[Review] Wondershare Time Freeze

{rw_text}Software reviewed in this article:

Wondershare Time Freeze

Version reviewed:

v2.0.0

Software description as per the developer:

A powerful virtual system tool to safeguard system from virus, spyware, trojans, etc.

Download size:

2.06 MB

Supported OS:

Windows 2000/XP/Vista/Win7 (32-bit and 64-bit)

Price:

$39.90 (USD) for single personal license and $79.00 (USD) for single commercial license. Volume/multi-user discounts are available.

{/rw_text} –>

{rw_good}

  • Straightforward and easy to use.
  • Protects the main system partition (C:/) and gives users the option to protect individual folders which are outside the main system partition.
  • Main system partition protection and and folder protection can be toggled individually; enabling one does not mean you have to enable the other.
  • For main system partition protection, users chose to keep all changes made or dump all changes upon reboot.
  • For folder protection, users can either deny access to folders (“Disable Access”) or prevent any changes from occurring (“Disable Changes”).
    • Each folder can be set individually to either deny access or to prevent changes from occurring.
  • Has the ability to “write-protect” or prevent USB drives from loading.
  • Has the ability to run on a memory/RAM buffer as opposed to hard drive buffer.
  • Has the ability to protect MBR, automatically start protection upon Windows boot, and to hide the system tray icon when protection has started.
  • Users can password protect the program.

{/rw_good} –>

{rw_bad}

  • Does not properly detect the amount of physical RAM/memory (at least on my computer).
  • “Disable Changes” for folder protection into 100% bulletproof: Third party programs – like Unlocker – can be used to delete or/and move folders that should be undeletable and/or unmovable.
  • Needs to provide better visual notifications that the main system partition is protected and all changes will be lost upon reboot; something like having the option to have some sort of warning displayed right before a reboot occurs, reminding the user all changes will be lost, is needed.

{/rw_bad} –>

{rw_score}
{for=”Ease of Use” value=”9″}Extremely easy to use. The only major problem is when main system protection is turned on, a user may forget that the protection is turned on (because there is no visual notification – such as a floating widget or a popup warning before a reboot – that protection is on, asides for a small change in the system tray icon) and reboot the computer, only to find all the things they worked on for the past hours is lost.
{/for}
{for=”Performance” value=”7″}Performs very well except for two things: 1) It improperly detects the amount of physical RAM/memory I have on my computer 2) “Disable Changes” does not fully protect a folder – third party programs, such as Unlocker, can be used to delete or move folders protected with “Disable Changes”.
{/for}
{for=”Usefulness” value=”9″}I can see this being useful to many people.
{/for}
{for=”Price” value=”7″}The price is a mixed bag. $39 for a personal license is right-around the ballpark of other products such as Returnil and Deepfreeze, although I would say $29 would make this product more attractive to home users. $78 for a commercial license is a fairly high price, however it is an upfront cost: Wondershare Time Freeze has no reoccurring yearly charges. Thus, in the long run – depending on how many licenses you order and how long you use the program – Wondershare Time Freeze can come out to be cheaper than the likes of Returnil and Deepfreeze which do have an yearly reoccurring cost.
{/for}
{for=”Final Score” value=”7″}
{/for}
{/rw_score} –>

{rw_badb}Wondershare.com’s WOT profile shows it as a company that uses spam tactics to advertise their products:

I don’t like spam; you don’t like spam; nobody likes spam. Spam is hated by everyone (I bet ever spammers don’t like being spammed) and the spam tactics of the developer should be factored into your decision to buy Wondershare Time Freeze, if you ever decide to purchase it. However, in regards to the Wondershare Time Freeze, spam plays no positive or negative role in its performance.

