NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, July 2008
Microsoft Offers Dozens of Free “SYSINTERNALS” Utilities
By Ira Wilsker, APCUG Director;
Columnist, The Examiner, Beaumont, TX; Radio & TV Show Host

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http://live.sysinternals.com – Direct downloads

Every time I boot my computer, a small utility named “System File Defragmenter” (pagedfrg.exe) runs early in the boot process before Windows loads, and defragments critical system files and registry entries. This defragmentation saves some memory, and makes a nominal improvement in system performance; the entire process only takes a few seconds. Periodically, I run another small utility, “Autoruns”, which shows all of the programs and files that automatically load at boot, not just in the system startup (which it displays), but also scheduled tasks, Internet Explorer components, Windows Explorer components, and about 15 other areas that most users were unaware that they even existed. By carefully unchecking a box, the selected item will not load at the next boot. It should be noted that items may be later reenabled by checking the boxes (unless explicitly deleted by the user). Since there is a chance that the non-expert user may unknowingly uncheck something important, it would be a good idea to create a restore point before fooling with this utility (Start – All Programs – Accessories – System Tools – System Restore). Dozens of other free small utilities are available that would warm the heart of any geek.

These utilities, currently owned by Microsoft, are the creation of Mark Russinovich, who along with his small team of highly talented programmers, produced an admirable collection of freeware utilities. Originally distributed as the “Sysinternals” collection (http://www.sysinternals.com), Sysinternals was purchased a few years ago by Microsoft, who currently administers the distribution and development of the software. These utilities are not for the novice or other inexperienced user, but instead provide a wealth of power and control to those who knowingly like to tweak their systems.

The utilities are easy to locate, and fast to download. Going to the http://www.sysinternals.com website will actually open a Microsoft Tech Net page. On the left of the page is a directory of categories; the right of the page shows the most popular downloads, and the center of the page gives the details of the selected programs. The categories of the utilities displayed are “Sysinternals Suite”, “Utilities Index”, “File and Disk Utilities”, “Networking Utilities”, “Process Utilities”, “Security Utilities”, “System Information”, and “Miscellaneous Utilities”. The “Sysinternals Suite” is an “all you can eat” selection (about 8mb zip file), that contains 95 files, which include almost all of the utilities available in a single download. My personal preference was to download this single zip file, and uncompress (unzip) it into a newly created directory I named C:\SysInternals. Uncompressed, all 95 files take up about 21mb of hard drive space. Now I have them all at my fingertips, ready to experiment with or use at my discretion.

In my opinion, computer security trumps all other computer activities. The “Sysinternals Security” page lists nearly 20 security utilities. One utility that I recommend to all users is the “Rootkit Revealer”. While we have all heard of viruses, worms, and Trojans, which contemporary antivirus software can detect, we may not be aware that there is another devious threat which may hide in our registry, memory, or other locations beyond the scanning ability of our antivirus software. These nefarious threats are called Rootkits, and they are presenting us with an ever increasing threat to our computing safety and security, which are not likely to be otherwise detected. Another security issue we often face is how we securely delete unwanted files containing sensitive personal information. The program “SDelete” will “Securely overwrite your sensitive files and cleanse your free space of previously deleted files using this DoD-compliant secure delete program.”

The category “File and Disk Utilities” also contains 20 utilities, with some redundancy with the other categories. Some of the simpler utilities are “DiskView”, which graphically displays the contents of the hard drive; “Disk Usage” which displays disk usage by directory; the aforementioned “PageDefrag” which defragments critical paging and system files as well as registry hives at each boot; and a variety of other utilities. “Networking Utilities” consists of eight utilities; the one that I use the most of this group is “Whois”, which displays the owners of a URL or other internet address. “Process Utilities”, a collection of 16 utilities, assists the user in determining what processes are actually running on the machine. I frequently use “Autoruns” to display and manage the programs that start automatically when the computer is booted. Other Process Utilities are technical in nature, but very useful to those who really want to know and control what is running on the computer.

The “Sysinternals System Information Utilities” is a collection of 18 utilities (some of the utilities also appear in other categories), that appropriately provide system information. These utilities include a system clock program, a file monitor, a process explorer and monitor, “PsInfo” which provides comprehensive system information, a registry monitor, and other useful software gadgets.

There are 14 “Miscellaneous Utilities” which can serve a variety of functions, including viewing and editing active directories, “Autologon” to bypass the password screen during logon, “BgInfo” which generates a desktop background that displays detailed and important information about the computer and its configuration, a converter that converts between hexadecimal (hex) and decimals, “RegJump” a regedit (registry manager) utility, “ZoomIt” to zoom images on the screen, and several other programs.

Users of Sysinternals can choose to download programs a’ la’ carte after reading about which functions each one serves, or can be downloaded as one large suite. A small number of programs, mostly for older operating systems, are not included in the suite. Microsoft recently created a webpage where the utilities can be downloaded directly, without the overhead of a graphical interface, at live.sysinternals.com.

Most of these programs will be of little use to anyone except experienced technical computer users. For those geeks, Sysinternals can provide a wealth of free utilities.

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