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WinXPTutor's XP Resources

Windows XP Tips, Illustrations and registry edits

Track file and registry changes made by an application installation

Sometimes when you install a software application and later discover that the installed application have made Windows unstable. In this situation, what would you do if the following factors are true? :

  • Restore point was not created by the application installer.
  • System Restore point (if created while application installation) have been erased by that time.
  • The application has no uninstaller, or the uninstallation does not remove all the software entries.

In either case, it's not possible to rollback the system configuration to the previous state (before you installed the software). While normal applications (which does not install any Kernel mode components) rarely cause instability to Windows, some applications which install filter drivers, or an additional Service may easily bring down the performance of the Operating System.

Here are the best practices you need to follow before installing a new software.

  • In the first place, make sure if the software is definitely a needed one. If you just want to test an application, you may install and configure the application in a parallel installation of Windows (in a different partition) for testing purposes.
  • See if the application accompanies an uninstaller. While some applications are stand-alone and don't require an uninstaller, you must check the software vendor's site / ReadMe to determine if the program has an uninstaller included.
  • Create a System Restore Point manually, if you're not sure whether the application installer creates a Restore point.
  • Track down the changes made by an application installation. This involves tracking down the registry changes and the changes in the disk contents. There are several utilities to do that. This part is explained below:

Track down the registry and file changes made by an application installation

Though there are several third-party utilities which can capture registry changes and utilities which can capture file system changes, System Mechanic from is impressive. It's a complete system maintenance tool which includes a registry cleaner, duplicate files finder, Safe Installer (which we are going to discuss about) and much more tools.........

Safe Installer is a feature using which you can track the File and registry changes made by an application installation. First, it tracks the pre-installation snapshot of the registry and file system. Then launches the setup program that you specify. Once the installation is done, the post-setup snapshot is generated. Finally, the pre-setup and post-setup snapshots are compared automatically and output is generated as a TXT file, which you can open in Notepad.

Launch System Mechanic. From the System tab, click Safe Installer button

Type a Report description and then choose the setup file for the application which you want to install.

Choose Next and choose the drive-letters you wish to monitor. Click Next, Next and type the Report file name and location.

From the Snapshot tab, click Start. The current registry and the file structure are now stored in a pre-setup snapshot.

Once completed, run the setup program for the application which you want to install.

After installation is complete, click Done: Report button. This launches the post-setup snapshot. Final result is the comparison report which contains all the additional registry entries and files modified by the application installer.

Open the report in Notepad and view the contents, to know the list of changes made in your system.

System behaves strangely after an application was installed ?

In case the system behaves strangely (slow boot, shutdown, weird behavior while performing an operation) after the installation of an application, here are the steps you need to take:

  • Uninstall the particular application and run a System Restore rollback
  • If uninstaller is unavailable, run a System Restore rollback
  • If System Restore point and the uninstallers are not available, look for a manual installation procedure from the software vendor's website
  • If not of the above works, try to remove the application entries and files in the registry manually using the Safe Install Log file which you generated. Take extreme care while deleting a key and seek the advice of an expert before doing so. Before that create a System Restore Point.