Returnil 2010 Questions

Discussion in 'Returnil releases' started by RangerXus, Feb 7, 2010.

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  1. RangerXus

    RangerXus Registered Member

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    Greetings:

    I am a new user of Returnil. I'm rebuilding my primary system and feel it could be a great tool for testing downloads and system changes (as long as they don't require a reboot) and when hap-hazardly surfing on the Internet (in addition to Sandboxie). I have registered for the Home Free version. If it continues to prove valuable then I will consider purchasing a license. But IMHO you should offer the Home Classic for a one time fee not a yearly license since it does not need a subscription for virus definitions. I already have a good virus scanner... I would just like to pay a one time license to use Returnil's virtual capability as long as I like. If your product were a top-drawer security suite (which I suspect is where you want to go) then that may be a different story in the future.

    With that being said I have a few questions...

    - Your download link for Home Free points to MajorGeeks. They have posted it is version 5174 but the actual download is 5170. CNET has version 5174 for download. I installed 5174 from CNET and tested it. It would never successfully register for Home Free. Later I did a rebuild and decided to install 5170 instead as I was thinking 5174 may not be clean. But now I'm thinking 5174 is Home Classicor Lux trial and that is why it would not register for Home Free. Is this correct? If so, I think MajorGeeks should correct their page and CNET should clarify it is Home Classic not Home Free. If I'm wrong, what is in 5174 and is it availabe as Home Free?

    - When I registered Home Free the screen said I would receive an email. I expected to get a license key, but it seemed to register within the product and I've never received an email with a key. If I have to reinstall do I just re-register Home Free? Is there a key anywhere (file or registry) that I can save to reapply if needed? Will there be an email?

    - There is conflicting or confusing information about passwords... is it true you have to be a registered Home Free to use passwords? Before I registered the password option and lock/unlock worked fine. Was I in a trial window?

    - I tried the Protect Folder option which I believe is support to protect folders and files whether System Safe is enabled or not... right? But it did not work reliably. Protecting a drive at the root did not protect anything. I was able to view a root .ini file in Notepad with no problems and all files in subfolders. Protecting a subfolder protected most files but .jpg files could still be viewed using the built-in Windows viewer... but could not be opened in MS Paint. Am I missing something? I also read in the forum that this does not prevent deleting folders (and I assume the files within them)... is that correct? This is a great concept if it could really lock the drive. What I'd like is the ability to lock a drive (other than the system drive) from any access so if I want to test using System Safe enabled I know that no damage could occur to my other drives. Is that your future intent?

    It would be nice to be able to see the files and registry entries that have been changed while System Safe is enabled. Maybe that is what File Manager and/or Access Real Disk give you... insight into the acual changes captured by Returnil. I couldn't use these features in the versions I tried.

    Though I couldn't test File Manger in the versions I installed, from the manual it appears you can save files from the virtual cache to the real disk, but having to do it file by file could be tedious... hopefully a copy by folder will one day be offered.

    The virtual disk is nice especially for users who only have one drive on their system that is not partitioned. It appears from testing that files saved to the virtual drive when System Safe is enabled do not get deleted during the reboot. This gives a place to save files on a one partition system. I did have one time when the virtual drive contents were lost but it seems to be working fine now. It shouldn't be a problem for Returnil if you use Windows shutdown/restart versus using the restart link on the System Safe GUI page or do you recommend using the GUI page restart link?

    Other than that Returnil seems to be a great tool with a lot of potential. It is a simple and resonable replacement over building VMs for doing non-reboot testing or system change testing. For everyday use I'm not sure I would use it because right now it seems too cumbersome to save things like browser favorites, files downloaded from the Internet etc. before restarting my system and I usually don't want to lose those things. And while I realize you suggest braking the storing everything on the system drive via My Documents (or Documents in Vista) habit, unfortunately that is what Microsoft encourages by their design. Of course I could relocate these files to another drive, but some programs may not follow standards and not run correctly with these key folders relocated.

