HomeReviewWinPatrol Review

WinPatrol Review

WinPatrol monitors your system and alerts you to hijackings, malware attacks, and critical changes made without permission. Provides easy-to-understand descriptions of over 12,000 programs.

Does it do what it promises?

Reviewer 1: Yes. I’ve used WinPatrol for years, and it continues to be one of my favorite programs. The Web site isn’t classy like some, but instead provides a wealth of information about the program, letting you know exactly what to expect after downloading and installing it. WinPatrol is a gold mine of information and the application does things that Microsoft should have included in Windows long ago. The Windows task manager is a real bare bones version of what WinPatrol can do. The program does everything it promises and more.

Reviewer 2: Yes. This is a program which does what it claims, and does it unobtrusively. Most of the time, the only way you are aware that WinPatrol Plus is running is by the presence of the “Scotty the Windows Watchdog” icon in the taskbar. When there is a significant change to your system, such as a newly installed program trying to set itself up as a startup program, a WinPatrol window pops up with a clear message giving you the option of allowing this potentially dangerous behavior.

Reviewer 3: Yes. It immediately found a change that its previous version 9 had not. The previous version was working well, so this would seem to be a good sign.

Reviewer 4: Yes. Of all the programs that I have used help one know more about what is going on in your computer (the good, the bad and the ugly), this one is my favorite.

Reviewer 5: Yes, it does. In fact, it does it so well, using minimum resources, only 1 MB of code, and running so unobtrusively, I cite this program as an example of an ideal design from a user’s point of view. WinPatrol’s developer says “We’ve optimized the program to be as small as possible so it can be used constantly without interfering with the speed or memory of other programs”, and that’s certainly been my experience with it. It’s database of program descriptions and risk assessment is provided online, not on the user’s machine.

Unlike the reference databases of most malware-prevention programs, I encountered only a single case (DefenseWall HIPS) out of the dozens of programs installed on my computer that I looked up for which it failed to have content information In many cases, this was the first place I’d been able to find them described. For months I’ve been searching for a way to suspend Norton’s Speedisk module NOPDB.exe , a disk file compaction routine that seemed impossible to kill as it often consumed 25% of my resources. WinPatrol Plus provided me a way to easily delete this file.

Reviewer 6: It certainly does! WinPatrol performs excellently, replacing the need for several programs to accomplish what it does in its easy-to-use manner.

Reviewer 7: Yes, but with one caveat. Regardless of its independent testing, it does not (nor can any program for that matter), “detect 100% of the top spyware threats” as it claims on its Web site. Why they have included this exaggerated claim on their Web site is beyond me because this is really not the value that this tremendous program has provided its users (including this reviewer) for over 10 years.

Was it easy to install?

Reviewer 1: Yes. It’s an easy and quick installation, only requiring a reboot afterwards.

Reviewer 2: Yes, installation was fast and easy.

Reviewer 3: Yes, with a fast download and reboot.

Reviewer 4: Yes, effortless. As it installs, an information screen appears, describing what WinPatrol does, the resources it will use, and what to expect once it has been installed. For example, you are warned that it is an always-on, always-running program. Other software programs should be so honest in describing themselves. You also find out that it is free, or for a one-time fee, you can get the Plus version. The installation is very quick; on my Pentium 4, it took between 1 – 2 minutes. Right after the installation, it gives you an immediate list of all the programs already in the startup menu, including WinPatrol, with access to more info, or Plus info for any one of them. From then on, each time a new program tries to install itself in “hidden places” (for example, to start-up automatically) it pops up, giving you precise information about the program, where it wants to install itself, and so on.

