Tag Archives: drivers

System Explorer and System Security Guard – A Review

https://i1.wp.com/careeroptionscoach.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/iStock_000013997777XSmall-focus-magnifying-glass.jpgDepending on which version of Windows Task Manager you use, you may find that it provides you with usable information – or not. Windows Task Manager is most commonly used to display information on all processes running on your computer, as well as advising you of the CPU and memory usage stats for a given process. Additional selective information on running applications, performance, local area connection and information on users, is also available.

But, back to running processes for a moment. What if you need additional information on a running process – or, processes? How, for example, would you determine which processes are safe if you rely on Windows Task Manager?

Running Windows Task Manager in Windows 8 (a major improvement over previous versions), as I’ve done for the following example, is not particularly useful since the only option is a raw online search. Which, in a real sense, is a hit and miss affair. Give it a try with your version of Windows Task Manager – you might be surprised to see just how cumbersome it is.

image

Instead, taking advantage of one of the built-in features in the freeware application, System Explorer, is a much more appropriate solution. In the following example, the selected process can easily be checked at VirusTotal, and at VirusScan, directly from within System Explorer.

image

It’s unlikely however, that you’ll have to take this extra step – since System Explorer has been designed to automatically rate, and provide details on processes that are listed in the developer’s extensive database.

image

Further information can be obtained by clicking on the “See More Details” link which will open the database reference at the developer’s site, as shown below.

image

System Explorer is not a one-trick pony since it has the capacity to provide detailed information on Tasks, Processes, Modules, Startups, IE Add-ons, Uninstallers, Windows, Services, Drivers, Connections and Opened Files. For this review I’ve focused on the security aspect and next up is System Explorer’s “Security Scan” which is easily launched from the GUI.

image

As you can see in the following screen capture – running processes are checked online against the developer’s extensive database.

image

The following screen capture shows a small portion of the 808 processes compared against the developer’s database.

image

Additional information on any specific process can easily be obtained by clicking on the “Details” link, as illustrated below.

image

One aspect of this application which I found intriguing is the “History” function. Running this function allows the user to view and develop information on currently running processes as well as those process running earlier but which are no longer running.

image

System requirements: Windows XP, Vista, Win 7.

Download at: System Explorer Net

Note: also available in a portable version that is just right for geeks on the go.

System Security Guard

System Security Guard, in a broad sense, is very much like the “Security Scan” built into System Explorer. System Security Guard however, as a stand alone small security utility, is designed to run at system startup and automatically scan running processes. As well, all new processes, as they are launched, are scanned.

The results of the initial run with System Security Guard shown below.

image

For this review I set the application to run at startup, and the following graphic represents the results following a week or so of automatic running. You’ll note that the application has identified 4 “Threat Files” – which, in reality, is the same file which has been flagged 4 times (each time the application was launched).

image

The application (CurrPorts), was flagged for good reason since it behaves in a way similar to that of a remote access Trojan. That is – it connects to the Internet in a peculiar way.

image

For illustrative purposes only, I ran the file against the developer’s database. However, since I use this application frequently throughout the day, I’m aware that this is a safe program.

image

System requirements: Windows XP, Vista and Win 7.

Download at: the developer’s site.

A big “Thank You” to regular reader Charlie L. for referring me to these applications.

Advertisements

8 Comments

Filed under downloads, Freeware, Malware Protection, System Utilities, Windows Task Manager Replacement

Device Doctor Updates Your Drivers For Free

The following post is an updated version of a previous article published September 3, 2010.

image Still running your computer with outdated system and peripheral drivers? If you are, then you’re not going to get the maximum performance out of your system, or peripherals, that’s just waiting to be unleashed.

Unfortunately, computer products/peripherals are often distributed with under tested device and system drivers which can cause real mayhem – including intermittent system crashes (one of the hardest problems to diagnose), poor system performance, or buggy peripheral performance.

Manufacturers of course, are not slackers when it comes to improving previously released drivers in order to fix bugs, errors and conflicts with other programs, (more common than you may think), or to increase peripheral functionality. For example, nVidia   has just released the second driver update this year, for my video card.

