Quickly highlight suspect startup programs with Autorun Angel

November 23, 2012 – 06:00 by in Tips Print Share No Comment

When you think your PC has been infected by malware or spyware, then checking your Windows startup programs may seem like a good place to start looking for the source. But there’s a problem. Many of these will be cryptically-named executables which you won’t recognise at all, so how are you supposed to decide which ones are safe, and which require further research?

You could spend an age checking out each program manually, but life will probably be easier if you get a little help from Autorun Angel, which quickly compares your startup list against “known safe” applications and highlights whatever might be left.

On our test PC, for instance, Autorun Angel first displayed no less than 278 files of interest: startup programs, drivers, some processes running in memory, and more. Not really a list we’d want to have to trim down ourselves.

Autorun Angel's whitelist can help you spot suspect Windows startup programs

Just click the “Scan” button, though, and the program will connect with its cloud-based whitelist of applications, stripping out all the safe files until only those unrecognised are left. And this had a dramatic effect for us, cutting the original list of 278 files down to only 8 – a much more manageable research task.

Of course the problem with whitelisting is that, well, there are a lot of legitimate files out there to whitelist. And so there will always be plenty of entirely safe items which Autorun Angel didn’t recognise. On our system, for instance, it left a VMware Workstation component and our Cloudmark spam filter on the final list. (Although you can submit similar files on your system for inclusion in the database at some later date.)

And Autorun Angel doesn’t include any active file removal component, either, so if you do find something nasty then you’ll need to figure out for yourself how to get rid of it.

The program is simple, free, and potentially very useful when you’re first investigating a PC for a possible infection, though, and on balance we think it merits a place in your security toolkit.

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