Reviewer 5: Yes, very easy, quick, and painless — on my second attempt! My first attempt to install caused numerous legitimate programs to be flagged when loading, probably as a result of not rebooting as recommended immediately after the install. Reinstallation went smoothly, except for a noticeably slower initial startup. WinPatrol explains this: “The first time you run [it] WinPatrol …will review a list of these special Startup Programs. The startup commands for these programs can be found in the Windows Registry, the WIN.INI file, your Windows Startup Folder….” Thereafter the program performed effectively and unobtrusively

Reviewer 6: The Installshield Wizard does all the work. The entire process takes less than two minutes, most of the time being taken to establish settings and to install files. There is almost no user involvement. After installation, the well-organized Options menu enables the user to establish specific ground rules for various functions. Default settings may well be used, which I imagine is usually the case.

Reviewer 7: Yes. It was an exceptionally easy installation and its 1.03 mb download is very small considering the multitask ability of the program. It was also the only program that I can remember every installing (and there have been several hundred) that provided an information window as it installs, informing the user of what the program does, how it will be configured on his computer, what resources it will be using, and so on. In this day and age of too much and too often obfuscation by software developers, this transparency was not only welcomed but is highly commendable.

Good points

Reviewer 1: The program is updated with new features quite frequently. I’ve followed a number of both major and minor revisions and never felt the need to rollback on any of them. The idea also of providing an extremely competent program for free and only charging for a version that can use an extra database for added information on running services and programs is very customer-friendly. No nags, no two-week trials, no mini version just to get you hooked. You get a very capable application for free. If you want the added info then you can get the Plus version for a small price. Startup programs (even hidden ones) are listed in the WinPatrol Explorer window. You can get information (even more with the Plus version) on the program, remove it from being automatically started with Windows or do like I often do when I’m not sure , just disable it for the time being. You’re only a right click away from having full control of all the programs. If you want to re-enable any program, just right click and choose.

I like WinPatrol’s ability to monitor things that other programs do to the computer, such as adding start-up modules that you don’t want. With WinPatrol running in the background, you get a message asking you whether you want to allow a new start-up or not the first time something new is invoked. All running modules – services, programs, browser helpers, hidden files, etc – have a Monitor button to tell WinPatrol how often it should check for changes and notify you. WinPatrol uses very little resources, considering what it does for you. The added information you get from the Plus database is well worth the price you pay.

It is frequently updated and provides you most often with an explanation about a running service or program, who made it, what it does and if it can be safely removed if not needed. WinPatrol keeps watch over cookies, file types and important hosts file for any unwanted changes being made in the background. The help files are extremely well written with complete information on what to do and how to do it in every part of the program. All in all, everything in WinPatrol works as it should. I’ve never had any problems with it.

Reviewer 2: WinPatrol Plus gives clear, detailed information about, and control over, significant files, programs, and processes.. Areas of information and control include Windows Services, Scheduled Tasks, IE Helpers, Startup Program, Hidden Files, File Types, Cookies, and Active Tasks. Within each of these areas is a list of the pertinent files or processes and details about them. There is usually a default view of the data and a box that gives the option for a more detailed or advanced view of the data. For example, the Cookies default view gives a list of the text portion of a cookie that WinPatrol PLUS will use to automatically filter and remove potentially harmful cookies from the system.

Add custom text to this list to automatically remove cookies of your choice. Clicking on the “View Cookies” button opens a new window with all of the cookies on your system. Order them by the date they were written or by their name. You have the options of viewing the text within the cookie and marking the checkbox next to each cookie. The checkbox marking can subsequently be used as the criteria for removing unwanted cookies. You have the option to either remove the checked or unchecked items. For myself, I found it quicker to check the cookies I wanted to keep and to delete the rest. Active Tasks gives a list of all of the programs that are currently running and it includes the program name, a brief description of the program, the company that published it, and the date it was first detected. The date feature would be useful in tracking down malware programs that could be installed in groups at the time of “infection”.