If you want to take a trip on the “Frustration Express” then you can try to update your drivers manually. But, believe me; you’ll be in for a long and frustrating ride.

You’ll start by Googling the driver name, then investigation available drivers, many of which will have a disclaimer stating that it was not written specifically for your system/device; you’ll try it – then delete it, and then your back to Googling again. Repeat the previous frustrating experience as many times as necessary, and you might get lucky.

Fortunately, there are utilities which can make this process more or less, automatic. Unfortunately, there’s more BS associated with free driver download software than virtually any other class of software, except perhaps – antimalware software.

In the last few years I’ve reviewed and rated four such applications (free, at the time of review), all of which morphed into “pay” applications, or instituted highly restrictive policies such as allowing only two driver downloads. Or worse, advising the user of available driver updates, but requiring “cash up front” to enable the download.

Since I needed to do some driver work on a personal system this week, I asked around, and got more than a few recommendations to try Device Doctor. This application proved to be a hit with me – not only because it’s free, but I liked its minimalist approach, and fast download speeds.

The developers are on the record as stating that they will continue to offer Device Doctor as a freeware application. Hopefully, we can count on this.

Running the application is a snap. The following screen capture illustrates the bare bones GUI – just click on “Begin Scan”.

image

The complete scan took less than 5 seconds. Now that’s impressive!

image

Now that you have the new device driver downloaded, you can install at your convenience.

Let me re-emphasize: Be sure to create a system restore point before installing a new driver.

Fast facts:

Provides drivers for every major computer hardware and device manufacturer.

More than 3 terabytes (3,000 GB) of drivers currently in the database.

Constantly updated to include new driver versions as soon as released.

Every driver is human reviewed using specialized compatibility tools.

Designed for Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7.

Thousands of drivers coming in weekly for Windows 7.

Full support for 64-bit systems, as well as 32-bit systems

Provides device names for unknown devices before updating drivers.

Can be used offline – scan results are saved so you can move them to a connected computer and download there.

Updates WHQL (Microsoft certified) and non-WHQL drivers.

Completely free with no adware or malware!

System requirements: Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 (32 bit and 64-bit compatible).

Download at: the developer’s site (Device Doctor).

Portable version: A portable version is also available here.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

16 Comments

Filed under 64 Bit Software, downloads, Drivers, Freeware, Software, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Runscanner – Aggressively Queries Your System And Applications For Unauthorized Changes

image

The developers of Runscanner describe this freeware utility as having been designed to “detect changes and misconfigurations in your system caused by spyware, viruses, or human error.”

Sounds a bit like HijackThis, the free utility from Trend Micro, which has a well deserved reputation for being aggressive in tracking down unauthorized changes that have been made to your system/applications.

Runscanner though, takes this process miles beyond HijackThis, and does so by  using an intuitive approach that casual users*, and experienced users alike, should find easy to work with.

*The only difficulty I see, that casual users might have a problem with is – the enormous volume of information this application is capable of producing. This could make it difficult for a casual user to interpret results.

Runscanner is a simple executable, and no installation is required. Just click on the file, and then choose your mode – beginner or expert.

image

The following screen capture shows the results of a full scan I ran on a Win 7 (32 bit), machine. The only entry I was unfamiliar with was Staropen.sys. Runscanner was right on the job though, with the right click context menu providing access to “lookup” services, as the screen shot below illustrates.

image

I took a look at Staropen.sys using a Google link to the Prevx file investigation site, and found the following: The filename Staropen.sys is used by objects that are classified as safe. It has not yet been seen to be associated with malicious software.

I then uploaded the file to VirusTotal (another context menu option),and VirusTotal reported the following – as shown in the screen shot below.

image

I suspected that this system driver was a component of CDBurner XP, and opening the location (another context menu option), then reading the driver with NotePad, indicated this was correct.

The next part of the test involved generating an online malware analysis report, which generates a massive report on all items which are considered safe, unsafe, whitelisted and additionally, verification of each file’s digital signature.

The screen capture below shows only a tiny (and I do mean tiny), portion of this report. The report is the most comprehensive of any I’ve ever seen, produced by this type of utility.