    For whatever my opinion may be worth... the space for security suites is already saturated with Avast, Comodo, Symantec, Trend, etc. etc. I hope you continue to focus on making Returnil the best virtual tool for the typical computer user. Easy to use, easy to save files from virtual, ability to restart virtual, etc. For those who are technical, they are probably going to choose VMware or Virtual PC. Virtual machines for the average user is a developing space. With SandboxIE in the browser space with its following and now Avast offering virtual abilities in their new version 5 the competition will get tougher. But your product potentially has a lot more capability to offer. Good luck.

    Thanks in advance for your reply.
     
  2. cyberdiva

    cyberdiva Registered Member

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    Hi, RangerXus. I'll leave most of your questions for others to answer, but I think I can help with a couple. With File Manager, you work directly on the "real" files you've specified. All changes you make to them are made to your computer, not to the virtual version. And to save them, all you have to do is press the Save Files button in File Manager. I think that saves all the files at once. You don't have to save them one by one.

    Also, I almost always use Windows' Restart to reboot rather than the restart link on the System Safe GUI. I haven't found that to be a problem.

    I'm still trying to understand Access Real Disk, but I think it does what you say, namely, to enable you to see which files and registry entries have been changed on the virtual partition while System Safe is enabled. I hope someone will correct me if I'm wrong.

    Finally, I just want to say that I agree with you that I'd like to see Home Classic available for a one-time fee rather than a yearly subscription, since it doesn't include the anti-virus, which requires frequent updates. To be honest, I have been rather unimpressed with the Anti-Virus, which gave me lots of false positives. I finally disabled it. Since most people already have an antivirus program they like, and since I've often been told not to run two antivirus programs at the same time, I doubt I'd use Returnil's even if I thought it was satisfactory.

    HTH
     
  3. RangerXus

    RangerXus Registered Member

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    Is there any chance someone could take a stab at my questions? If this is the wrong forum to post can someone let me know what is the correct forum? Thanks.
     
  4. pegr

    pegr Registered Member

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    I've only just seen your original post and many of the questions you've asked are best answered by a Returnil moderator. That said, I will comment on some of the points you've raised: -

    If this is a major concern, then you could also evaluate Shadow Defender before making a final decision. SD is a similar type of program to RVS but the feature set is slightly different and might suit you better, judging by some of the other points you've raised. The SD license is lifetime, covering all future upgrades for a single one-time payment.

    I experienced all of the same problems as you and I agree the implementation is flawed. It is a great concept though because it has the potential to lock down access to personal data but, in its present form even if it worked properly, it has a weakness in that protection is either on or off globally. If you are only using RVS for software testing that might not matter, but for anybody wanting to run the system in virtual mode as the default, the lack of granularity it is inconvenient. You will find yourself repeatedly turning file protection on and off, as some programs will require access to personal data, and others you will want to restrict.

    My understanding is that the file protection feature in RVS is only a stepping stone towards full multi-partition virtualisation. File protection is still useful though because it can prevent read access to personal data, which virtualisation in itself can't do. I hope that Returnil continue to develop file protection as a security feature, and don't drop it in favour of multi-partition virtualisation (IMO they should develop both). I should just point out that Shadow Defender already has the ability to virtualise additional partitions, and not just the system partition, which is a useful safety feature when testing software.

    Yes, this is what the File Manager and Access Real Disk give you, but this feature is only available in a trial or registered copy of the paid version, not the free version. Although the manual clearly states that saving a folder, only saves the folder and not the file contents, whenever I've tried it, it has saved the entire folder, files and all. I know this is not how it is described in the manual, but I can only report what I have observed to be the case. Maybe it's a bug in the way RVS works on my system; if so, it's a bug I'm more than happy to live with. :D

    I agree that this is a feature of RVS that some people find unsatisfactory. One of the most often stated reasons by people who prefer Shadow Defender over RVS is that with SD an exclusion list of files and folders to be permanently excluded from protection can be created, avoiding the need to store data to be retained on a virtual disk or an alternate partition. Whilst it is possible to set up a list of files that can be manually committed on demand (SD also has this feature), it's clumsy to have to do this in order to avoid losing changes. It is also risky because if the machine reboots itself for any reason, any uncommitted changes will be lost.

