Do you know of the Change Analysis Diagnostic Tool for Windows XP? I find this two-year-old Microsoft utility quite useful in situations where you have to repair Windows machines on which end users have admin rights. The tool can display changes made to the computer within a configurable time period.
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According to Microsoft's Knowledge Base article, the Change Analysis Diagnostic Tool is able to analyze modifications in the following areas: Installed and removed programs, installed updates, COM components that Internet Explorer loads, driver modifications, downloaded Active-X controls and other Auto-Start Extensibility Points (ASEPs) .
If you are unsure what could be the cause of a computer problem, you can send the tool to the user. Then, she or he has to launch statechangediag.exe through the Windows run dialog. This will start a wizard which allows the user to specify the time range to be analyzed. The Change Analysis Diagnostic will then create an XML file which is viewable in Internet Explorer. The output is very detailed, and gives you all the necessary information to find out how the user messed up the system (see screenshot).
Unfortunately, the tool has one major shortcoming—it only runs on Windows XP SP2, officially. There is a workaround on Windows XP SP3. You can make its setup program believe that it is running on XP SP2 by changing the value of the following registry key to 200: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SYSTEM \ CurrentControlSet \ Control \ Windows\ CSDVersion. You can also extract statechangediag.exe and scstyle.xsl from the setup file with a file archival tool, such as 7-Zip. The files are in the sdiag folder. Then you don't have to install the tool.
This works fine on Windows XP SP3, but not on Windows Vista SP1. You can get the Change Analysis Diagnostic tool working on Vista if you run it in the Windows XP SP2 compatibility mode. However, the XML report will then contain only error messages. I wasn't able to find a Vista version of the Change Analysis Diagnostic tool. Perhaps it has a new name? Do you know a comparable tool that runs on Vista?