it on. (Those who have seen the movie "Groundhog Day" might be chuckling at this point, but I digress.)

After Deep Freeze is installed, any data that is written to the "frozen" partition is redirected to a special area. New software can be installed and used, new data files can be created, and new system settings will work. But the "frozen" space is protected against any changes. When the system is rebooted, everything installed, created, or changed during the previous session simply vanishes.
Deep Freeze by Faronics

Can I Save Files or Install New Programs?

Obviously, Deep Freeze also prevents legitimate updates of software. Fear not; just enter the password you created during installation and Deep Freeze will "thaw" the protected partition for you. Then you can make any desired changes, system updates, or apply security patches before "re-freezing" the new configuration.

Deep Freeze will automatically download Windows updates, even when computers are Frozen. You can schedule a maintenance window to perform automatic updates and return to a Frozen state.

A user can save data permanently as long as it is saved to a partition other than the one protected by Deep Freeze. A utility called Data Igloo helps you set up a ThawSpace – an alternative location for files, folders, user profiles, or even registry keys.

Deep Freeze is not a replacement for anti-virus software, as it does not protect computers against malware infections. If a virus infects a machine, it can work its evil until the next time the system is rebooted. But after a reboot, it will be as if the computer was never infected.

Deep Freeze seems a lot like the System Restore function built into Windows, but actually it's quite different. System Restore saves snapshots of your system configuration periodically, but it allows changes. Deep Freeze protects your "ideal" configuration against changes. Also, System Restore does not affect user data files at all, nor do you have to save data to a different partition.

Deep Freeze comes in Standard and Enterprise versions. The Standard version for Windows ($48 with free 30-day trial) is good for home users with a single computer. The Mac version is priced at $69.30. The Enterprise edition includes several tools for administrators of multiple computers.

System administrators who need to keep many PCs configured consistently seem to like Deep Freeze. Faronics claims that they have 10 million paid licenses, and a customer list that includes Intel, Walmart, GM, Disney, Fedex, and American Airlines. It also seems like an excellent tool for kiosks or public computers, such as in a library or hotel business center. It's not uncommon for miscreants to install a virus, spyware or keylogger on a public computer, hoping to victimize the next person who comes along. But if Deep Freeze is installed, rebooting after each session will wipe the slate clean.

Is Deep Freeze a Good Solution For Home Users?

It does seem that computers get slower over time, and I attribute that to the accumulation of "crud" on the hard drive. Viruses, spyware, and pre-installed “crapware” may be affecting your computer's performance, or slowing down your web surfing. On a Windows system, the registry can collect erroneous and obsolete entries as programs are installed and removed. And so many programs want to run automatically at startup, which tends to make the start time longer and longer.

Deep Freeze can solve this problem by restoring a set of "factory fresh" or "known good" settings on every restart. That means malware infections are wiped away, and the effects of user error or improperly configured software are removed as well.

For home users who are not technically savvy, or computers that are used by children prone to click on anything that moves, Deep Freeze might be a good solution. There is one big caveat, though. If you create or update user files, you will lose those files when the computer is restarted, unless some care is taken. As I mentioned earlier, the Data Igloo utility can be used to direct files to non-system or network drives so they can be retained across reboots. One could also solve this problem by using web-based tools such as Google Docs or Dropbox, which store your files and folders in the cloud.

For the tech-savvy person who users computers every day to create files on a variety of software programs, Deep Freeze may be more of a hassle than a helper. If that's you, I recommend that you make regular backups, and use a security tool that allows only known-good programs to run on your computer.

PC Matic’s SuperShield does exactly that – it uses a whitelist approach that allows only known, trusted programs to run on your computer. Anything that is not on the whitelist is blocked. It prevents attacks from viruses, zero-day exploits, rootkits, cryptominers, keyloggers, and ransomware. See my review in
What’s New in PC Matic 4.0?

What do you think of Deep Freeze? Would you consider using it? Post your comment or question below…

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Most recent comments on "Should You Deep Freeze Your Hard Drive?"

(See all 24 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Louise Smith
19 Jan 2021

I have a dear friend who was a Librarian for a K-8 school and swore by Deep Freeze. And I can only imagine that it would be wonderful there. (That school purchased when Deep Freeze first came out and it was a lifetime purchase, not annually)
I tried it for a short time and even though I had a C: drive for all programs and a d:drive for my data and I only froze the C:drive - - I finally decided it was too much trouble as an individual.