    Please note that I'm not advocating Shadow Defender over RVS, just making a comparison between the feature sets where it relates to points you've made. I have full licenses for both programs and they are both great programs, but they are slightly different in the features they offer and the way they work. I would suggest trialling them both and see which one comes closest to meeting your individual requirements.
     
  5. cyberdiva

    cyberdiva Registered Member

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    Pegr, I'm just curious. Was there some disappointment with Shadow Defender that led you to also buy Returnil? Or vice versa? Or a generous wish in these troubled times to support security software manufacturers :) ?
     
  6. pegr

    pegr Registered Member

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    None of the above.

    I already had a paid license for Shadow Defender then I received a complimentary one-year license for RVS 2010 from Returnil because I had previously had a paid license for RVS 2008 (before switching to SD after it expired). For my current needs, I like SD better, but I also think that RVS offers better prospects long-term to develop into a fully fledged security solution.

    As I said before, they're both great programs and it's worth trying both to see which one suits your situation best.

    Regards
     
  7. cyberdiva

    cyberdiva Registered Member

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    Thanks very much, Pegr. I hadn't heard of Shadow Defender until you mentioned it. It looks quite interesting. I think I'll stick with Returnil for now and see how I feel when my license is up for renewal. I gather that with Shadow Defender, once you've bought the program, all updates are free. :thumb:
     
  8. Coldmoon

    Coldmoon Returnil Moderator

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    Hi RangerXus,
    Apologies for the late reply.

    The life-time licensing model is illusory and self defeating over time. It is true that the model has benefits for the vendor in the beginning, but becomes a serious drag on support resources when the pool of available customers is no longer sufficient to maintain the growth of the company. When this point is reached, the vendor starts spending an inordinate amount of time looking for revenue sources rather than focusing on what is really important: New development and improved support services.

    A couple of questions come to mind here: How many companies have made the transition from new industry entrant (enters the shark pool) to industry leader/self-sustaining concern keeping the life-time licensing model? And of those who do manage to stay viable (profitable), how many of them have grown to provide new, innovative solutions as they go forward? From my own experience, the life-time licensing is dropped in part (all new customers from this point forward must purchase subscriptions) or in whole where legacy customers are “cut-off” at their current version without any upgrades being available without new licensing.

    We are honest about this and chose to take the harder road where licensing is by subscription from the very beginning so that there is no doubt as to our policies and the customer knows what to expect without having to worry about the “deal” changing in the future.

    Apologies for any confusion this may have caused and you are correct that one is for the new Home Classic/Enterprise Classic client versions. Expect the situation to be clearer as we go forward. For the next build release, go to the product page on our website and then select a mirror site. The installer is universal (meaning the server controls the feature sets available in the client at registration) so you can download from any of the mirrors and still get the features you paid for following registration.

    Check your spam filters to make sure the e-mail was not flagged and diverted. Regardless of this however, simply send us a note requesting the information and the team will be more than happy to assist you. Also, licensing information can be retrieved from the server by using the License recovery self-help feature (Paid customers only).

    Yes, this is also true for self help password recovery (similar to the License Number recovery mentioned previously).

    This is because the File Protection feature is for non-system disks and partitions only. The System Partition os protected by the System Safe virtualization.

    The FP feature uses native Windows features to remove access to selected, non-system files and folders. The feature is limited by the properties of the Windows feature so is not absolute. It does however make it harder for malware to infect the protected content. This feature is scheduled to be dropped and replaced in a future series with multi-partition virtualization (see the betas forum for details on RVS Labs where the new engine is being tested).

    This is something we have on the roadmap, but it has lower priority than other improvements: multi-partition virtualization, selective file/folder exclusions, multi-state restore, AI/Machine learning antimalware engine, distributed immunity, and complete solid state drive support.

