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WinPatrol monitors your computer for sensitive system changes and alerts you when they happen. Upgrade to Plus for buckets of useful information.

WinPatrol is a difficult utility to classify, yet it's an exceedingly helpful one.

Win Patrol's Scotty the watchdog

At its core, WinPatrol is a watch dog (hence, the Scotty icon), alerting you to changes made to your computer that might otherwise happen without your knowledge.

Bundled with that are a number of utilities to explore more of what's happening on your machine.

All of that is free.

Upgrade to Pro (which is a great value and has a generous license) and you'll also get access to something that solves one of the most annoying problems that I encounter almost daily on the web.

Scotty the watchdog

When any program makes changes to important system settings, WinPatrol alerts you. Scotty gives a small bark (yep, a little "woof" out of your speakers - you can turn that off if you like) and an alert box pops up.

WinPatrol alerting to a new startup entry

In this example, I simply instructed DropBox to start when Windows starts and a few seconds later that alert appeared.

Note that you can decline the change by clicking No. In this case, I initiated the change; I know what it is and I want it, so my response is Yes. However, if the change is unexpected and you don't know what it is, you can also click No and WinPatrol will simply revert the change.

(I'll talk about the Plus button below.)

WinPatrol monitors:

  • Startup Programs

  • IE Helpers - Browser Helper Objects - Toolbars

  • Scheduled Tasks

  • Services

  • Cookies

  • File Types

  • Host File

  • IE Home Page

If malware happens to get in and make a change, you get notified and have the option of blocking whatever that change might have been.

WinPatrol Utilities

Besides just monitoring what's happening to your computer, WinPatrol provides several utility screens for actually examining and modifying things on your own.

Here's WinPatrol displaying the list of items that automatically start up on my machine:

Leo's auto-start list, displayed by WinPatrol

While in the past, I've often recommended other utilities for autostart management, usually autoruns from Microsoft, I find that WinPatrol's interface significantly is easier to work with. In fact, simply in writing this article, I noted several items that needed cleaning up on my own machine.

Of particular note is the ability to disable, rather than just remove, startup entries. WinPatrol remembers what you've disabled and prevents it from coming back. The best example of why that's valuable is the unnecessary application "qttask", which is installed and re-enabled with every update of Apple's iTunes or QuickTime. Disable it and it doesn't come back.

As with Startup Programs, WinPatrol provides useful interfaces for managing much of what it monitors and more:

  • Remove, disable, or delay startup programs

  • Manage IE add-ons, browser helper objects, & toolbars

  • Examine and remove scheduled tasks

  • Review system services

  • List and kill active tasks

  • Expose hidden files

  • Manage and filter browser cookies (IE, Mozilla and Chrome)

  • Monitor and alter file type associations

  • Manage alerts on registry changes

There's probably more that I've overlooked.

And all of that's free.

But I'd encourage you to consider upgrading to WinPatrol Plus.

WinPatrol Plus - more protection and more information

The Plus upgrade includes some more technology that improves its overall infiltration detection and performance. Have a look at the comparison page for details (note that each feature there is clickable, leading you to a very detailed description).

My biggest value from the upgrade is information.

Let's say an alert pops up and you're not sure what to do about it. Or you find an entry that you don't recognize in one of WinPatrol's displays. Typically, there'll be a "Plus Info..." button that will take you to a web page containing any information that's been collected about that particular setting or application.

In reviewing my startup list, I've found something called "ISUSPM Startup". I have no idea what that is. So, I right-clicked on it and clicked on the Plus Info... item. It took me to a page on the "WinPatrol Cloud" (OK, OK, points off for using the "cloud" buzzword Smile) that contains:

  • A detailed description of what this item is (the InstallSheild Update Manager) where it comes from and how I probably got it.

  • An overall assessment that it is safe.

  • A count of how many other WinPatrol users asked for information on the file, as I did, and how many chose to disable or allow the program to run.

  • A "crowdsourced" result of a poll of users visiting this page, indicating that they believe the file is safe & required, not required, annoying, or unsafe.

In other words, a bucket-load of useful information.

WinPatrol Plus information helps you understand what files are for and why they're needed - if indeed they are. That's something that is exceptionally difficult to cull from performing a search on the topic these days. That's the "annoying problem" that I alluded to earlier: it's incredibly difficult to get a straight answer when trying to research the "Is this thing safe?" question.

More often than not, the information provided with WinPatrol Plus is both accurate and useful.

One of the things that I appreciate about WinPatrol's Plus upgrade is best summed up by this comment on the site:

"You're the customer, not your computer. You're welcome to use a single license code on any computer that you personally own and use."

And it's a lifetime upgrade. Buy it once and that's it.

If nothing else, give the free version a try. There's so much that it offers that I simply can't do it justice here. Then, as you understand what WinPatrol has to offer, consider Plus. I think you'll find it a very handy tool in your arsenal.

WinPatrol - I recommend it.

Article C4871 - July 9, 2011 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

July 11, 2011 2:27 PM

Sounds good but I don't think they'll last a whole life time. Just takes a few unethical ppl to put their license code on the net and what will they do then.....

July 12, 2011 10:29 AM

WinPatrol has saved my butt several times in the past from Malware and Spyware...I highly recommend it to everyone...I have used it in the free stage for nearly 6 years now...I feel naked on a system that does not have it...!

Denis Paley
July 12, 2011 11:02 AM

WinPatrol has been one of my favorite utilities ever since I first installed it in the early 21st century. I also use the Plus feature and it has helped save my ***
quite a few times. Another feature I appreciate is that it runs so quietly in the background that you forget it's there until the next time it's needed.