{/rw_badb} –>

{rw_verdict}[tup]
{/rw_verdict} –>

Similar to the dotTech Favorite Returnil Virtual System, Wondershare Time Freeze is a security tool that provides users with two aspects of protection which no orthodox anti-virus/anti-malware tool provides:

  • Wondershare Time Freeze allows users to protect their main system partition (C:/) by removing any and all changes made to the computer (C:/ partition only) after the computer has been rebooted/restarted. This is a terrific way to protect your computer because WTF (Wondershare Time Freeze) uses a “buffer”* – as opposed to your main system partition – to store any changes you make to your computer while protection is on. Then, when you restart your computer, anything in this “buffer”** is dumped and thrown away – all changes are erased and your computer is reverted back to how it was before protection was enabled. This approach is the ultimate protection because even if you download malware unknowingly on your computer, WTF gets rid it (100% completely) when you restart your computer. Of course, any other changes made to your computer are also undone (like Windows Updates; so be sure to turn WTF off when running Windows Updates).

If users want to keep changes they made to their computer after WTF’s protection is turned on, they can simply turn off protection and opt to merge all the files/folders/etc. present in the “buffer” area with the main system partition. Do take note, though, that if you do want to keep all changes made to computer, do not restart your computer while WTF main system partition protection is turned on – you will lose all changes. You need to actually manually turn off the protection and then select to merge changes.

*For those confused about what a “buffer” is, think about it like this. Image you bought a brand new dining table. To protect this brand new table, you put a table cloth over it (a “buffer”). This table cloth enables you to make full use of the dining table without having to worrying about getting it dirty, scratched, etc. because the table cloth takes all the hits for you; it serves as a buffer between the table and the food/utensils/kids/people/etc. Similarly, your computer is like the dining table while the “buffer” provided by WTF is like the dining cloth: The “buffer” provides protection to your computer, keeping it safe from haram, and making it easy to cleanup after you are done.

**The buffer is a limited area on your hard drive (or RAM/memory, if you activate that feature). However large it is exactly, I don’t know because Wondershare does not specify, but I assume the size of the buffer varies depending on your current hard drive space usage/capacity. The buffer can get full if you have WTF’s main partition protection activated for a long time and have not rebooted to get rid of all changes/merged changes. If the buffer gets full, you will be warned and told to either reboot to get rid of all changes or to merge all changes; according the Wondershare the warning occurs when the buffer is at 90%.

  • In addition to the main system partition protection mentioned above, WTF allows users to individually select folders to protect (and since partitions are “folders”, in a liberal sense of the terms, users can protect whole partitions, if they wish, with this folder protection feature). With WTF users can either “Disable Access” or “Disable Changes” to individual folders. “Disable Access” makes it so the folder cannot be opened or modified in anyway (edited/renamed/moved/deleted/etc.) and the files inside it cannot be accessed or modified (renamed/moved/deleted/etc.); “Disable Changes” allows users to access the folder and the files inside, but the folders and files cannot be modified in any way (edited/renamed/moved/deleted/etc.)

Do take note that this folder protection feature is different than the main system partition protection feature. With the main system partition protection feature changes are dumped after a computer reboot/restart. The folder protection feature, on the other hand, has no association with computer reboots/restarts; folder protection offers straight-up protection: You cannot modify any folders that are protected in any way shape form or fashion, so there is no need to dump changes after reboot.

The cool thing about WTF is the main system partition protection and folder protection features are completely separate – you can toggle one on and the other off, or you can toggle both on at the same time.

Two other “extra” protection features WTF offers are:

  • The ability to protect the MBR (Master Boot Record) of Windows.
  • The ability to make it so every USB/flash drive which is plugged into the computer is automatically made read-only, or is not allowed to be recognized by the computer (to prevent malware infections via USB/flash drives).

To assist with all the protection features above, WTF has some “convenience” features:

  • WTF has the ability to automatically start main system partition protection and/or folder protection at Windows boot.
  • WTF has the ability to hide the WTF system tray icon after protection has been enabled.
  • WTF has the ability to change the icon of the folders which are protected via the folder protection feature.
  • WTF has the ability to be password protected.
  • WTF has the ability to make the buffer on the RAM/memory as opposed to being on the hard drive. Putting the buffer on the RAM/memory is a technique which allows for performance increase while the main system partition protection is turned on (because reading from RAM/memory is a lot faster than reading from hard drive). However, you need to have sufficient free RAM to be able to use this feature and to be completely honest the performance increase really isn’t groundbreakingly great.

