WinPatrol: File Types

One important feature of WinPatrol is that it allows you to view and restore "File Types" that might change without your approval.

An Introduction to File Types & Associations

File Types
A "file type" helps define the purpose or use of a file. In the DOS and Windows file systems file names have traditionally ended with a period followed by a one to three character file extension. The file extension represents the "file type" but in name only. Some well known file types include .EXE (executable files), .TXT (plain text files), .GIF (image files), .MP3 (MP3 sound files), .ZIP (ZIP archive files). 

The newer versions of Windows still support this type of file extension and even allow extensions larger than 3 characters. Unfortunately, Microsoft has chosen by default to hide the file type extensions because someone did a user interface study and concluded they confused users. 

Our recommendation is to turn on the display of file extensions. To do so, run Windows Explorer (Win Key + E) and select the menu option Tools >> Folder Options..., then click on the "View" tab. A little ways down you'll see a check box that says "Hide extensions for known file types." Uncheck the box so that Windows Explorer (as well as "Open/Save File" boxes) will display the file extensions.
Vista users need to click on the Vista Orb and type in "Folder Options" to access this dialog.

File Type Associations
In general most files are either "program" files or "data" files. When you "open" an program file, Windows loads and executes the instructions found in the program. When you "open" a data file, however, Windows checks the "file type" of the data file and finds the associated program to open and view the data file. Windows loads the associated program and instructs the program to load and run using the data included in the data file that was selected.

For example, if you click on a file with the extension .TXT (a plain text file), Windows may automatically load Notepad to view that .TXT file. Click on a Word Document (.DOC) and Windows will automatically load and run your of copy of Microsoft Word. (If you don't have Word, Windows will load WordPad instead and attempt to display the file.)

While most file types on your system should be completely legitimate, some malicious or wanted programs have been known to add their own file types to the system or modify existing file types.

Managing File Types & Associations

WinPatrol will monitor registered file types and alert you if a change has occurred. There are two useful reasons to monitor file types.

  1. A malicious program may modified standard types causing you to run dangerous program when you perform normally safe operations. Many virus programs, for example, have been known to change the action taken when a user clicks on an .EXE file.
     

  2. A new legitimate program may reassign file association of file types without your permission. The result: instead of your preferred media program opening, another media program opens instead to view media files. For example, if you quickly install a new photo program it may re-assign the program association for your JPG and GIF files without your permission. WinPatrol will alert you and allow you to change back to your original program association.

WinPatrol allows you to view information about file types and if required restore them to their previous association.

"Monitor"
This button allows you to configure how frequently Scotty checks the File Types list for changes. You can set this frequency in minutes, and even set it to 0 minutes to disable checking of the File Types list entirely.

"Add"
If there is a file type that you would like Scotty to monitor, click the Add button to add that file type to the list of file types to be monitored. 

"Info..."
The Info... button provides more information about the selected file type, including the company responsible for the associated program used to open that file type (if any) and version.

As it is often difficult to tell just from a file name or company name whether an associated program is legitimate, you can click the Free Info... button to review a list of common, well-known malicious programs on the WinPatrol web site. PLUS members can click the PLUS Info... button to search the online WinPatrol database for more information on the specific service program itself.

"Remove"
This button will not delete any programs from your hard drive. It also will not change any file type associations in Windows.  Instead it will just remove the selected file type from the list of file types monitored by WinPatrol.

WinPatrol Features