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Windows to Go USB, Windows 7 Live USB Or BartPE Windows 7: What Is Malware Most Afraid Of?


What is malware most afraid of? The answer is simple – malware is rendered obsolete if you give it no way of getting onto your computer in the first place. Preventing infection is a great deal easier than getting rid of malware that has already infected your machine. There are three systems – Windows to Go USB, Windows 7 Live USB and BarptPE Windows 7 – all of which provide a means of separating your internet use and your computer use so that internet-based malware is unable to find its way onto your hard drives.

What is Malware Afraid Of – Option1: Windows 7 Live USB?

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A common form of computer anti virus protection recommended in many a computer protection guide is the Windows 7 Live USB. Not to be confused with the USB bootable version of Windows (which runs the installation from a USB but installs all files onto your computer's hard drive), the Windows 7 Live USB is a standalone operating system that runs from a portable flashdrive. You load Windows from the memory stick, use it for whatever means you wish – i.e. to safely access the internet – and then, after you shut down and remove the stick, your computer is restored to exactly the same state it was in before the session. Because your PC's hard drives are not written to during a Windows 7 Live USB internet session, you can feel safe in the knowledge that no malware infection remains on your computer once that session is ended. To be 100% safe, some people use a write-protected Live CD or Live SD card instead of the Live USB so that not even the plug-and-play OS can become infected. The Live SD also has the added advantage of an unlimited life, as it avoids the wear and tear of duty cycles.

Sadly, however, the wonderful solution that is Windows 7 Live USB suffers from one debilitating flaw.

It is illegal. If you were to create a Windows 7 live USB as suggested in many a computer protection guide, you would be violating the Windows EULA (End User License Agreement). Microsoft, quite understandably, wants its registrations to apply to computers, not portable memory sticks.

The EULA states that a Windows 7 image can only be transfered onto a flashdrive if you are doing so to install the operating system onto a machine. In that scenario, the USB is created using the Windows USB download tool, taken from Microsoft's site. However, this USB bootable OS installer is, of course, very different to a completely standalone Live USB and offers no additional computer anti virus protection at all.

Fortunately, however, there are a couple of legal Windows Live USB options available.

Part II: Windows to go USB – A Feature of Windows 8 Enterprise? (Not a Consumer Product)

Part III: BartPE Windows 7 in a Windows XP/Server 2003 Environment?

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Written by: 
Robin Welles; expats team, internet security team