Following my mention of ‘autoruns’ while revealing (to no-one) that Adobe is evil, I thought I should follow up with an ironic little tip of the hat to, who else, but Microsoft :)
Microsoft’s SysInternals site is just a swiss army knife of goodness… <humor> They ought to put some money into promoting that stuff amongst the grognard sector rather than the ad campaign advertising their dubious sounding take on architecture: “Windows, life without walls”? Do they advocate glass supporting columns too??? </humor>
In all seriousness, SysInternals is pure, unbridled goodness that has no right to be lurking in obscurity. Things like:
An actual symlink (not shortcut) command: “junction” for us Unix freaks. Files and directories.
Of course, “Autoruns“, which lets you actually see everything Windows is going to fire up on startup. If you do nothing else, you should run it and delete all the “File not found” entries. As a second step, turn on the Options to Verify Code Signatures and Hide Verified Microsoft thingies, then refresh to see if there’s anything really suspicious.
“Process Explorer“. An actual honest-to-goodness process list. Yeah, kind of a bummer to discover that TaskManager isn’t. Again with the “Verify Signatures” – a huge help if you’re like me and you find yourself continually checking for new and unexpected applications.
And lastly, “Rootkit Revealer“. Oh, my. Turns out that Explorer provides hooks for applications (like, for instance, TortoiseSVN) to modify what shows up in the explorer window, even hiding files or folders entirely. Overall that’s a good thing except there is no way to tell it categorically “I really, really want to see all the files”. Amongst other things, this is something that RR shows up. Of course, there are some files that are genuinely supposed to be hidden – don’t even bother if you’re running Vista. But for XP is probably one more good thing to try for free if your box is behaving oddly…