The following short demo video – created by Wondershare – walks you through all the features I just mentioned above:

Overally, Wondershare Time Freeze is a good program that provides good protection. However, there are three valid concerns which the developer needs to look into:

  • At the main program window, WTF displays how much “Physical Memory” your computer has. For some reason, WTF is inaccurately reading how much RAM/memory my computer has: It tells me I have 2 GB of RAM whereas I have 3 GB. This problem isn’t too major, but it is worth mentioning.
  • WTF needs to have better visual notifications that the main system partition protection is turned on and if a user reboots/restarts/shutdowns his/her computer, all changes made to the computer will be lost. As it stands, the only notifications a user gets is when he/she turns on the protection (the popup message saying “Don’t save files, blah, blah blah”) and the system tray icon for WTF changes when protection is turned on. However, in my opinion, these are not good enough notifications. It does not take a very creative imagination to realize that someone may turn on WTF protection and forget they turned it on; and when they reboot/restart their computer they are in for a rude awakening when they notice all the files they have been working on/changes they have made to their computer for the past few hours are gone.

Thus, to prevent such an oh **** moment, I propose WTF prompt users with a popup message right before a reboot/restart/shutdown occurs saying something like “If you reboot/restart/shutdown your computer, all changes will be lost. Are you sure?” This way people that have forgotten that system protection is turned on can make the decision if all the changes they made to their computer since protection was turned on should be saved to allowed to go. To make it convenient on users that don’t want such a popup, Wondershare may consider adding this popup message as an option which users can toggle on/off.

  • The “Disable Changes” mode of protection for the folder protection features is not 100% safe. I was able to use a third party program – Unlocker – to move and delete (but not rename, modify, or unlock)  folders which were protected using “Disable Changes”. This did not happen for folders being protected with “Disable Access”. This program is definitely major and potentially a deal-breaker.

This review was conducted on a laptop running Windows 7 Professional 32-bit. The specs of the laptop are as follows: 3GB of RAM, a Radeon HD 2600 512MB graphics card, and an Intel T8300 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo processor.

{rw_freea}

Returnil Virtual System 2010 Home Free

As I already stated, Returnil Virtual System and Wondershare Time Freeze are very similar programs, although RVS has a few extra features such as anti-malware, and virtual disks.

Windows SteadyState

Windows SteadyState is a free software (free for commercial or home use) for Windows XP and Vista (Win7 support not officially added yet as far as I know). While SteadyState takes the same approach as Wondershare Time Freeze (dumping all changes made to computer when rebooted), SteadyState is aimed at multi-user computers. SteadyState’s “system safe” feature corresponds to Windows user accounts, and SteadState has other options like disabling Windows features for non-administrator accounts.

Also, SteadyState integrates Windows Updates better than Wondershare Time Freeze.

Wondershare Time Freeze Free

Wondershare Time Freeze Free is the free version of Wondershare Time Freeze.

Sandboxie

Sandboxie aims to accomplish much of the same things asWondershare Time Freeze (i.e. protection), but it is a different beast altogether. You see with Sandboxie you get to “sandbox” programs so any files created/associated with those programs will not directly affect your computer if they are harmful. However, these sandboxed programs/files don’t get deleted upon system reboot – they are just kept isolated.

To put it in layman’s terms, Wondershare Time Freeze is more of a system-wide protection while Sandboxie is more of pinpoint, user defined protection. With Wondershare Time Freeze you start with full protection and must manually poke holes in your protection when necessary. With Sandboxie you start with no protection and must manually select how you want to be protected when necessary.

