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Is there an application out there that can record what file and registry changes are made when you install a program?

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Check out Sandboxie, which I don't think can record/list changes made by a program, but can definitely make it easier to roll them back. –  Code Bling May 24 '11 at 18:59

4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

ProcMon by Microsoft Sysinternals will allow you to record, filter, and view all registry and file changes. Run it prior to starting the installer to see an exhaustive list.

It's probably not the easiest thing around, but it is thorough.

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True; it is quite thorough. Of course you’d need to set up sufficient filters to weed out all of the cruft (and then worry that you filtered out something you need). :-( (Personally, I don’t like ProcMon at all, I much prefer FileMon and RegMon, but unfortunately those won’t work on 7.) –  Synetech May 24 '11 at 19:55
    
Filemon and Regmon were rolled into Procmon, I believe. And in the case of an installer you should be able to run ProcExp, find any processes spawned by the installer, remove the software with RevoUninstaller, and then set your filters in ProcMon based on the desired processes you want to watch, and run the installer again. –  music2myear May 24 '11 at 20:11
    
Yes, they were, but I find Reg/FileMon to be much easier to use (and even more configurable, would you believe it). Yes, ProcMon is a superset, but that’s exactly what makes it so much more work. I use File/Reg/ProcMon mostly for when I am trying to spy on a normal program to find out what the heck it is doing (especially those I don’t quite trust). I prefer a dedicated install-monitor for installers, especially since they tend to include reports and such. –  Synetech May 24 '11 at 20:28

Yes there are several program like this. The best one I I have found is Total Uninstaller, which I use to see what the installer does and how the installed program is organised, so that I can try making it into a portable app, through various means. It's not free, but it is not expensive, and there is a free trial.

Another useful program to just check registry changes is RegShot, which is free and open source,

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SnoopFS is probably not enough, but I've often used it when installing if I intend to copy off every installed file. You'd probably want to use it with Procmon for the full effects of any install.

There are a bunch of clean uninstallers, such as Revo, but they don't tell you what needs undoing, they just do it.

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I have always used and prefer PC Magazine’s InCtrl(5). It was specifically designed for this purpose and does it pretty well and is quite configurable to weed out irrelevant stuff. Unfortunately ZDNet started charging for the previously-free PCMag utilities several years ago, but you can probably find a copy that someone got before it went for-pay (and as far as I know, it should be legal since that copy was free).

Another one that I like (I’ve tried well over a dozen), is ZSoft Uninstaller; it (too?) is free.

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