Highlighting a file will trigger a popup window that will give more detailed information about the program. With the PLUS version, you can then click on the “PLUS Info” box for further information. This opens a page in your browser from the WinPatrol Web site to give a very high level of detail about the known functions and/or problems with the program. Included are recommendations about whether the program is safe to leave on your system, whether it is a required system file, a link to the publisher’s Web site, and completed Google search box for more general Web search about the program. There is a link to report problems in their program description so they can continue to develop and refine their online database.

The options for Startup programs are similar to Active Programs, except that they also include a column indicating the location from which the startup program is triggered. The hidden files section shows those files that are normally hidden from your viewing by default. When this is properly applied, these are critical system files that the typical user would not modify without putting their system at risk. Some malware installs itself as hidden file(s), so inspection of this area can be useful to help determine if your system is infected. The Services section deals with Windows Services. The initial view of the Services is not very different from what can be generated in Windows itself. Where WinPatrol Plus really shines is in the Plus Info link for very detailed information and recommendations.

Reviewer 3: Any changes to your system made by a virus, worm, Trojan, or other nefarious software is picked up and you have a chance to stop it before it can cause harm. Its pop-up interface is like that found in most firewalls, in that you can tell the tool if the change was expected or not and to remember your selection. When invoking the tool (as opposed to letting it run in the background) it gives all the information about every program your system runs, either directly or out on the Web. It makes deciding which of the myriad of startup programs (with odd names) that you really need and those that you don’t, by telling you what company wrote them and exactly what they do. Mainly, it runs in the background and tells you, on the fly, what changes are happening in your system; so you can nip a problem in the bud.

Reviewer 4: WnPatrol is very easy to use, it uses a minimum of system resources, and it is easily accessible from the “Scotty” in the system tray, who is busy “sniffing out” what Windows and all other programs and processes are doing. The Main Window has nine tabs: Startup Programs, IE Helpers, Scheduled Tasks, Services, Active Tasks, Cookies, File Types, Hidden Files, PLUS, and Options. Clicking on one of these tabs will bring you to that module. In each of these windows are listed all of that type of activity, including many which are normally very hard to find out about and difficult if not practically impossible to locate.

For a nonprogrammer such as I, many of these are totally out of my range of vision. In each window there is a list of all of that type of activity. For example, the Startup Programs window has five columns: the Title, Command, Company, Type and First Detected. As each activity (program, service, process or whatever) is highlighted, a screen pops up, giving you more information about that program. If you click on the PLUS button you are brought to the BillP Studio’s database (i.e. Win Patrol). A new window appears, with extensive information about that activity, including its functions, whether it is essential or not, its potential or actual danger (if that is the case) and so on. If a program is unknown, the fact that you have looked for it on the database is recorded, and they will start researching it. Or you can send in information that you may know.

Also on the database, there are links to the program’s Web site, or other possibly useful links. In some cases, such as anti-virus or anti-spyware programs, you can click on a button to check for updates. At the bottom of that page there is a link to Google with the program name already filled in. In each case, you have the ability to turn the program off, in one way or another. For every activity listed in the WinPatrol modules, you have access to a lot of information, always presented attractively, clearly, and in manageable pieces. This is Scotty in his “passive” guard dog manner. But the moment a stranger appears and begins to activate itself, Scotty is immediately on his feet “barking”.

You are given a lot of information about that new visitor, enabling you to decide if you like this newcomer and want to invite him in, or if you want to shut the door and keep him out. This week I downloaded a couple of new programs, but as soon as I started to install one of them, Scotty popped up, telling me that this program was planning to install a lot of stuff that I really don’t need, or want, on my computer. None of my other monitoring programs had moved at all. I aborted that installation and deleted the programs.

Reviewer 5: I found WinPatrol’s documentation to be as concise as the program itself, only 16 pages but covering the program thoroughly and understandably. WinPatrol’s pricing maintains the same high standard as its design: its Basic version is contribution ware (contributions are requested, but not required), yet includes no advertising, no nag screens nor time limits. The WinPatrol PLUS version, the one being evaluated here, has a one time $29.95 pu