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WinPatrol, the handy security utility that serves as a virtual guard dog, is back in its 2011 version. The update adds little in the way of new marquee features, but WinPatrol remains an incredibly useful way to monitor the programs running on your PC--especially those that attempt to make any changes to it.

Like earlier versions, WinPatrol 2011 offers incredibly useful controls over which programs startup when your PC does. You can easily see a list of startup programs, click on them to get more information, and choose to disable them. Also useful is the ability to delay startup: You can tell certain programs to wait a set amount of time post-PC-startup to launch, which will allow your computer to boot faster.

WinPatrol 2011 also retains the features that let you keep tabs on the programs and services running on your PC. It allows you to view hidden files, and view and filter cookies.

So what's new in the 2011 version? A focus on 64-bit operating systems, improved support for Firefox 4 and 5 cookies, improved privacy settings, minor user interface fixes, and minor bug fixes. It's not headline-making stuff, but it doesn't need to be. Longtime PCWorld favorite WinPatrol remains an excellent way to retain control over the inner workings of your PC.

The biggest downside to WinPatrol might be its user interface: It's very text-heavy, and relies on a tab system that is so overcrowded, it borders on being an impediment to actually using the program. And too many of the tabs are dedicated to features only available in the $30 Plus version, such as disabling ActiveX controls and monitoring registry changes. But once you get used to its busy look, using WinPatrol is a snap. And with it, so, too, is protecting your PC.

Note: This program is donationware. It is free to use, but the author accepts and encourages donations towards further development.

--Liane Cassavoy

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