When you click on the screen capture below, to expand to the original size, you’ll notice that I’ve queried  Nitro PDF Spool Service. Rather than go directly to the site, instead, I’ve used COOL Previews to gather the relevant information. If you’re not yet familiar with COOL Previews – you can read a review of this outstanding time saver here – Surf Smarter – Take A Sneak Peek At Links With CoolPreviews Firefox Add-on.

image

Fast facts:

100+ start/hijack locations

Online malware analysis

Import and export of .run files

Powerful process killer

Save to text log file

Powerful file filtering

Host file editor

History backup / restore

Explorer jump

Analysis of file certificates

Beginner, Expert mode

Bit9 FileAdvisor MD5 lookup

Systemlookup.com lookup

Upload file to VirusTotal

Analyze loaded modules

Google lookup

Runscanner database lookup

Regedit jump

If you are a casual user, one caveat from the developer you should be aware of: Runscanner requires advanced Windows knowledge. If you delete an item, without knowing what it is, it can lead to major Windows problems. If you are not sure what to delete, post your Run file to a helper forum.

A list of helper forums is available directly from within the application, or here.

System requirements: Windows 2003, Windows 2000, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 7 (according to the developers, the application is x 64 compatible).

Download at: Download.com

Public process list is an additional service provided by the developers. In this list you will be able to browse all processes and files found by Runscanner. Extra information for top processes is added to the database and optional security info is provided by research.

Runscanner has additional capabilities not reviewed here, so I recommend that you take a close look at this freebie. I think you’ll find that it’s worth the effort.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

Comments Off on Runscanner – Aggressively Queries Your System And Applications For Unauthorized Changes

Filed under 64 Bit Software, downloads, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Malware Removal, Manual Malware Removal, Software, System Process Scanners, System Utilities, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Update Your Drivers With Free Device Doctor

image Still running your computer with outdated system and peripheral drivers? If you are, then you’re not going to get the maximum performance out of your system, or peripherals, that’s just waiting to be unleashed.

Unfortunately, computer products/peripherals are often distributed with under tested device and system drivers which can cause real mayhem – including intermittent system crashes (one of the hardest problems to diagnose), poor system performance, or buggy peripheral performance.

Manufacturers of course, are not slackers when it comes to improving previously released drivers in order to fix bugs, errors and conflicts with other programs, (more common than you may think), or to increase peripheral functionality. For example, my HP home printer has had three improved drivers released in the past two years that have increased stability, and functionality somewhat.

If you want to take a trip on the “Frustration Express” then you can try to update your drivers manually. But, believe me; you’ll be in for a long and frustrating ride.

You’ll start by Googling the driver name, then investigation available drivers, many of which will have a disclaimer stating that it was not written specifically for your system/device; you’ll try it – then delete it, and then your back to Googling again. Repeat the previous frustrating experience as many times as necessary, and you might get lucky.

Fortunately, there are utilities which can make this process more or less, automatic. Unfortunately, there’s more BS associated with free driver download software than virtually any other class of software, except perhaps – antimalware software.

In the last few years I’ve reviewed and rated four such applications (free, at the time of review), all of which morphed into “pay” applications, or instituted highly restrictive policies such as allowing only two driver downloads. Or worse, advising the user of available driver updates, but requiring “cash up front” to enable the download.

Since I needed to do some driver work on a personal system this week, I asked around, and got more than a few recommendations to try Device Doctor. This application proved to be a hit with me – not only because it’s free, but I liked its minimalist approach, and fast download speeds.

The developers are on the record as stating that they will continue to offer Device Doctor as a freeware application. Hopefully, we can count on this.

If you decide to give Device Doctor a workout, then during the install watch out for the following two screens.

image

image

Running the application is a snap. The following screen capture illustrates the bare bones GUI – just click on “Begin Scan”.

image

The complete scan took less than 5 seconds. Now that’s impressive!

image

Clicking on a driver download will open an information screen, as the graphic below illustrates. Kudos to the developers for including this information which should prove to be valuable for new users.

image

This 68 MB download @ 1. 6 MB/ sec was completed in seconds. Nice to see a developer who offers high speed downloads. One criticism though – functionality would be increased significantly with the addition of a “down them all” button.

