Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Stop those unwanted running programs...

Patrol Your PC: Catch the running programs

It may not be of much concern to know about the apps that are automatically installed and run as startup programs and services inside your PC unless they started causing you some worries. Windows or any other operating system and some application as well, need to continuously run several small executables called startup programs and services; in background; to give you their best. For example, if you installed Quick Time media player in you PC, a small application called Quick Time Task also get installed with main application and run constantly in your PC as it gets loaded during PC startup. This is absolutely un-wanted and un-necessary on user part, and is purely designed by the Quick Time to impress you that Quick Time loads faster when you want to play media file through it. While most of the day you may be busy in processing other document, Quick Time Task will be running there in background in an anticipation that you are going to play Quick Time Movie at any moment, which, eventually you never do. Similarly, if you use Microsoft Office, it places an application in startup group that facilitate in loading and searching MS Office faster. As said earlier, while some of these continuously run executables are essential for your PC, and are installed with Operating systems and applications, some are absolutely useless like Quick Time Task or MS Office Startup. They not only eat system resources but also clog your system, since they are often permanently loaded in memory. Further, some tiny application such as web-connecters (as application updaters) and long-distance telephone dialers got installed automatically once you click certain web pages while surfing the Internet. You never know which constantly running apps are essential, installed with OS or with an Application. Some Viruses, Trojans, Worm etc. may also get installed in a similar way, and you may remain un-aware of it. Over the time, some worthless startup application such as Advertising Spyware, Application Registration reminders, Message servers, Splash Screen generators, Tracking Software etc. also gets installed which need proper monitoring. Often these programs pose serious security issues for your computer.

There are several ways through which you can monitor unwanted startup application that run constantly with or without your notice. In Windows, there are some built in tools such as services.msc in WindowsXP, through which you can have a fairly good idea about some unwanted application that runs as services. Windows registry editor also gives you option to clear unwanted startup application. While these tools are complicated in handling and management, and only help you in removing startup programs at a later stage, i.e. after their installation; there are some utilities that are easy in use and help you in round the clock monitoring and checking all kinds of malicious programs creeping in your PC through various means and help you in getting rid off them, even before their installation.

WinPatrol

The light version of WinPatrol is a free tool that monitors your Computer against any activity that attempt to install startup program. It has a Scotty, the watch Dog that alerts you when it finds such an attempt, so that you can accept it or reject it. This utility also gives you little more information about the startup program for your informed decision. WinPatrol also provide you details about Windows services and lets you to Start/Stop/Disable these services from within this application. If you find some suspicious program running and you do not have any idea about it, click on its “Full Report” button. In a browser window, you will see some detailed information about the program, i.e. its name, parent program group, the organization, copyright, its registry values in startup group, and application path etc. If you want even more detailed information, connect to Internet and click on “Click for Plus Info” link, and it will take you to its Web site for more detailed information about that startup program. WinPatrol also lets you manage Cookies, IE Helpers and Browser Helper Objects. It also keep watch on Home Page Hijackers - a big nuisance these days, and also lets you manage your Scheduled task more effectively. The utility is easy in use, once installed; it places an icon of its watch dog “Scotty” in system tray that constantly monitors and alerts you with sounds and visuals if it finds some changes. It has tabbed interface in its window which are real easy to administer. Find this valuable tool at http://www.winpatrol.com

RegRun Security Suit:

Another, similar but more advanced tool called RegRun Security Suit gives you more options and more advanced functionality to manage and control startup/running programs and services. As the name suggests, it is a compilation of tools to manage mystery of Windows and to understand its Hidden features for full Windows control. It has a tool – “RegRun Start Control” that has tabbed interface through which you can control practically all aspect of Windows startup application’s behavior. You can inspect and control program and services in Startup group, Common Startup Group, All users run executables, All users run once executables, All user run services once, Current user run once etc., separately. RegRun Security Suit also gives you facility to edit other system configuration files as well such as registry, ini files etc. This utility lets you backup Windows startup prior to make any changes so that original settings can be brought back in case of any error.

RegRun Security Suit has Startup optimizer which lets you quickly remove dangerous and use-less startup programs. It also has RegRun Control Assistant through which you can inspect, save and take printout of the detailed list of running programs which were not possible in any other way. The tool has an elaborate list of more than thousand startup programs clearly defined and well described in four categories namely:- Necessary, Useless, Dangerous and Optional. RegRun Security Suit tightly integrates with your Antivirus tool and has a feature through which you can have controlled startup, i.e. you can choose apps and service to run during Windows startup. Get this shareware application from: http://www.greatis.com .

Startup Control Panel

This tiny utility (distributed as 58KB zip file) has no bells and whistles, but effectively controls Windows Startup programs and services. Upon installation, it places an icon in Control panel folder of your Windows installation and runs as control panel utility. It also has tabbed, simple interface and if you are well aware with malicious startup programs, this tool is for you. Get this freeware utility from http://www.mlin.net

So do not let startup program run on their own, pick the one you really need and kill the rest. Your PC will be more secure and will run faster.

Screenshot Descriptions:

  1. Patrol01 WinPatrol the utility through which you can manage Startup program / IE Helpers / Scheduled Tasks / Services / Cookies etc. through its tabbed interface.
  2. Patrol02 WinPatrol can detect orphaned and frozen tasks so that you can delete it. For example, even after proper un-installation, Norton Antivirus’ schedule task was not removed and remains there. WinPatrol not only detects it but it removes it from the task list without any trouble.
  3. Patrol03 WinPatrol detected the IE Helper object that is installed in IE by Adobe Acrobat Reader. This Helper object is installed to constantly nag you to upgrade Adobe Acrobat Reader once you connect to internet and want to view a PDF file through IE. Obviously, it is useless and annoying since you never need to upgrade Adobe Acrobat every other day while surfing Internet.
  4. Patrol04 WinPatrol gives you well defined additional information about startup program and services for your informed descision.
  5. Patrol05 WinPatrol can be set to give you audible / visual alert when it finds attempt to place startup programs / cookies / new task and browser helper objects.
  6. Patrol06 Startup Control Panel is a simple tool without bells and whistles yet it is useful in managing startup programs and services, in case you know about them.
  7. Patrol07 RegRun Security Suit has number of built in utility- a sort of collection of utilities through which startup programs and services are controlled since these are tightly related with security issues.
  8. Patrol08 RegRun Security Suit’s RegRun Start Control is a utility which has much advanced and complex features to manage Startup programs and services. It can generate detailed report about such component that can be referred / analysed later.
  9. Patrol09 RegRun Start Control has an elaborate application database where more than thousand startup applications, its usability etc. are described in detail for your informed decision.
  10. Patrol10 When Microsoft Office wanted to place OSA.EXE, the startup program that loads on Windows startup to launch MS Office faster (a startup program that has not much practical use); WinPatrol detects it and give you visual alert to whether to accept it to run at startup or not.
  11. Patrol01 WinPatrol generates a HTML log file of startup programs / services / cookies etc. installed in your system; where some details about these are described. If you want more information about the same then it can be obtained from WinPatrol’s web site by clicking link “Click For Plus Info” in the HTML report.

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