If you’re wondering how other people might be using your PC then there are plenty of free system forensics tools to point you in the right direction. TurnedOnTimesView lists when a PC has been started and closed down, for instance; UserAssistView shows which programs are being launched, while BrowsingHistoryView reports on recent web activities.
If you’re interested in this kind of application then you could download each one, run various tests, research the competition, and gradually build up your own forensic toolkit.
Alternatively, you could just download Win-UFO, which combines around 100 popular freeware PC forensics and system information tools into a single portable package.
Most of the tools here are from NirSoft, but there are also antivirus programs (ClamWin, HijackThis), undelete tools (Recuva), file viewers (IrfanView) and more. The developers say it’s aimed at parents who want to track how their children are using a PC, to “know what they are doing online” and “what they are searching for”. But you could also use the suite as a portable troubleshooting toolkit, an easy way to track down PC problems wherever you might be.
There are a lot of tools to explore, but Win-UFO helps out by organising its collection into eight categories: “Browser History”, IPhone”, “Log Viewers” (see recent activity on your PC), “Malware” (ClamWin, HijackThis, McAfee Stinger, Spybot – Search & Destroy), “Password Recovery” (reveal passwords stored on your PC), “Reports” (crash reports, S.M.A.R.T. tools, startup program lists, more), “Viewers” (VLC Media Player, IrfanView), and “Other” (clipboard tools, file recovery via Recuva, search tools, network scanners, more).
Each of these menus only provides the name of each program, which may not always tell you very much. But if you’re not sure what something does, hovering your mouse cursor over it displays a tooltip with more help. So, for example, you’ll learn that USBDeview “lists all USB devices currently connected to your computer, and that you’ve previously used”.
Win-UFO also warns you if a particular program will change the current system (create a file or folder, adjust the Registry), handy if you’re using it as a forensic suite and don’t want to leave any sign you’ve been around.
Combining third-party tools like this isn’t always a good idea. It inevitably means that Win-UFO will have a lot of programs you don’t need. It’ll be harder to ensure you get the correct build of an individual program (32/ 64-bit). There’s no guarantee you’ll get the latest version, either.
What’s more, if you’re only really interested in NirSoft tools then you could simply download NirLauncher, which has more utilities, and a better front-end menu.
If you’re interested in PC forensics, then, the best approach – by far – is to visit individual developers, downloading and trying out particular programs for yourself.
But if you’re not technically confident enough to do that, or you just don’t have time, then Win-UFO provides a useful collection of free programs which can help you quickly find out how a PC is being used.