July 12, 2011 11:17 AM

Good day,
I trust Leo and therefor downloaded Microsoft Security Essentials, would there be any confict between MSE and WinPatrol, or for that matter
much duplication of/by either program.

Thankyou and cheers,


Nope, they work great together. I run them both.

Gabe Lawrence
July 12, 2011 12:26 PM

That's funny that you mentioned "qttask" in your example above. I haven't had Quicktime on any of my computers for nearly a decade becasue of that program (can you say "bitter middle-aged man"?) I've oftened wondered if they ever disciplined it but based on your article it's still as I remember.

July 12, 2011 1:42 PM

OK I installed WinPatrol to see what it does. I get huge long lists of programs, tasks, services, cookies, etc. How do I know if it is a good idea to disable any of them? For example under cookies, it shows them for IE, Mozilla, and Chrome. IE and Chrome had many, but Mozilla had none. Firefox is the browser I'm using, so I'm confused. What if I deleted the Chrome cookies, since I don't use Chrome very often, would that hurt me? I'm afraid to disable programs because that might really cause problems. I wanted to see what WinPartrol looked like before I paid for the plus version, and it certainly hasn't made me want to.

July 12, 2011 1:52 PM

I figured Win Patrol was just a 3rd party version of UAC, but since you recommended it, I'd try it out. And right now, it's offering Plus at half-price, so I went back to read your assessment on Plus. You're right that, today, safety info on an unknown item is pathetically worthless. Every site uses the same boilerplate answer, "Maybe, maybe not," and explains how it might be safe or might not. I'm looking for definitive opinions based on common experience. So, I can afford $15; I'll take the Pro. Thanks, Leo, for the assessment.

Howard B. Evans, Jr.
July 12, 2011 6:22 PM

I use WinPatrol on my office PC and home PC, both running Win XP Pro SP3. I also plan to install it on a new 64 bit Windows 7 Home Premium HP laptop I got for my birthday last month. It has run for years in the background, at home and at work, only once in a while barking to warn of some new software thingy I can allow or not. I finally purchased the Plus version, which I very much appreciate, a year or so ago.

It may take the new user some getting used to, but once you get all your "allows" checked off it runs pretty much invisibly until "something software" changes. I feel pretty safe with Scotty on watch and MS Security Essentials running in the background. Best of all: WinPatrol gives me total control of what is running on my computer, the price is right, and the license terms are fantastic. Thanks Bill, and thanks Leo for tootin' their horn a little.

July 13, 2011 3:23 AM

On the recommendation of a trusted source, I use AnVir Task Manager Free, which does a lot of this stuff. I wonder whether anyone has ever compared these.

Terry Hollett
July 13, 2011 4:53 AM

Been using it for years. It even helped me keep a key-logger off my system. I clicked on a wrong link on a web page and WinPatrol kept popping up warning me that sdra64.exe was trying to set itself up to Start up.

I denied it access, but it kept popping up, so I went online and found out what it was and how to remove. The saddest thing about the entire incident, not a peep from my anti-virus.

August 3, 2011 8:15 PM

Sounds good. Now to evaluate compatibility with with existing AV. Sounds similar to the Zone Alarm firewall - at first all the info is overwhelming and annoying-but as you handle each item (and there will be a lot) then it hides until an oddity appears.

Howard B. Evans described it best: "It may take the new user some getting used to, but once you get all your "allows" checked off..."

A fine example is DHeym ( below). Inundated with "needs attention" prompts, a lot of work in his near future. It does what it's intended to do. A hassle? Sure. Needed? Most definitely. Especially in his situation where he has widened the attack surface with all the browsers. I was challenged with just IE & Firefox.

Jim Lyles
August 22, 2011 7:13 PM

I've used the free version for several years on all my home computers, and at work. I've been recommending it for years to others. Now you've got me seriously thinking about upgrading to the Pro version. Sounds like it might be worth it.

BTW, it is NOT an antivirus program and it is NOT a firewall. It runs well with my Avast antivirus program and my ZoneAlarm firewall. It also plays nice with Microsoft Security Essentials.

Patti Denemy
July 10, 2012 7:11 PM

I just downloaded Win Patrol, anxious to see how it works....

Kenny Driver
July 12, 2012 9:10 AM

I've been using WINPatrol for years. Got the pro version for 99 cents (lifetime). Thanks for the heads up on the new version. The only thing it doesn't do is auto update itself.

July 12, 2012 5:42 PM

Sounds as if the primary benefit of the pop-ups from Scotty the watchdog is the best feature of all...especially regards to registry changes.

The Pro version.....
The other benefits such as the Plus Info Button, are already included [for free] in a similar tool, Glary Utilities . An added benefit is the Search More button that launches a internet search for the item in question, if you still need more info.

So, if funds are tight, Glary Utilities is a great little tool and very user friendly.....but you wont get the benefit of Scotty keeping an eye on your PC. Perhaps both free utilities would be in order?

December 5, 2012 4:48 PM

I started getting periodically Hosts file change alerts from Scotty. I select Reject since I do not know what is causing it. Contacted Win Patrol - Bill - and even though we exchange several emails. still no help. After runnning them several times , I remove all my security programs to see if anyone was causing it and the alarm still continue - Malwarebytes, Superantimalware, Spybot, Malicious Software Removal Tool, AVGT antivi. I continued getting the alert afetr rebootin.
Is there a way of finding out what is causing the alarm?

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