A typical Windows computer has dozen of programs and processes running in the background, each reading, writing and modifying data on your hard disk. Under normal circumstances, you wouldn’t be worried about these programs and what files they are accessing, as long as you are confident that whatever the programs are doing is legitimate. But when a program starts malfunctioning and you need to troubleshoot it, you may want to know what changes are being made to the system. There are many utilities that can keep watch over folders and notify you of any changes in real-time. Here is a selection of them.
FolderChangesView from NirSoft is easily one of the best. This is a simple tool that monitors the folder or disk drive that you choose and lists every filename that is being modified, created, or deleted while the folder is being monitored. After you run FolderChangesView, you have to choose the desired folder that you want to monitor and then press the 'Ok' button. If you choose a root folder (For example c:\ ) and the 'Monitor all subfolders under the specified folder' option is turned on, FolderChangesView will monitor the changes of the entire drive.
You can use FolderChangesView with any local disk drive or with a remote network share, as long as you have read permission to the selected folder.
TheFolderSpy can watch for file access, creation, deletion, renaming and changes to attribute of files under folders you monitor. You can choose what kind of changes you want the program to monitor. You can also restrict the program to report on only a particular file type, for example, changes to EXE files. Another option allows you to enable or disable sub-folder monitoring.
There are two features that some users will find useful – one, is the ability to send email alerts, and two, the ability to execute another program or EXE file whenever changes are detected.
Watch 4 Folder can monitor a bunch of events under the folders that the program is watching. First select the root folder which you want to watch from the tree view (don’t forget to check the box underneath that says “watch sub folders”), and then choose the events you wish to monitor. Available ones are file create, delete, change, rename, and change association, folders create, delete, change and rename. It can also monitor free disk space, media insert and removal actions.
These alerts can be written to a log file, or watched in real-time on the Live log window. Additionally, alerts can be issued through desktop pop-up windows.
Watch 4 Folder can also execute a program or batch file whenever a change is detected.
Moo0 FileMonitor starts monitoring all your hard drive partitions as soon as you launch the program. There is no way to monitor particular folders, only entire partitions, which limits the utility of the program to some extent. You can however, uncheck the partitions you don’t want to monitor. Moo0 FileMonitor will monitor for files created, written, renamed and deleted. The live-view window shows the activity in your disk at an interval of 1 second. This can be changed to real-time or slowed down to an interval of 5 minutes. Older entries in the log file is automatically purged, and you can choose how many events you wish to keep in the log.
In the status bar below, you can see the current disk activity as percentage and a small graph showing the most recent disk activity as well as the amount of bytes that are being read or written to the disk.
FolderMonitor can monitor several folders for new files created, old files deleted, renamed or changed. When changes are detected, it will alert you using either visual notification, balloon tips, or sound notification. Additionally, FolderMonitor can execute programs using file changes as triggers.
Directory Monitor can monitor several folders at once and notify you of file changes, deletions, modifications, and new files in real-time. Unfortunately, Directory Monitor wouldn’t monitor disk partitions. You can optionally execute an application when a change occurs or issue notification using balloon alerts. Changes can also be saved to a log file.
Windows Explorer Tracker can monitor and record certain activities happening on your hard disk, such file and folder delete, rename, create, insert, cut, copy and paste. There is no way to specify a particular partition or directory. The result is automatically saved on a .log file under the user’s directory. For as long as the program is running, it will continue to log Explorer activity and append it to the log file which is visible from within the program.
Unfortunately, Windows Explorer Tracker is not very useful because it cannot detect file changes.