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I have an elderly relative who always seems to manage to accidentally mess up the computer. (it's really hard to make a computer accident(=idiot)-proof.)

what I need is that I can set up a computer (e.g., skype, browser, email, with credentials already input) and when the computer is rebooted, it is exactly back to how it was, no matter almost whatever this person has done. I trust that this person won't figure out how to mount an unmounted volume. I presume that I will need to update the software (browser, security patches, skype, etc.) once a year or so.

I see a few possible approaches:

  • on bootup, everything important on root '/' is copied to a RAM disk, control is passed to it, and the real '/' is unmounted.

  • on bootup, an rsync from a stored image copy on another partition forces the root partition back to the same state.

  • on bootup, the root partition turns into ro and all file activity goes to an overlay file system.

snapshots as in a VM are probably not a great idea, because VMs are slow and themselves corruptible, possibly exposable to the user, too. making the user folder RO could result in error message, which would be endlessly confusing to my user, so this is not possible.

recommendations for macos appreciated.

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  • What have you tried, and failed, to make this work?
    – IconDaemon
    Mar 25, 2023 at 22:00

1 Answer 1

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You want Deep Freeze for Mac by the company Faronics.

It does precisely what you seek. You set up the Mac, get passwords, keychains, everything set and then freeze the filesystem. Next start, the Mac works and allows all sorts of changes - whatever but when you reboot - any changes made since the "freeze" are rolled back and your setup is preserved.

Try the free trial and then pay if it saves you time and headache supporting your use case.

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  • ALL changes dropped? Including messages written but not sent, e-mails read and deleted? Cookies recording your progress on social media?
    – WGroleau
    Mar 26, 2023 at 3:03
  • Yes - all storage after the freeze is temporary @WGroleau - so you'd re-download any mail that didn't get deleted off the server - messages would potentially arrive again - drafts kaput, files downloaded gone (cookies, photos, recipes, etc...)
    – bmike
    Mar 26, 2023 at 13:04
  • I guess OP would have to decide whether that's the best solution for the "elderly relative."
    – WGroleau
    Mar 26, 2023 at 20:59
  • For sure @WGroleau I’ve seen it work marvelously for that specific case, but everyone is a little different so you can’t always generalize.
    – bmike
    Mar 27, 2023 at 0:21
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    Deep Freeze has an admin controllable area known as ThawSpace [I've never used it, but it's an option for 'preservable changes'].
    – Tetsujin
    Mar 31, 2023 at 18:21

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