The Returnil Virtual System 2008 is a free alternative to conventional computer protection products. Instead of giving retroactive protection, this product sets up a proactive safe-box ‘virtual machine’ on your hard disk which disappears once you switch off. This means that any attack on your computer does not touch your real hardware, it’s contained within the virtual machine. It’s harder work to manage this kind of tech than with computer imaging products such as Rollback RX (which I use to take instant snapshots of my computer state at regular intervals) but then again using virtualization is one of the most secure ways of protecting your machine.
The big hassle is the fact that you’ve got to manually save all new and updated files and folders from your computing session to disk before switching off, or you lose the lot, which could be a tad annoying. The free version doesn’t allow for selective file/folder saving during the session by the way, so it’s even more or a hassle. Nevertheless if you’re of a nervous disposition, this is probably a good way of keeping your computer safer than with just an anti-malware product. For another free option check out Sandboxie which we’ve covered before.
Returnil virtualization technology clones a computer’s System Partition and boots the PC into this system rather than native Windows, allowing you run your applications in a completely isolated environment. Hence the session and all activity, malicious or otherwise, will happen in the virtual environment, not in the real PC environment. If the PC is attacked or gets infected, all you need to do is to simply reboot the PC to erase all changes. After reboot, the system will be restored to its original state, as if nothing ever happened.