    The FM is designed the way it is to make saving of content a bit more difficult and thus encourage the use on non-system volumes to save data and files. The core concept of the virtualization is to maintain a clean System while still allowing flexibility for the user (as opposed to the Deep Freeze model for instance) and to make it more robust as a security, rather than recovery solution. This is going to be replaced in the near future with better automation in the product that includes, but is not limited to, file and folder exclusions. The discussions we have had to date also include a feature similar, but not entirely the same, as your request for being able to review changes during the current virtual session ;)

    Whichever is most convenient for you – both have the same result.

    The number effected like you suggest are actually getting smaller as improvements in Windows design is making it harder for developers to play loose with standards, especially in 64 bit environments. Using virtualization (any virtualization) eventually forces the user to reevaluate how they use their computer and opens the door to older techniques where System, Data, and Programs were separated. In the past, this was used mainly to improve the read/write performance of the older disks. With improvements in storage technology, this has not been needed, but does have significant benefits when used for security reasons.

    One thing to always keep in your mind. While you say you have been trained by the way Windows has worked in the past to use System resources like My Documents, Pictures, Favorites, etc, you have done so with the additional “training” you have gotten from industry messaging that says this is safe because program “X” can detect and block malware from infecting it. After taking some time to look at the actual success rate of traditional AV/AS/AM/HIPS/etc solutions, I think it is obvious that detection is useless as a front line protection strategy and only really works as a form of the “canary-in-a-coal-mine” warning service.

    To take full advantage of the RVS model, you need to change your thinking to embrace the time-to-removal model and configure your computing environment to reduce the risk from exposure to malicious content rather than hoping the cavalry will be coming over the hill with a signature update to save the day…

    Thank you for your encouragement and kind words. Also be aware that we value all feedback regardless of whether it is pro or con. Some things to think about here:

    1. The concept of time to removal is gaining traction. Consider the recent moves by both Faronics and Acronis to offer Antivirus services…

    2. Symantec and Avast are using application level virtualization rather than system level. This means that, for whatever reason, there is always a risk that content could “leak” out of the application sandbox and infect the real system. This may be something as simple as an inexperienced user mis-configuring the sandbox or allowing the installation of malicious content on their real hard drive if they fail to understand all the properties of the software they are testing. Even VMware has these limitations where the Host could become infected in specific situations.

    3. SandboxIE is a wonderful program and is complimentary to RVS in every way, but has not yet completely cracked the 64 bit environment. It is still extremely useful, but is not as “hard” as it is in 32 bit environments.

    4. Comodo is an enigma in some ways in that you are never quite sure what their actual mission is or their core vision for PC security. From observing their solutions and when they are introduced, it appears they are just reacting to what is “hot” at the particular time they dip their toes into a particular technology. This lack of focus makes it difficult for me at least to consider them a serious industry player who is really in this for the long haul. This opinion is subjective of course, but I think is valid and shared by a number of people who have evaluated their solutions in the past.

    Regardless of the above, YOU are the only one who can determine whether the RVS model is appropriate for your environment and whether it will provide a higher level of security for your PC. To determine this however, you must be willing to take the step and then test it until you are satisfied that it does what it says it will do and that you are indeed more protected using it than without it…


    Mike
     
  9. zcv

    zcv Registered Member

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    I'm thinking of installing the free home version, at least for a start.

    From reading this thread and the parts concerning non-system partitions, am I correct in concluding that any download/addition to a file that does not reside on the OS partiton is not part of the system virtualization?

    A specific case: XP and Win7 are on the 1st partition of two physical drives + data partitions filling out the rest of the drives. The Favorites folder is on a data partition and each OS shares that one Favorites folder.

    So from what I'm reading, if I add to favorites, its to the real favorites folder on the data partition, is this correct?
     
  10. pegr

    pegr Registered Member

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    Yes, that's correct. Only the system partition is virtualised by RVS. Anything saved to a non-system partition will be saved to the real file system.
     
  11. zcv

    zcv Registered Member

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    Thanks for the confirmation.
     
  12. pegr

    pegr Registered Member

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    You're welcome.
     
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