Windows XP : Verifying Digitally Signed Files, Reviewing Event Viewer Logs, Setting Up a 10-Step Maintenance Schedule

9/22/2012 2:18:38 AM

Verifying Digitally Signed Files

To ensure that you don’t accumulate unsigned drivers on your system (particularly if you share your computer with other users), you should regularly run the Signature Verification Tool. This program scans your entire system (or, optionally, a specific folder) for unsigned drivers. Follow these steps to run this tool:

Select Start, Run, enter sigverif, and click OK. The File Signature Verification window appears.

Click Advanced to display the Advanced File Signature Verification Settings dialog box.

Activate the Look for Other Files That Are Not Digitally Signed option.

In the Look in This Folder text box, enter SystemRoot\System32\drivers, where SystemRoot is the folder in which Windows XP is installed (such as C:\Windows).

Click OK.

Click Start to begin the verification process.

When the verification is complete, the program displays a list of the unsigned driver files, as shown in Figure 1. The results for all the scanned files are written to the log file Sigverif.txt, which is copied to the %SystemRoot% folder when you close the window that shows the list of unsigned drivers. In the Status column of Sigverif.txt, look for files listed as Not Signed. If you find any, consider upgrading these drivers to signed versions. 

Figure 1. When the Signature Verification Tool completes its work, it displays a list of the unsigned drivers on your system.

Reviewing Event Viewer Logs

Windows XP constantly monitors your system for unusual or noteworthy occurrences. It might be a service that doesn’t start, the installation of a device, or an application error. These occurrences are called events and Windows XP tracks them in three different event logs:

ApplicationThis log stores events related to applications, including Windows XP programs and third-party applications.
SecurityThis log stores events related to system security, including logons, user accounts, and user privileges. Note that this log doesn’t record anything until you turn on Windows XP’s security auditing features. You do so by opening Windows XP Professional’s Local Security Settings snap-in (select Start, Run, type secpol.msc, and click OK) and selecting Local Policies, Audit Policy. You can then enable auditing for any of the several polices listed.
SystemThis log stores events generated by Windows XP and components such as system services and device drivers.


The System log catalogs device driver errors, but remember that Windows XP has other tools that make it easier to see device problems. Device Manager displays an icon on devices that have problems, and you can view a device’s property sheet to see a description of the problem. Also, the System Information utility (Msinfo32.exe) reports hardware woes in the System Information, Hardware Resources, Conflicts/Sharing branch and the System Information, Components, Problem Devices branch.

You should scroll through the Application and System event logs regularly to look for existing problems or for warnings that could portend future problems. The Security log isn’t as important for day-to-day maintenance. You need to use it only if you suspect a security issue with your machine; for example, if you want to keep track of who logs on to the computer. To examine these logs, you use the Event Viewer snap-in, available via either of the following techniques:

  • Select Start, Run, type eventvwr.msc, and then click OK.

  • Open Control Panel’s Administrative Options icon and launch the Event Viewer icon.

Figure 2 shows a typical Event Viewer window. Use the tree in the left pane to select the log you want to view: Application, Security, or System.

Figure 2. Use the Event Viewer to monitor events generated by applications and Windows XP.

When you select a log, the right pane displays the available events, including the event’s date, time, and source, its type (Information, Warning, or Error), and other data. To see a description of an event, double-click it or select it and press Enter.


Rather than monitoring the event logs by hand, Windows XP comes with a couple of tools that can help automate the process. The Eventquery.vbs script enables you to query the log files for specific event types, IDs, sources, and more. Search Help and Support for eventquery to get the script’s command-line syntax. Also, you can set up an event trigger that will perform some action when a particular event occurs. You do this using the Eventtriggers.exe utility. Search Help and Support for eventtriggers to get the full syntax for this tool.

Setting Up a 10-Step Maintenance Schedule

Maintenance is effective only if it’s done regularly, but there’s a fine line to be navigated. If maintenance is performed too often, it can become a burden and interfere with more interesting tasks; if it’s performed too seldom, it becomes ineffective. Here’s a 10-step maintenance plan:

Check your hard disk for errors. Run a basic scan about once a week. Run a more thorough disk surface scan once a month. The surface scan takes a long time, so run it when you won’t be using your computer for a while.

Check free disk space. Do this once about once a month. If you have a drive where the free space is getting low, check it approximately once a week.

Delete unnecessary files. If free disk space isn’t a problem, run this chore once every two or three months.

Defragment your hard disk. How often you defragment your hard disk depends on how often you use your computer. If you use it every day, you should run Disk Defragmenter about once a week. If your computer doesn’t get heavy use, you probably need to run Disk Defragmenter only once a month or so.

Set restore points. Windows XP already sets regular system checkpoints, so you need only create your own restore points when you’re installing a program or device or making some other major change to your system.

Back up your files. Perform a full backup of all your documents, as well as a backup of the system state, about once a month. Carry out a differential backup of modified files once a week. Complete an incremental or daily backup of modified files every day.

Check Windows Update. If you’ve turned off automatic updating, you should check in with the Windows Update website about once a week.

Check for security vulnerabilities. Run the Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer once a month. You should also pay a monthly visit to Microsoft’s Security site to keep up to date on the latest security news, get security and virus alerts, and more:

Verify digitally signed files. If other people use your computer regularly, you should run the Signature Verification Tool every couple of months.

Review Event Viewer logs. If your system appears to be working fine, you need only check the Application and System log files weekly or every couple of weeks. If the system has a problem, check the logs daily to look for Warning or Error events.

Remember, as well, that Windows XP offers a number of options for running most of these maintenance steps automatically:

  • If you want to run a task every day, set it up to launch automatically at startup.

  • Use the Task Scheduler (Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Scheduled Tasks) to set up a program on a regular schedule. Note that some programs, particularly Disk Defragmenter, can’t be scheduled in their GUI form. You need to use the command-line version instead.

  • The Backup program enables you to schedule backup jobs. In the Backup Utility window, display the Schedule Jobs tab and click Add Job.

  • Use the Automatic Updates feature instead of checking for Windows updates by hand.

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