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It's an old problem. My computer is slowing down. One thing I'm wondering is how many programs are automatically reporting use statistics back to the manufacturer. I always say no when asked, but don't really trust everyone to be polite and civilized these days. There might also be reporting for other purposes. Is there any way that I can check the system for software that's automatically reporting to somewhere?

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closed as too broad by Ƭᴇcʜιᴇ007, random Mar 1 at 14:45

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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No nagging about acceptance rate, please. The user knows how to do it, and they're free to accept whatever answers they like. Roger, while I understand you might have a feeling about what is slowing down your computer, assuming a solution and then asking about it is often the wrong way to address this – why not give us more details about what exactly is happening? Don't assume it's some "reporting agents" that's slowing down, but let us work on the actual problem. We don't even know your OS and hardware to begin with (this could be a reason for the downvote). –  slhck Dec 26 '12 at 16:10
    
I am quite interested in finding out how to look at reporting. But you're right about the slowness problem. Would be nice if I could just do something about that. Everything is slower now. I first noticed it in browser behavior. I normally use Chrome and recently had to turn off the Instant search feature because it acted like it got caught in an infinite loop without ever producing results. Now page loads are so slow, I see partial loads a second or two at a time. OS is Vista and even Explorer is slow. I spend time looking at a blank explorer while things load and wait after clicking etc. –  Roger F. Gay Dec 26 '12 at 16:22
    
I keep spybot up to date and ran a complete scan after the problem started. I also emptied / cleared pretty much everything (cache, history, cookies ...) in Chrome from the beginning of time. But the other slowness problems seem to suggest it's more of a system problem than unique to Chrome, so perhaps not surprising that it's still slow. I've fairly recently started running SQLEXPRESS on my system while also running Tomcat. SQLEXPRESS is new. But I normally only turn that on when I'm working with it. –  Roger F. Gay Dec 26 '12 at 16:29
    
Maybe you can edit your question, making it a little more problem-oriented, and put the information there, and also add proper OS tags, etc.? Consider including screenshots from your Task Manager and process memory usage. –  slhck Dec 26 '12 at 16:40
    
If a program is trying to connect but cannot, it’s possible for it to cause the system to block, but usually it should just throw an error fairly quickly. You may want to separate the two issues (monitoring programs phoning-home and system sluggishness) into separate questions (actually there are already several questions about poor performance). –  Synetech Dec 26 '12 at 17:47

3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

To check if programs are “phoning home” you’ll need to monitor and control your Internet activity, but there are a few ways you can do that. In order of least to most informative (and complexity):

  • The simplest way to do this is to get a bandwidth monitor and simply watch your bandwidth. If you see spikes when you launch a program, then it may be accessing the Internet (of course you can only tell if you have no other programs using the Internet, so this won’t work if you are downloading things in the background).

    Figure 1: Hmm, something just used the Internet connection

    Bandwidth monitor screenshot

  • Monitor your Internet connections with a program like CurrPorts or TCPView. They will let you see the programs that have network connections open as well as the actual location they are connecting to.

    Figure 2: Hold on; did I install a web-server?

    CurrPorts

    Figure 3: Wait, yes, I did. Whew!

    TCPView

  • Use a packet-sniffer to not only view the network connections, but also the data sent and received. There are plenty to choose from with differing levels of complexity and power (like Wireshark or Network Monitor), but I prefer SmartSniff because it is very easy to use and yet provides most of the power that most people need most of the time.

    Figure 4: Hey, I told AllDup to not check for updates! (Actually I didn’t, I manually performed an update for the purposes of the screenshot.)

    SMSniff

  • Use a firewall to control and log Internet access.

    • You can use a software (“personal”) firewall like the Windows firewall, ZoneAlarm, etc. These have the advantage of giving you fine-grained control over what happens. You can configure incoming and outgoing network access per-program, per-protocol, per-address, etc. as well as get detailed logs.

      Figure 5: Apparently nobody trusts a company whose main product is a cracking tool. Go figure. (Of course you will want to use a more up-to-date firewall than the one in this screenshot.)

      ZoneAlarm

    • You can use a hardware firewall like the kind that is built into most routers. They are usually more limited (though you may be able to use a third-party firmware like DD-WRT, OpenWRT, Tomato, etc. for more options and configurability). They also don’t usually give you good, permanent logs. However, hardware firewalls have three distinct advantages:

      • They are in a dedicated piece of hardware, so there is no performance impact on the system (security software often impacts a system’s performance).

      • They block data early, so incoming bad-nections will not even make it to the system to have to be dealt with, and outgoing connections should get a hard smack-down even if they leak from the system.

      • Because they come in a wide variety of configurations (countless models of routers with countless firmware and hardware revisions), it is generally unfeasible for anyone to bother crafting an exploit to use a vulnerability to bypass them (that’s not to say that someone couldn’t target you specifically if they know exactly what router you have, but that’s not usually a problem). With software firewalls on the other hand, they tend to come in a much smaller range of configurations which is why they are exploited often. (To be fair, software firewalls are easier to update and are done so much more frequently than router firmware which may be discontinued altogether, but again, that only matters if someone is specifically targeting you, in which case, get another router).

      Figure 6: Why does my fancy collector’s, tin-box edition of Prey need to connect to the Internet just to play single-player? Well not anymore! (Actually the last update removed the disc- and server-checks.)

      Router firewall

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Nice answer! However I just asked the OP if they're really sure that programs phoning home is the real cause for slowness, which might not even be the case… –  slhck Dec 26 '12 at 16:42
    
Well others will undoubtedly be interested in detecting if their software is phoning home and these techniques are universal. (In fact, neither the question, nor answer are about any specific program to begin with.) –  Synetech Dec 2 '13 at 4:44

Netstat, wireshark, snort IDS, router logs, etc.. Your computer's slowing down may actually be related to your hard disk usage, operating system bloat, gremlins, and ID-10-T errors.

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If you're using Windows, the Task Manager and the Resource Monitor can be helpful in telling you what is clogging your CPU, memory, hard disk and network, other useful tools to look at are the Sysinternals tools.

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If his question only refers to the "phone home feature" of his programs, then mentioning that he experience slowness in his computer is moot. And still these tools are valid to give you a wide picture of the problem. –  Miguel Garcia Dec 28 '12 at 15:39

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