Posted by:

Larry Crowell
19 Jan 2021

I don't know about this product. Seems like another complicated layer of software on top complicated layers of software. Instead, I use Macrium to make frequent backups of my system partition to a normally powered-off external USB hard drive and rely on that to restore a corrupted system partition, which I've had to do several times. It's necessary to do this anyway in case of a hard disc failure, which Deep Freeze cannot protect against. BTW, I keep my system partition at the absolute minimum to run Windows and everything else on a separate partition (also Macrium backed up) so a backup (or restore) of my system partition takes just a few minutes. Before I install ANY new software I do a backup. Ya just never know.

Posted by:

19 Jan 2021

Our computer club at our senior's centre uses deep freeze, and it does it's job reliably. Once a month, the computers are unfrozen, and any upgrades or updates deemed safe are applied by volunteers from the club. Then the computers are refrozen.

Posted by:

19 Jan 2021

I am a volunteer computer/technology tutor at a community centre and we have had Deep Freeze installed on our computers for several years. It is the best thing we ever did. The students can do whatever they want on the PCs during our lessons and at end of lesson the PC are rebooted and restored to pre lesson state with no problems. As I manage the computers and network at the centre, I have never had any problems with installing new software and doing windows updates. Great product.

Posted by:

19 Jan 2021

Ditto Larry Crowell! I've been doing exactly the same things for many, many years now. It covers all possible disasters - minor to major. You can recover a single deleted or screwed up file, or recover from an "everything got screwed up" software installation (or update). I am a staunch believer in keeping C: for System & Programs, and D: for all Data including remapped Windows Documents, Music, Downloads, Pics folders.'Makes any size recovery simple, fast and sure!
I've used two other major backup programs before finding Macrium Reflect about 7 years ago, and it's really pro. 'Keeping 4 machines out of trouble.

Posted by:

19 Jan 2021

Presumably, Deep Freeze would keep your system safe from any ransomware? If so, it could pay for itself in one off-guard moment!

A Macrium regime of regular back-ups (as advised by Larry and Charley) is good, but this offers a passive solution where it is making changes that entails the pro-active decision.

Sleeping your computer, then making a weekly(?) decision to "bring inside" any useful changes, to system or data, before re-booting, sounds like a regime that wouldn't be too onerous.

And yes, you'd still need occasional back-ups in case of disk failure, etc., but anything that helps prevent that realisation pit-of-the-stomach feeling is welcome...

Posted by:

19 Jan 2021

As another alternative to Deep Freeze that you might check out is google Reboot Restore Rx, I've used it in the past, there is a free version and a paid w/ more features and is very similar to this product.

Posted by:

Luke Donohue
20 Jan 2021

Another competitor to this software is "Shadow defender" very similar. I am very happy with it.

Posted by:

20 Jan 2021

I am a big fan of Deep Freeze.
About 10 years ago I had an extended, work related stay in a hotel that protected their computers with Deep Freeze. It was NOT obvious what software was in play, as the computer rebooted perfectly every time. I w3as fortunate that a tech wa nearby one day and he stated that Deep Freeze was the program protecting these computers.

Posted by:

20 Jan 2021

Back when I was using Windows I had a program called Returnil that worked the same way. I liked to try to modify my computer a lot and try out different programs to see what they were like, and this allowed me to return to the 'normal' state with just a reboot. One day, not paying attention as I should, I changed the password to my email account and locked myself out on a reboot. But I absolutely didn't worry about viruses or anything nasty. The guy who showed it to me installed it on my computer and then deliberately got rid of the registry. On reboot it was all as it should be. Deep Freeze works the same way.

Posted by:

Robert Deloyd
20 Jan 2021

I wonder if it can be loaded and used on Windows XP?

Posted by:

20 Jan 2021

Like Darryl, I try a lot of programs, and have for the last 15 years used a program with similarities to Deep Freeze to get myself out of trouble when things go wrong. It's Horizon Rollback: there is a version for public computers which wipes out all changes on a reboot, but I use one in which I take a snapshot (generally before installing software) which allows me to "rollback" all changes if I wish.
System Restore is meant to have a similar effect, but the Rollback snapshots are comprehensive and, in my experience, much more reliable. They can reverse the effects of malware (which often wipes out System Restore points) and has a pre-boot console which can easily be accessed if any changes have made a system unbootable.
There was a free Home version until last year which can still be found; there was also a free XP version which is no longer available.
Expert users like Larry tend to rely on frequent backups, but in practice I find that few people have the knowledge or motivation to make these, so a program like Rollback can offer a simpler solution, as snapshots can be made with two clicks in a few seconds. Full backups are, of course, still necessary from time to time to protect against hard drive failure.

