How to find out how often programs are used by our users?

When using the NTFS file system, Windows can store several additional pieces of information about files and folders, which we can use to compile some useful statistics. If we enable this functionality in the file system, we will know not only the file size or the date of its creation, but also the dates of modifications or last access. The last access time stamp is always updated when we access the file – when we open, copy or move it –, so it can tell us when a program was launched for the last time. This information can be easily queried in AIDA64 file scanner.

Last access time stamps used to be enabled by default in Windows 2000 and Windows XP, and we had to disable them if we did not need this functionality. In Windows Vista and newer operating systems it is disabled by default, so we have to enable it. As this feature may have a slight impact on file reading and writing performance, it is worth disabling it again if we do not need it anymore.

Enabling last access time stamps

With the following command (which requires admin rights), we can check if last access time stamps are enabled on the PC:

fsutil behavior query disablelastaccess

If the query returns “1”, the feature is disabled. To enable it, let's run the following command (again, with admin rights):

fsutil behavior set disablelastaccess 0

With this feature enabled, we can identify the programs that company employees barely use or do not use at all, which provides invaluable data for reconsidering our software purchasing decisions. To enable last access time stamps on all clients, we need to create a new Group Policy Object (GPO), in which we add a startup script with the above command (“fsutil”) and script parameters („behavior set disablelastaccess 0”).

Configuring AIDA64 File Scanner

To display the last access dates, we will need AIDA64 File Scanner.

Let's see an example. We want to see how many licenses we will have to purchase of the latest edition of Microsoft Office, so we check how often employees use the individual apps of the office suite. To do so, let's open File / Preferences in AIDA64, and then select File Scanner. Then we have to add the Office installation folder to the “Selected folders” list.

Then we need to select the file type we are looking for, which is “executable files” in this case.

In the File Properties window, check only those properties you want to include in the query (and in the reports).

The results will be visible in the Page menu Software / File Scanner page. As you can see, on our PC the most often used Office applications are OneNote and Word, while we have not opened the rest of the Office programs for quite a while.