WinPatrol has always been one of my favourite pieces of free software. It was one of the first things I wrote about when I joined MakeUseOf back in 2007 and it also made my Mark Pack exactly one year ago today. It’s one of those security apps that you can always depend on and it has stopped many an intruder from sneaking onto my computer without my knowledge.
Now there is a portable version of the Windows-only software called WinPatrolToGo and this is good news for me. I am increasingly using more portable USB software as I jump from computer to computer and I am also getting asked a lot to help fix peoples computers. In these situations, apps like WinPatrol are your best friend.
One of the best functions of WinPatrol is being able to easily control the Start Menu programs. It’s not good for your PC to have too many programs starting when you boot up, so using WinPatrol, you can enable and disable each startup program at will.
As the screenshot above shows, you can see the name of the startup program, its command (what it will look like in the Windows Task Manager) and the company it comes from (for easier identification). I would recommend not touching any of the Microsoft programs as you never know what disabling them will do to your computer but you can skim through the other ones and disable any unneeded ones. For example, you don’t need your chat programs launching on start-up.
One of the best features of the Startup Programs tab is that, if you keep WinPatrol constantly running in the background, it will shoot up a warning window on your screen if a software app tries to covertly add anything to your startup programs section. It will also warn you if any of your file associations have been changed with the option to change them back again. iTunes is a BIG offender at secretly changing all of your media file formats and thanks to WinPatrol, I am always able to quickly and easily change the files back again.
Here are brief summaries of WinPatrol’s other features :
ActiveX - shows a complete list of all the Internet Explorer ActiveX controls on your computer with the ability to disable any of them if there is a security vulnerability but no patch. You can also filter out all the non-Microsoft entries for easier reading.
IE Helpers – some programs, when installed on your computer, also install “helper” buttons on your Internet Explorer toolbar. You can use the IE Helpers section of WinPatrol to remove any of these buttons.
Scheduled Tasks – as the name suggests, it lists all the tasks currently scheduled by Windows Task Scheduler. Using WinPatrol, you can get details about each one as well as cancel and remove them if necessary.
Services & Active Tasks – these tabs show you all the running services on your computer and again, you can filter out all the non-Microsoft ones for easier reading and navigation. You can close any of these services from these WinPatrol tabs but again, exercise extreme caution. It may look like a lot of programs but each one (at least the Microsoft ones) probably have a very important function to play in the running of your computer.
Hidden Files – again as the name suggests, this tab shows all the files marked as “hidden” on your Windows system. Again, use extreme caution deleting any of these files as a lot of them are probably needed by Windows in order to function properly.