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Tracker Fact Sheet

With increasing awareness simple 'uninstallers' like AppZapper just don't do it there's a need to explain exactly what Tracker does and why.

What does Tracker do?

Tracker tracks. It tracks all file system activity. It can be used to track an entire login session, an Internet surfing sesson, or more often the activity of a software installer and the software itself. With 'unknown and untrusted software' this is the only way to go.

How does Tracker work?

Tracker caps tracking sessions with 'begin' and 'end' times and looks for things that happen to your file system in the interval.

Is Tracker completely safe?

Yes. Prior to OS X 10.4 (Tiger) there was a security hole in Apple's file system APIs but it's been patched. Today there's no way any software - good intentioned or not - can get past Tracker.

Does Tracker use Spotlight technology?

Goodness no. Spotlight doesn't track your entire file system and it can fail. Tracker can't fail.

Can I use Tracker to remove software I've already installed?

No. If you've already installed something there's no software anywhere that's going to help you. You can get rid of some files with programs like AppZapper but if the software you installed was at all unusual or really mean you're 'SOL'.

How do I use Tracker to track 'unknown and untrusted software'?

Ideally disconnect from the net. Just pull the cord out. Quit all other applications. Drop the installer on a Tracker window.

Click the 'Track' button to start a tracking session. You'll get a prompt showing what application will really run and asking you if Tracker is to proceed. If you click to proceed Tracker will launch the software.

Do a complete install if you're tracking an installer (and then exit) and then run the software itself at least once and try to pick on as many features as you can. Then exit the software too.

  • Tracker is set by default to check your entire user home area and the root directory /Library.
  • This is sufficient if you haven't given away your admin password to either the installer or the software itself.
  • If you've given away your admin password click the 'Add Paths' toolbar button and add your system root directory ('/').
  • This will automatically obviate both /Library and your home directory.
  • Click the 'Refresh' toolbar button and kick back and wait.
  • If you're only checking your home area and /Library it'll go pretty fast.
  • If you're checking everything from root you have to wait a bit longer.
  • You don't have to sit idly and wait for Tracker to finish: you can go ahead and do any other work you want.
  • When Tracker's finished (and you'll know when it's finished) you'll see all the files that have been modified in the areas you checked.
  • If you also want to see all files that have been accessed hit ⇧⌘A to toggle their display.

Export the Tracker report for safekeeping. Tracker reports are plain text files that can be picked up by a text editor. They list the target software if any, the directory hives to be scanned, the start and stop times for the tracking session, all files that have been accessed, all files with file system data that's changed, and all files that have been modified.

In Tracker's on screen display you see files that are 'changed' or 'modified' in a bold font. File that have only been accessed appear in an ordinary font.

Can Tracker remove software from my computer?

Of course. Do this while you still have your Tracker session open. You can drag files to any location or toss them in the Trash or delete them completely. Up to you.

If you really want software gone it's probably best to delete completely: the HFS tracking in your file system might make a note of the software's new location (the Trash) and allow it to run from there.

If you decide to keep the software you should still keep a copy of the Tracker report to use the day you change your mind.

What do I do if the installer tells me to close all other applications?

No worries! But first save your tracking stamp. Do this on the menu or with the shortcut ⌘S ('save'). Then exit Tracker (and all other apps) like the good installer asked you to - and when the installer is thankfully gone you simply launch Tracker again and get back that time stamp you saved (⇧⌘S).

What do I do if the installer wants to reboot my computer?

No worries again! See above: just save your tracking time stamp (⌘S) and let the installer reboot as many times as it wants. And when it's all done creating havoc in your file system you launch Tracker again and get back that time stamp (⇧⌘S) - and start tracking!

Can I change tracking directories after the fact?

Of course. Your starting tracking time stays intact until you either close that particular Tracker window or use the same window to start a new tracking session. (If you try to start a new tracking session in the same window Tracker will prompt you for safety's sake.)

How do I get my copy of Tracker?

Tracker's available either as part of the ACP or part of the Xfile package.

You can buy it here.

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