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Really Useful Stuff: WinPatrol

My pick for this week (belatedly) is BillP Studios' WinPatrol.

If you asked me, WinPatrol should be the one piece of software that you absolutely must install on top of Windows and MS Office. What it does: it's a security monitor that notifies you of any changes made to your system. In English: it basically takes a snapshot of your critical system resources and then alerts you of any changes taking place without your knowledge. So if your computer is being manipulated by malware, WinPatrol will halt the action and ask for your approval. If you think the program in question isn't malware, then you can allow the process to continue, and the digital angels are happy once again.

Actually WinPatrol will monitor changes made by any software, malware and wellware alike. It's effectively a kind of firewall that works as a security layer over your operating system, protecting you from unauthorized manipulations by software. However: this is not an antivirus, anti-spyware or anything similar. WinPatrol's job is to block any kind of changes happening without your knowledge, allowing them only when you approve. If your computer is already malware-infected, you have to deal with them first. (Click here for my antivirus reviews; here for my take on other security software.)

Therefore you can't really do without antiviruses and the such. So why use WinPatrol? Simple -- well, prevention is better than cure, right? Moreover, WinPatrol will also:
  • detect and review new auto start-up programs
  • automatically disable recurring startup programs
  • delay auto start-up programs for quick boot-up
  • monitor toolbars and clean up cookies
  • detect and view newly created hidden files
  • detect and lock changes to file type associations
and much more. And it's free.

WinPatrol is a fairly friendly piece of software -- for the most part, you'll only notice Scotty the Watchdog sitting in your taskbar who'll woof a popup whenever anything happens. However, advanced users are likely to feel more comfortable it, due to all the registry issues that are reflected in the alerts.

BillP Studios does have a paid version ($29.95) though, that provides 24/7 access to the WinPatrol Plus Knowledgebase and real-time infiltration detection. If you're not comfortable or need help about monitoring software-induced changes on your computer, by all means go for the paid version.

For: Super security monitor for your Windows computer (even works on Vista!). Also has a couple of useful privacy features thrown in. Free and weighs less than 1 MB (whoa).
Against: Interface and help features ought to be a bit more geared towards end-users.


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