I want to install an application but see exactly what changes are being made to Windows, i.e. files written/changed, registry changes, etc.

Is there any easy way to do this?


There used to be winpooch, but that required windows xp sp2 or below, and used very specific, now depreciated kernel hooks. It did EXACTLY what you wanted to do

Otherwise, i can think of two possible approaches - uninstaller software like revo uninstaller is one, since they need to log changes to undo them

The second is using process monitor from systeminternals since it monitors, in realtime registry processes and system calls.

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This works for windows 7 (msi). If you have a different enviroment/situation I can post that process as well. Or you could just use third party software.

1 Press the "Windows" key and "R" key at the same time. The "Run" utility will appear. Type "notepad" in the field and click the "Enter" button on your keyboard.

2 Type in the new Notepad file these exact words:

        Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00




Type these words at the top of the body of the new, blank Notepad file that appears.

3 Click "File" in the main menu. Scroll down and click "Save As." Save the file to your desktop. Name the file "EnableLogging.reg" and click "All Files" for the type list. Click the "Save" button. Launch the file you made in Step 4. Click the "Yes" button and click the "OK" button. This will add it to the registry.

4 Click the "Start" button in the bottom-left corner of your desktop. Scroll up and click "Control Panel." Click "Folder Options" and then hit the "View" tab. Put a check mark next to “Hidden files and folders: Show all files and folders" and remove the check mark next to “Hide protected operating system files (Recommended).” Click the "Apply" button and then the "OK" button.

5 Download and install the software that you want to log the installation of. Double-click the link to the downloadable software on the web or double-click the icon on the disk. After the software downloads to your system, follow the installation prompts that appear. These may include agreeing to the terms of a license and designating a place for the software to reside.

6 Press your "Windows" key and your "R" key on your keyboard at the same time. The "Run" utility will appear. Type "%TEMP%" (without the quotes) in the field and hit the "Enter" key on your keyboard. Find the log file. It will start with "MSI" and the extension will be ".log." Open it with your "Notepad" application.

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  • Thanks, but isn't there anything that runs in the background, constantly reporting what's changing/changed, such as file and registry changes? – Reado May 6 '11 at 10:45
  • Well there's Event Viewer, but it isn't very robust. It's mostly intended to capture errors like failed drivers. There are a lot of third party apps though you should be careful where you get them from. – Blomkvist May 6 '11 at 10:53

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