Wednesday , 26 November 2014

WinPatrol: Scotty the Windows watchdog keeps malware on a tight leash

WinPatrol is a free utility that can add an extra layer of security for your system even if you have an antivirus program installed. This lightweight tool has a different approach to detecting potential threats thus can successfully complement any traditional antimalware application.

WinPatrol is actually a system monitor: it remembers the current configuration of all the critical system resources and using a heuristic behavioral approach will alert the user of changes that occur without his/her knowledge, unlike classic antimalware applications that scan the system based on previously identified threats. 

Installation & Requirements

Installing WinPatrol is a breeze: unless you are unsatisfied of the default location for the program to be installed there isn’t anything else to do and the actual install process is complete in the blink of an eye.

WinPatrol is a very small application and its memory footprint is also microscopic, thus it will work on almost any computer as long as it runs under Windows XP, 7 or Vista OS.

Interface

Browsing through WinPatrol’s features is an easy task thanks to its tab-based interface. All the important sections have their own tab: the Startup Programs pane displays all the applications that are configured to start with Windows and for each program you can access related information, remove it, disable it, delete it on reboot or move it to the Delayed Start section to reduce the Windows Startup load.

All the items loaded in Internet Explorer are listed in the IE Helper area, along with specific info for each one and options to remove or delete them on reboot. In the Scheduled Tasks tab, Scotty the Windows watchdog provides the complete list of applications that are scheduled by the Windows Task Scheduler, used by a large number of malicious programs to schedule repetitive attacks without user awareness. With a similar purpose the Service area displays all the services installed on your computer and from the bottom of the tab you can opt to view non-Microsoft services only therefore enabling you to sift the list for potential threats faster. The Active Tasks section shows all the programs that are currently running on your system, and interestingly enough you can kill multiple tasks using the classic Ctrl selection.

The cookie manager allows you to view, filter and remove cookies for a number of web browsers including the popular ones such as Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. Two related options are the File Types and Hidden Files. In the File Types section resides a list with all the file types and their associated application and the Hidden Files tab shows all the hidden file types, usually being used for malware cleanup. For cleaning recent malware infections the Recent area is probably more useful as it provides all the recent applications detected on your computer.

You can also access a variety of logs and reports, history and the hosts file, as well as export the settings and configure WinPatrol’s behavior and alerts, all of this from the Options tab.

As feature-rich as it is, WinPatrol’s interface does have a downside: the tabbed system is a bit too cluttered and the fact that it’s heavily relying on text doesn’t help either. However this is just a problem of readability and if you decide to use the right-click menu from the system tray icon you will probably identify the program’s features a lot faster.

Pros

– Lightweight and fast program with small memory footprint.

– Offers a great solution for system monitoring even for non-technical users.

– Let’s you know of any changes performed on startup applications, IE helpers, scheduled tasks, services, running programs, critical system files, cookies, zero-day attacks, Windows Update settings and hosts file.

– Allows you to delay any number of startup items and reduce the required time for a system boot.

Cons

– Poorly organized interface with cluttered tabs.

– The interface displays many tabs available for WinPatrol Plus only.

Alternatives

There are a number of other programs designed to enhance your computer’s security in a manner similar to WinPatrol. However, you won’t find the perfect match because none of them are exactly like WinPatrol.

AnVir Task Manager will allows you to monitor system applications, processes, services and everything else WinPatrol monitors, also providing security analysis for them, but it only alerts the user when new items are added to the startup list. Even so, it has a few additional features, such as greater control over startup applications, a Windows tweaker and hardware temperature monitoring. AnVir Task Manager comes in three flavors: AnVir Task Manager Free, and two commercial versions, AnVir Task Manager and AnVir Task Manager Pro.

In terms of traditional antimalware security, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware is one of the most competent utilities that delivers great results for detecting but also removing all sorts of malicious programs from your system. Just like WinPatrol and AnVir Task Manager, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware has a free version and paid ones for home and business.

Conclusion

WinPatrol hasn’t changed much over the years, but only because of the simple and unique security solution it offers: monitoring any changes made to applications, services, startup programs, hosts file, critical system resources and anything else needs surveillance will always ensure additional protection for your system and on top of that, complement any traditional security software you are using.

About Alexandra Vasiliu

The list of things we can accomplish through applications or a few simple system settings is virtually endless. Between finding the latest trends in software, excitedly testing new programs and tinkering with their settings, I am glad to share any piece of useful information.
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