{/rw_freea} –>

{rw_verdict2}Wondershare Time Freeze is easy-to-use and provides users with a level of protection that no anti-virus/anti-malware program can match. Overall, it is a nice program – thumbs up! However, I stop short of recommending it because it is not 100% bug free, yet. Yes, the main problem area is not associated with Wondershare Time Freeze’s main system partition protection, but nonetheless it is a significant problem. Feel free to use Wondershare Time Freeze if you like, but until Wondershare makes WTF bug-free, my recommendation is the following: If you are the sole user of your computer, Returnil Virtual System is the way to go. The options and features of RVS make it far superior than SteadyState for a single user (you can grab Home Free if you are a home user and don’t want to pay for Home Lux). However if you share a computer with other people on a regular basis (i.e. you have multiple Windows user accounts), or you are looking to protect a publicly used computer, Windows SteadyState is better than RVS in that situation because SteadyState works with Windows users accounts and provides Windows’ feature disabling functions while RVS does not.
{/rw_verdict2} –>

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22 comments

  1. Eric

    This is a program for the truly paranoid (no offense). :P
    Anyways… I will still use SteadyState (for its account features).
     
    @ebony: Windows Virtual PC can run more than XP. I run Singularity on it.

  2. RobCr

    I just visited the GOTD site (decided to await users comments and comments here, and choose a free alternative).
    Some were complaining that WTF did not work well, when they had previously changed the DPI to say 120 instead of the Normal 96
    To fix it, they had to change the DPI back to Normal (96 DPI).
    Some were complaining, and the last post lambasted WTF for not anticipating users changing the DPI.

    In case any of you got ‘infected’ with their spirited (but very misguided) thoughts, I have posted a correction (that is a correction to their thinking).

    The last 20 years of my working life were spent in large companies, in their IT Development sections.
    I was pretty intolerant, of FW managers, but I have to say in my last job (14 years in one job, a record for me), there were two great Managers running the IT Dept.
    Best Managers I have ever worked with.
    Smart as whips, and extremely logical.
    Two of the things they taught me were -
    Clear thinking, and
    Clean solutions.

    Clear thinking included careful analysis of Problems and Needs, prior to considering Solutions.
    And Clean solutions, meant coming up with appropriate solutions for the Problems, and Needs.

    The Problems that were driving some of those posts to GOTD, were poor eyesight, or too small monitors.
    The Solution that they had settled on, making the the Font size (DPI) larger, was an Unclean Solution.

    Here is my post to GOTD (to save you having to locate the GOTD web page) -

    Max, you should not be changing the font size.
    MS should be shot for offering that option.
    I have even seen MS programs that cannot handle it.
    What fool developer (in MS) came up with the suggestion, let’s improve visibility by enlarging the text, but not the controls that contain the text. That is an ‘unclean’ concept.
    What they should have offered INSTEAD is -
    - The ability to change the screen resolution, with a simple click of a Sys Tray (Notification Area) Icon.
    - Plus the ability to easily zoom the screen, with a simple keyboard shortcut.
    MS should provide both, and let the user choose either one, whenever they see fit.

    If you wish to see an example of full screen zoom, you should try Magnifying Glass Pro (I got it free from GOTD).
    You have to get rid of the border, and set it to full screen, then it is perfect. I just press Ctrl and the Windows key, to show or hide it.
    I use it all the time.
    I have also written a VB6 program that shows a small Form, when I move my mouse to the top left of my screen. It shows what my current Resolution is, and there is a button for changing to my other choice.
    One single click to go to 800*600, and another single click to go back to 1024*768

    I agree with the need you have described, but please do not encourage others to adopt a bad solution.

  3. Ben

    Dear Ashraf,

    Just a note to thank you for all the work you do on this site and all the help you give to so many people all over the world. I check Giveaway every day and always read your review before downloading anything. Your reviews are thorough but also easy for the non technical to understand. It is all very much appreciated.

