A colleague, Gil Cintron, recently recommended that I try Epsilon Squared’s InstallWatch. This free tool scans your PC before and after an application’s installation and shows you all the changes (e.g., registry key changes, file changes, version updates) that were made. When I asked Gil if he had an example of how InstallWatch made his job easier, he had this to say, “I worked in a lab where we tested applications for approval to be included as part of the Navy’s Integrated Shipboard Network System (ISNS) baseline. Before an application can be accepted, it has to meet compatibility and security requirements. InstallWatch was one of the main tools we used to keep track of exactly what each program was trying to do with our systems. When dealing with defense and tactical systems, there isn’t any room for guesswork. InstallWatch did a pretty good job of eliminating the guesswork.”

To test InstallWatch’s functionality, I downloaded it from www.epsilonsquared.com and installed it on my PC. As instructed, I used InstallWatch to take an initial scan of my PC. I then installed an application I had lying around. Finally, I used InstallWatch to take another scan. Both scans were extremely fast, even on my virtual machine. InstallWatch then produced a report showing which files and registry keys had been added, deleted, or modified. The InstallWatch reports are stored on the local hard drive and can be exported to an HTML or text file for later review.

If you add InstallWatch to the Startup folder, it can run by itself in the background. According to the tool’s Help file, InstallWatch will monitor your system and make its presence known whenever an application begins an installation routine.

I found InstallWatch to be extremely simple to use. It also works as promised. Great find, Gil!

—Eric B. Rux, senior Windows administrator and cofounder of WHSHelp.com