Posted by:

20 Jan 2021

I used to use Roxio GoBack a few years ago and regret it's passing. It did the same as system restore but actually achieved what it was intended to do.

$40 for ONE computer is more than a little excessive. Like many families we have five running and that's a considerable chunk of money.

It would be very handy for cleaning off something loaded but found wanting but that's rare for me, maybe for my wife........ still seems expensive.

PC Matic does one Hell of a lot more for a comparable price for five computers.

If deep freeze really wants to crack the home market they will have to alter their priceing structure. For something costing as much and having rare use the one week trial is definitelly miserly. T assess it's usefullness on a home computer with single user would take months of real time use.

Posted by:

Barry Heath
20 Jan 2021

I'm comfortable with PC-Matic on all my machines. It doesn't let anything in that I don't allow, so the nasties can't get in. What else would I need?

Posted by:

20 Jan 2021

Sounds useful. I just make sure to create a system image using the tools in Windows. There are open source programs out there too but as long as they keep the program working, under backup and what they call Windows 7 backup (the old version and I think slightly more comprehensive than the Win 10 default backup) I'll keep using it. I set it to do "User" data and any unique folders I might have directly on c: and system image. Then, personally, I turn off (uncheck) the system image part after the first time. Then, if I add unique programs, once in awhile I'll turn it back on if I'm sure there is no malware and I've cleaned up cache data wherever possible with CCleaner (I download the professional version with 30 day trial and after running it turn off all 'helpful' settings as it wants to run on its own and such, which is not ok with me. Often I'll uninstall CCleaner when the trial runs out or before. I check news on it because once a few years back it even got struck by someone/ something.) or other cleaning program. I back up just new files using that backup program whenever I attach an external HDD. I've seen a crypto program mess up an external before so I don't keep it attached all the time.

Right away the article reminded me of 'hardened' OS's I've heard people have owned before that allow no changes. The Deep Freeze sounds more user friendly.

I've done the old HDD in the freezer trick before. It actually got it moving and somehow that HDD is still working today. Not all of the owner's data was intact but I warned them it was a last resort before drilling holes in the HDD and not to expect a miracle. I did a complete 'restore to factory defaults' after a users folder backup because it just wasn't acting right. I never dreamed it would continue working after that and somehow doesn't fail HDD hardware tests. I have theories on that but won't take your time/ space up. One unique thing I did was put the HDD in 2 freezer bags with the desiccant pouches from some pill bottles I had around. (All the biggest warnings against the procedure mentioned condensation. I'm not certain those increased chances of relative success but mention it as I hadn't heard of anyone using them before and I thought them an obvious possible help for that issue.) Crazy thing, I don't recall how long I left it in the freezer. I think it was 2 hours but... just happy I remember doing it.

Hopefully I didn't take up too much space. I don't remark on here often but when I do, it's difficult to stop. Still like talking about tech even though I only do a few fixes for others as side jobs these days.

Posted by:

21 Jan 2021

For those of you who are saying that this genre of software is simpler and easier to use than restoring from a periodic image backup -- how would you respond, after several days of work, to that unexpected crash requiring a reboot?

Posted by:

21 Jan 2021

There is a free program that does the same as Deep freeze. It is made by Toolwiz and is called Timefreeze. Thought people would like to know. I use it in school classrooms and have people save on D: which is not "protected". This leaves the "working computer" at its best.

Posted by:

21 Jan 2021

Charley, that question is the BEST of all the comments I've seen. Thanks!

Posted by:

Dave Leippe
22 Jan 2021

I used Deep Freeze for several years in an Adult Education program. Our computer lab had 30 identical computers, plus network storage and network printers. It was running on Windows XP. Fortunately,
we had Deep Freeze, because our computer lab was open in the day to high school students that liked to "explore" the Internet, etc. All I had to do was make sure each PC had been shutdown, before my adult class arrived. Many of my adults were seniors and experiencing a computer for the first time. Normally they were reluctant to try things and learn. Once they realized they couldn't hurt anything, because they could simply reboot. They also learned that they need to to keep their data backed up to the network drive storage provided.

Posted by:

Alexa Azzopardi
11 Jun 2021

As a community college librarian with 75 computers in my library and as a former high school and elementary librarian, I can't imagine functioning without this type of software! We would be a hot mess if students were allowed to make permanent changes to our computers. Consequently, we have to train our less-computer savvy students to save to their school-provided OneDrive or to their personal flash drives, but that's easy. I have to laugh about high school students "exploring" the Internet. Our high school students liked to hack our system and leave obnoxious pictures as the computer wallpaper. One quick reboot solved all of our problems.

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