Now that you have the new device driver downloaded, you can install at your convenience.

Let me re-emphasize: Be sure to create a system restore point before installing a new driver.

Fast facts:

Provides drivers for every major computer hardware and device manufacturer.

More than 3 terabytes (3,000 GB) of drivers currently in the database.

Constantly updated to include new driver versions as soon as released.

Every driver is human reviewed using specialized compatibility tools.

Designed for Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7.

Thousands of drivers coming in weekly for Windows 7.

Full support for 64-bit systems, as well as 32-bit systems

Provides device names for unknown devices before updating drivers.

Can be used offline – scan results are saved so you can move them to a connected computer and download there.

Updates WHQL (Microsoft certified) and non-WHQL drivers.

Completely free with no adware or malware!

System requirements: Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 (32 bit and 64-bit compatible).

Download at: the developer’s site (Device Doctor).

Portable version: A portable version is also available here.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

3 Comments

Filed under 64 Bit Software, downloads, Drivers, Freeware, Portable Applications, Software, USB, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Download Free Runscanner – HijackThis On Steroids!

imageIf you’re a malware hunter, and you’re in the market for a free system utility which will scan your system for running programs, autostart locations, drivers, services and hijack points, then Runscanner should make your shortlist.

The developers of Runscanner describe this freeware utility as having been designed to “detect changes and misconfigurations in your system caused by spyware, viruses, or human error.”

Sounds a bit like HijackThis, the free utility from Trend Micro, which has a well deserved reputation for being aggressive in tracking down unauthorized changes that have been made to your system/applications.

Runscanner though, takes this process miles beyond HijackThis, and does so by  using an intuitive approach that casual users*, and experienced users alike, should find easy to work with.

*The only difficulty I see, that casual users might have a problem with is – the enormous volume of information this application is capable of producing. This could make it difficult for a casual user to interpret results.

Runscanner is a simple executable, and no installation is required. Just click on the file, and then choose your mode – beginner or expert.

image

The following screen capture shows the results of a full scan I ran on a Win 7 (32 bit), machine. The only entry I was unfamiliar with was Staropen.sys. Runscanner was right on the job though, with the right click context menu providing access to “lookup” services, as the screen shot below illustrates.

image

I took a look at Staropen.sys using a Google link to the Prevx file investigation site, and found the following: The filename Staropen.sys is used by objects that are classified as safe. It has not yet been seen to be associated with malicious software.

I then uploaded the file to VirusTotal (another context menu option),and VirusTotal reported the following – as shown in the screen shot below.

image

I suspected that this system driver was a component of CDBurner XP, and opening the location (another context menu option), then reading the driver with NotePad, indicated this was correct.

The next part of the test involved generating an online malware analysis report, which generates a massive report on all items which are considered safe, unsafe, whitelisted and additionally, verification of each file’s digital signature.

The screen capture below shows only a tiny (and I do mean tiny), portion of this report. The report is the most comprehensive of any I’ve ever seen, produced by this type of utility.

image

Fast facts:

100+ start/hijack locations

Online malware analysis

Import and export of .run files

Powerful process killer

Save to text log file

Powerful file filtering

Host file editor

History backup / restore

Explorer jump

Analysis of file certificates

Beginner, Expert mode

Bit9 FileAdvisor MD5 lookup

Systemlookup.com lookup

Upload file to VirusTotal

Analyze loaded modules

Google lookup

Runscanner database lookup

Regedit jump

If you are a casual user, one caveat from the developer you should be aware of: Runscanner requires advanced knowledge about Windows. If you delete an item, without knowing what it is, it can lead to major Windows problems. If you are not sure what to delete, post your Run file to a helper forum.

A list of helper forums is available directly from within the application, or here.

System requirements: Windows 2003, Windows 2000, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 7 (according to the developers, the application is x 64 compatible).

Download at: Download.com

Public process list is an additional service provided by the developers. In this list you will be able to browse all processes and files found by Runscanner. Extra information for top processes is added to the database and optional security info is provided by research.

