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When recovering a broken Windows system, I need to know which applications are actually used, so that I know which of them must be reinstalled and reconfigured (along with user's data) after the system has been recovered.

Is NTFS' Last Access info reliable for this purpose? If not, is there another way I can get a list of installed applications and how often they are used?

Ideally, it should also display the release version of each executable so that I can check with the editor where it saves users' data (configuration + documents).

Thank you.

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Stupid question, recieves stupid answer, just ask the user. – Ramhound Mar 21 '12 at 15:31
By default, the last access time is not tracked any more. I believe this change was introduced in Windows Vista. – Harry Johnston Mar 22 '12 at 2:06
Thanks Harry for the tip. – OverTheRainbow Mar 22 '12 at 10:55
up vote 2 down vote accepted

It is completely unreliable. listing "program files" is somewhat indicative of what was installed.

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Thanks for the info. Why is it unreliable? Because Windows doesn't alway reset the Last Access when running an application? – OverTheRainbow Mar 21 '12 at 13:53
The timestamp is indeed not necessarily updated when a program is run. If it is updated, this does not mean the program was actually used. It might have been running in the background without the user's knowledge, but the timestamp may also have been changed by some other application, such as a virus scanner. – Marcks Thomas Mar 21 '12 at 15:12
Thanks for the explanation. So I'll just have to go through C:\Program Files\ and assume that they are no other applications installed elsehwere. – OverTheRainbow Mar 22 '12 at 10:55
Microsoft guidelines suggest using program files path. for last 10 years or so. – ZaB Mar 22 '12 at 12:23
Too bad there's not a reliable way to get the list based on actual use. – OverTheRainbow Mar 23 '12 at 0:10

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