To Bark and Protect

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No matter the operating system you are using, your computer should be protected at all times from hijackers, spyware, trojans and other nasties specific to the environment. Taking control over someone else's computer is always an appealing idea and with the tools nowadays, that’s not even so difficult anymore.

Checking your computer for intruders and all sorts of malware designed to learn about your habits or even try to change them, is impossible; you would no longer have time for your work on the computer. So the only viable alternative is to get yourself a software that monitors the changes taking place in critical areas of your computer.

The tools designed to do just that for you are numerous and only if you think of all the anti spyware applications striving to provide the much desired protection, you'll get an idea. However, one of them comes with more of a decade of experience and some nifty options. WinPatrol is among the most longevous of them all.

The latest version, 12.0.2007, doesn’t include many changes, but there are some new options ready to assist you in keeping your computer free of unwanted elements. As you probably know, the looks have never been WinPatrol's greatest concern as the focus was on its ability to detect the changes taking place behind your back. So the same window populated by tabs is available in this edition as well.

The changes since our first review are not consistent but your computer will be protected with the same diligence as ever and every change will be sniffed by Scotty and presented to you before action is taken.

WinPatrol brings a startup manager designed to ease your job in managing the applications starting with Windows (you know that these are critical when it comes to OS load time). The options available let you disable items, remove them completely from startup or add new ones. Malware is known to infiltrate in startup locations of your computer, so here you can see every element enabled by you to start with Windows.

WinPatrol provides precious information about the items in the list by giving out the name of the publisher, command of the process, location of the command (registry or startup folder) as well as the date of the first detection. If some items had been added by other startup managers, the application will show that to you as well.

Delayed Start is a new addition to the program, and a darn good one, too. Its purpose is to delay for a while the elements designed to load with Windows. The feature is extremely handy as it can shorten OS’s loading time. It can be used on programs that are not needed right after Windows starts (FileHamster for instance is not something you need right away so it can be delayed a few seconds or even a minute, but an email client may be the first app to open after Windows completes loading).

Delay time goes as far as 60 minutes and as low as zero seconds. The user can also decide the mode the application should start: normal window, minimized or maximized. There isn't any hassle and you can add as many programs as you want to the list.

My idea was to start each program with a delay of 20 seconds in between, according to their importance. This way Windows would load fast and all my programs start one at a time, allowing me access to the computer. However, you should know that all the timings are according to WinPatrol's launch, not Windows'. So if you decide to close some of the startup applications on the way and then restart WinPatrol, all of the delayed items will start popping up again.

BHO control is no sweat for WinPatrol due to its IE Helpers detection. All the items loaded in Internet Explorer are neatly displayed in the window and the user can access the properties sheet, or Info window. The latter is not as comprehensive as one would think but makes for a good identification solution showing the name of the company developing the product, version number, copyright and location of the item.

Malware can insinuate themselves into your computer behind your back and sometimes they use Windows' own programs in order to strike. Windows Task Scheduler has been the lever of many nasties in their attempt of ruining your computer. The malicious element would surreptitiously schedule a task without users awareness and start the attack. WinPatrol will show you all the tasks that are scheduled to take place and allows eliminating all the unwanted tasks. Info box is again at your disposal providing useful details about the application.

Scotty, the Windows Watch Dog, will report all the services installed on your computer. If you want to view only the elements that do not belong to Windows, enable "List non-Microsoft Services only" box at the bottom of the screen. Each element of the window can be configured just like in System Configuration from Info window.

The process manager accessible in the application is not state of the art, but will show all active tasks that do not pertain to the system. Terminating them is possible and what is most interesting is allows you multiple kill. Ctr+select the process you no longer want active and access "Kill Task" from the context menu.

WinPatrol lets nothing get past you without your knowledge, so cookies are not elements to be disregarded. The cookie manager is equipped with filtering options so that certain cookies are left alone while all the others are taken into sight and eliminated. The supported engines are IE and Mozilla based.

The last options in WinPatrol are File Types and Hidden Files. The first one is a list of all the file types and the programs they are associated with while the second displays hidden files, many of which are legitimate system files required by Windows. Both of the options come in handy when initiating a malware cleanup.

Most of the options available (Services, Scheduled Tasks, IE Helpers, Startup Programs and File Types) can be monitored by Scotty at a user defined time interval. This will let you know almost on the spot (real time monitoring is available only in Plus version of the application) if something has changed and you get immediate alert.

It’s not rocket science to configure the software, but it is a bit difficult handling all the services, file types and hidden files as many items are not explained. So a beginner will have some big problems figuring out the best way to handle an element.

The Good

The application is absolutely free and does a great job keeping your computer together. Very easy to use by an experienced user, WinPatrol is not a complicated job for a newbie either.

Delayed Start is a great asset as it permits a speedy load of the OS, no longer cramped by other startup elements.

Comes complete with startup, task and service managers that allow the user easy manipulation of the running processes.

The Bad

Information about selected items is limited to developing company and version number. The user will still have to search for details about the process/service/task.

The Truth

All in all, Scotty does a good job. It will definitely bark upon any change and let you decide if the process gets through or not. It will not affect the computer in any way and performance will be the same as ever. Computer resources are barely touched (30MB of RAM is not that much).

It is definitely a must for your computer. Just install it and that's it. Each time something is to be changed, a short bark will let you know and a window will pop up asking for permission for the process or denying it.

Here are some snapshots of the application in action:

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user interface 4
features 4
ease of use 5
pricing / value 5

final rating 5
Editor's review
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