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Directory Monitor: watch files being created, modified or deleted in real time

31 July 2012, Mike Williams

Whether you’re concerned about security, system performance, or just wondering exactly why your PC’s hard drive has been constantly active for the last half hour, being able to see exactly which files are being created, modified or deleted right now can be very useful. And that’s why last month we told you about FolderChangesView, an excellent new NirSoft tool which made it easy to track just that type of file system activity.

The program was a little short on configuration options, though. That’s hardly a great surprise – at a tiny 65KB we’re lucky it does anything at all – but if you need a little more folder-watching power then you may like to try the free Directory Monitor, instead.

The core functionality here is similar to the Nirsoft tool: click Add, point the program to the folder you’d like to monitor, then watch as the Log pane displays new, modified, renamed or deleted files.

You get more control over exactly what you see, though. Are you only interested in new and deleted files, for instance? When adding a folder, check only “New Files” and “Deletions” and that’s all the program will display.

Add one or more folders, and Directory Monitor will list files as they're created, modified or deleted there

There are several extra logging options. You can have Directory Monitor display balloon notifications as files are created or deleted, for instance. It’ll display events in the Log pane. You can export this as an XML file, or have the log automatically backed up to a file, and more.

Clicking File > Options revealed plenty of other useful settings. You can have the program launch at boot time, for instance; set its window to be “always on top” for easier monitoring; choose to create a separate log file for each directory you’re monitoring, and more.

And, perhaps most powerfully, it’s even possible to inform a program of any of these events, and pass the key details as command line parameters. So you could have Directory Monitor detect new files as they appeared in a particular folder, for instance, then have them immediately passed to an archiving or backup tool for instant protection.

There are also down sides to Folder Monitor. You don’t seem able to track changes across your system drive by specifying just the root folder, for instance. We pointed Directory Monitor at C:\ and it detected nothing at all.

There are a few interface issues, too. In particular, the program needs a “Stop logging” button, so that you can easily regain control if the log window is scrolling endlessly and you’re just not interested in the current activities.

And we have a few concerns over stability, after Directory Monitor crashed a couple of times on our test system for no apparent reason.

Most of the time it worked perfectly, though, and Directory Monitor’s extra configuration options are more than adequate compensation for the occasional hassle. So if FolderChangesView doesn’t provide quite enough power for your needs, take a look at Directory Monitor – it’s a very capable and configurable alternative.

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