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Sunday, December 14, 2014

How To Monitor File And Folder Changes in Windows

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If someone else is using your computer or if you need to see what changes were made to your files and folders during a specific time, you can use Nirsoft’s handy FolderChangesView application. Nirsoft is a great freeware provider that produces amazing little tools for your PC, and the best part is that they never bundle crapware with their programs like so many other software vendors do.

What is Folder Changes View?

FCV is a small, standalone Utility created by Nirsoft Labs that makes it easy to monitor folders of entire disk drives for any changes. It will provide you with a comprehensive list of all the files that have been modified, created, or deleted during the time when the folder is being monitored. In addition to allowing local drive monitoring, FCV also allows you to monitor drives that are being shared over a network if you have “Read Permissions.”

Downloading the Utility

Once you are ready to begin, you will need to download the FolderChangesView utility from Nirsoft’s website.  Simply scroll to the bottom of the page and download the zip file which contains a standalone executable file. Once you have downloaded the program, create a folder on the desktop called FCV (or wherever you want to put it), and then extract the contents into the folder.
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Launching and Using Folder Changes View

Since FCV is a standalone application, there is no installation required. All you need to do is open the folder where the extracted files are and double-click the “FolderChangesView.exe” file. Remember that you may need to allow the application to run by clicking the “Run” button in the “Security Warning” window.
Once you have opened the program, you will need to select the folder that you want to monitor, and then press the “OK” button. Once you press “OK,” the utility will automatically begin to monitor your folder and any sub-folders according to the parameters you define. For this example, we will choose to monitor the “Downloads” folder in Windows. Do this by changing the target folder as shown in the image below.
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Once you have selected a folder to monitor, you can also choose to edit the monitoring parameters by changing any other settings shown in the screenshot. We will not use these for now, but you can experiment with them later on. These settings will not alter any files on your computer, so you will not need to worry about messing anything up by entering the “wrong” settings.
Make Some Changes!
Now that we have defined which folder will be monitored, it is time to make a change or two to see the way that the information is shown. For this example, I will delete a file from the folder, add a new folder, and move existing files into this new folder.
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Changes that were made in the “Downloads” folder, that were monitored by FCV are:
  1. “Paragon Partition Ma…” was deleted
  2. “New Folder” was created then modified (modification came from the name change)
  3. “VirtualBox-4.3.20-9699…” was deleted and created. This indicated that the file was moved because it was created in the “New Folder” and deleted from the original “Downloads” folder.
  4. “Oracle_VM_VirtualBox…” had the same changes as the previous file because it was also moved.

What Information is Shown?

The Utility will provide you with comprehensive details about any changes in the folder. If you scroll to the right of the Monitoring window, you will see details about the file including:
  1. Filename
  2. Modified Count
  3. Created Count
  4. Deleted Count
  5. Full Path (location of the files in question)
  6. Extension (the extensions of the files that have been logged by the monitor)
  7. File Owner
  8. First Time Event (This column and the column next to it will let you know when the first and last change to the file was made. This is useful if you are working on a Word Document for example, and want to see how long the file was in use.)
  9. Last Time Event
  10. File Size
  11. Modified Time (This is different from #8 and 9 since it tells you when the files attributes, name, and other details were modified rather than when it was accessed.
  12. Created Time
  13. Attributes
If you want to see all this information about a single file in a window rather than having to scroll to the side, you can right-click on any entry and then press “Properties.” (NOT File Properties)
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Wrapping Up

Now that you know how to monitor file changes on your PC, you will never have to wonder what people were doing on your computer again. You can also track any changes that could have been made by malicious software to track it down and eliminate it. Feel free to play with the settings and change the monitoring folders to see what happens. If you ever want to remove the program, it is as easy as deleting the FCV folder since there was no installation required.

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