Runscanner has additional capabilities not reviewed here, so I recommend that you take a close look at this freebie. I think you’ll find that it’s worth the effort.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

11 Comments

Filed under 64 Bit Software, Anti-Malware Tools, Diagnostic Software, downloads, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Malware Removal, Software, System Utilities, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

RadarSync PC Updater – Free Driver Update Software

image

The information in this article is now outdated (November 1, 2009). It’s now free to try – Download of new drivers is only upon subscriptions. $29.95 to buy.

Just a few days ago I reviewed DriverMax, a free driver backup/download utility, which several readers later pointed out had been crippled by the developer in the latest release. The program now allows only 2 driver downloads per 24 hour period. Limiting functionality in such a way is a counter productive move, in my view.

Contrast that developer decision with the decision of RadarSync Ltd., who did the reverse in releasing their paid update, backup, and download software, PC Updater, as freeware. As I said, “different strokes for different folks”.

I don’t normally recommend software until I have had an opportunity to thoroughly test it, including trying to break it, but in this case, based on the experience of one of my readers , Don N., I’ll make a one time exception.

Let me offer you this quote from Don N.

“Bill, I just installed RadarSync2009 (updated) and it works GREAT! Simple installation with no crappola … couldn’t believe how many outdated drivers I had!

It also allowed me to connect directly to each site for the updates, and also those sites that I had relevant programs. Updates were done without the usual site by site hassles and the installations completed without a hitch”.

That sounds like a pretty good recommendation to me. Thank you Don.

image

From the developer:

Updates both software and device drivers.

RadarSync`s award-winning software helps you update, backup, download and discover tons of software.

Find and download the latest updates for your computer drivers and applications. Create software Packs to backup your software.

Browse the software playlists of over 2 million community members to discover tons of new, free software.

RadarSync downloads and installs your updates, Packs, and the new software you discover in one easy click – anytime, from any computer!

Protect your PC from security threats – Avoid common computer problems – Easily restore your computer from your backup Packs.

Displays both up-to-date and out of date items – Notifies user when crucial applications are missing – Revised Help files and on screen help.

image

System requirements: Windows 2000, XP, Vista, and Vista 64 bit

Download at: RadarSync

8 Comments

Filed under Backup Tools, Computer Maintenance, Freeware, Software, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Stop Searching for Drivers – Let DriverMax Do It!

DriverMax takes the hassle out of reinstalling drivers.

So, the last time you had to do a full re-install of Windows, (if you haven’t yet you will), you discovered that the most frustrating part of the process was the installation of all those device drivers.

Most of us tend not to think about device drivers until the time comes when we end up searching high and low for the original install CD’s following an operating system re-install, or worse, spending hours on the Internet tracking down those hard to pin down drivers.

Well, help is at hand. DriverMax is a free register ware program that makes it easy to search for, backup and reinstall all your Windows drivers. Using DriverMax, you simply export all of your current drivers to a folder, or a compressed file of your choice.

image

Even better, the latest free version (June, 2009) of DriverMax allows you to download the latest driver updates. No more searching for your drivers. No more frustrating Internet searches or inserting one installation CD after the other.

After reinstalling Windows, the Import Drivers wizard helps you install the drivers that you exported earlier. The entire operation can usually be done in 5-10 minutes, as opposed to the hours that the alternative requires.

All you need to do then, is restart your computer and all those drivers will be automatically reinstalled.

image

Quick Facts:

Wizard based user interface

Export drivers based on filtering

Export drivers to a folder or to a compressed folder

Fast exporting and importing of drivers

Free registration code required within 30 days

This is a great little application that should be part of your recovery toolbox.

Requirements: Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP and Windows 2003

Note: You will be required to create a free account, and log in, before you can start downloading the updates that you need.

Download at: Innovative Solutions

Update: July 4, 2009 – One of my readers, Cappydawg, has pointed out that this application now restricts users to just 2 driver updates daily. You may find this to be an unreasonable restriction. Checkout RadarSync 2008 which apparently has no such restrictions – this is a free program.

18 Comments

Filed under Backup Tools, Freeware, Software, System Utilities, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows XP