    From Ben in OZ

  4. Trev

    Yes setup warns that WTF may conflict with Snapman service Acronis, and “strongly suggests” to uninstall Acronis first.
    Acronis is the greatest ever.
    Deal-breaker for me.
    Thanks anyway Ashraf.

  5. wt4

    must also mention that all these different types of security software, overlapping, “suites”, etc…. it’s all mind numbing. ms needs to include this in mse. i can see why everyday basic-app users want to give up, and try ubuntu. there’s no activating, etc. you still need to look up info for each app, check if it’s worthwhile for your purpose.

  6. wt4

    actually, after seeing today’s software name on gaotd (aka “goated”) ‘homepage’, i began googling. either i saw another “wtf” in results or mentally acronmym-ed “wtf” myself. then i googled appropriately, and this dottech page was 1st result.
    i’m surprised the w.tf people did not recognize the acronym trouble, since internally i dioubt they *always* spellout the name in full.

    i also goggled some security sites. there are threads at wilders.

  7. Conn09

    I can never get Returnil Virtual system to work on my Comp Ashraf, i have installed it several times after you have recommended it and as soon as i have hit enable protection my computer bluescreens.
    So as soon as my computer starts again i end up uninstalling Returnil. My comp Is a Vista Home Premium so i do not know if it has something to do with my OS. But i’m hoping that this actually works, because my life would be sooooo much easier ;)

    EDIT: OH! and another thing, what is the big bad bug on this? i would like to know before i install this program.

  8. NoWankersHere

    Greetings and thanks Ashraf for another tip top review. Anybody have experience and thoughts on Microsoft Virtual PC vs WTF? Now I have both, which to install…perhaps WTF, then MVPC within the confines of WTF. Doublegood plus to have a virtual within a virtual! Wot wot? :) Cheers all!

  9. gpc111

    On the GAOTD page there were comments about WTF wanting users to uninstall certain image programs. I use Norton Save and Restore. Does it mean I will have to uninstall this before I can use WTF? How about RVS? Does it make the same demand? Thank you for any of your thoughts.

  10. zugshad

    definitely can see the benifits of a program like this. Currently have sandboxie with comodo but have yet to use it.. installed VMware to do my testing because afaik i can install my stuff on there to test it out etc and see if infected and it shouldnt effect my laptop (correct in thinking this?)
     
    i agree with Ashraf about needing some kind of warning when you do the reboot.. i for one would prolly be “that guy” that did a lot of changes, did a reboot.. and totally forgot that I had this running.. and then get a ohh Sh*t moment and be pissed..
     
    Also.. just noticed.. you posted that it was as 2.06mb DL Ashraf.. if your going off the main site and it is that, sorry. but noticed on GAoTD it is File Size: 7.58 MB..just just figured would mention that just in case was a slight error.
    Zug

  11. o(o.o)o

    Returnil2008 memory caching here as well although I rarely turn it on. Currently have it installed on an XP desktop and running under a limited user account with SRP :p Personally, I think RVS made a bad move integrating a scanner with later versions which is probably the reason for most of the known bugs in RVS2010.
     
    Anyhoo, I really like virtualization concept but currently it’s still a niche market so not so many good options around that is freeware. Hope Wondershare further develops both versions of Time Freeze.

    Someone over at wilders tested wondershare as well as other virtualization apps. Results are dismal for most of them lol

    http://www.wilderssecurity.com/showthread.php?t=276210

  12. alter ekko

    I tested the free version of Wondershare Time Freeze about a month ago.
    It worked quite ok on my single-user Vista laptop.  But after one week  I switched back to Returnil 2008 (which has been my favorite for 2-3 years on partitions/computers with XP, Vista and – now – Win7).
    The reason: A 2-3GB file was created permanently in the System32 folder
    of my Windows system C:-partition. That partition was quite small
    already. Since Returnil seems to be able to do it’s job with available
    RAM only (for me on that laptop), Returnil was a better choice.
    Also: I find it a bad behaviour to make such a ‘buffer’ file without even
    telling the user what is happening.