Have you ever worked on one of those projects that you just could not find an answer for? You know that there has to be a way to do what has been asked, but you spend countless hours searching multiple forums and your trusty techy go-to sites only to find unanswered questions and people saying “it cant be done”… In the end, you feel like you’ve wasted a full day and accomplished nothing… But it doesn’t have to be this way! One simple tool can tell you what to change and where to find it! Let’s start off with a little backstory…
After a recent power outage at work, a wave of calls came in. Users were reporting that they were working in Microsoft office when the power went out. When their systems came back up, there were no auto-recovery files to be found. It turned out that two pieces of Microsoft Office, Project and Visio, do not come with auto-recovery enabled by default. Of course, this needed to be fixed.
A former colleague of mine once said, “Being in IT just means you know how to Google really good.” Despite the poor English, he had a great point. After searching Google for about an hour or so, I found multiple sites. All of which had the same problem I was facing, “How do I enable this setting for all of my PCs?”
Sadly, the only ones that were answered had something along the lines of “Go to each machine and individually click the check box to enable this setting.” Having almost 3000 computers, some of which are at remote off-sites, this didn’t seem like a very useful answer.
Enter “WhatChanged.exe”, one of many nifty little tools designed by VTaskStudio. WhatChanged is an easy to use, utility that scans for modified files and registry entries. Essentially, WhatChanged takes a snapshot before your change and another snapshot after your change. It then will list what has changed! The download can be found under our Tools page (in the Desktop Management section).
At this point, some of you may be asking, “But Steven… why didn’t you just use group policy to fix this? Surely there must be some predesigned ADMX files for MS Office 2010?” (If you don’t know about Group Policy or ADMX files, head on over and grab the notes from the Group policy class or check out the Group Policy Stream).
Well, you would be right… except they don’t exist… When I found them and got them imported into my central store, the Auto-recovery settings for Visio didn’t exist. Upon reading the release notes, it was made clear that this setting was removed from the Office 2010 ADMX Pack when it was available in the Office 2007 ADMX Pack… Why? Beyond me! Anyways, back to Plan B – WhatChanged!
Along with simplicity, the extra options are what makes WhatChanged such a great tool. Some tools have a preset search parameter that you cannot modify. With Whatchanged, you can specify drives to scan for file changes or individual registry hives. To show you how to use this tool, we are going to find the missing auto recovery information for Visio.
1. Launch WhatChanged.exe
2. Select where you want to scan for changes
a. Files: Entire drive or specific paths
b. Registry Keys: Entire registry or specific hives
3. Take a snapshot of your system: “Get Baseline State”
4. Make the modifications that you need on the system. (For me, it was just opening MS Visio, and enabling ‘Auto-recovery’ in the options.)
5. Take a second snapshot to see what changed: “Find out what changed since step #1”
6. Open the log file to see changes.
So as if WhatChanged wasn’t simple enough already, the log file spells out the exact registry key or file (with its location) that needs to be changed. All it takes now is pushing that registry key or file to the desired machines using group policy or whatever mechanism your organization uses.
In the end, why spend hours searching a machine for changes or equally as long searching the web trying to find an answer to your problem only to come up empty handed? My issue had been in forums since 2010, all with no answers or the “go do it manually” answers. The fact that it only took a few minutes shows that with the right tools, anything is possible. Have you ever had a problem similar to this that WhatChanged can help you solve?