Does Windows 7 log all files every opened?

daiwhyte used Ask the Experts™

Im trying to find out whether windows retains a log of all files ever opened and what location is was launched from.

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Opening a file is a vague term. Applications and users "open" files differently.

Are you trying to get a log of user actions on a commonly shared file/s or folder/s? If so, then a versioning software might be the answer.

Since, the OS log files can only grow up to a limit, they tend to overwrite the oldest data. Not sure how long back you wanted to go.
Unfortunately, the answer is no. There is a journal (USNJRNL) that maintains a record of file changes, but no system process that logs every open. Any such log would be prohibitively cumbersome to maintain IMHO. To see what I mean, download and run FILEMON. This will let you view file activity on your system in real time. Watch it for a few minutes, then imagine that a process like that is running 100% of the time and documenting that activity.
btanExec Consultant
Distinguished Expert 2018
Windows 7 does not keep the copy of the files ever opened.

Even at audit policy level [1], it goes as far as to just tracking all the files that are accessed by defined groups of (local/domain) users or even to per user audit trail. The event are captured provided the policy are enabled prior to those activities.

Windows has Shadow Copy (Volume Snapshot Service or Volume Shadow Copy Service or VSS) [2] which is a technology included in Microsoft Windows that allows taking manual or automatic backup copies or snapshots of data, even if it has a lock, on a specific volume at a specific point in time over regular intervals. The end result is similar to a versioning file system, allowing any file to be retrieved as it existed at the time any of the snapshots was made. But it is not necessarily triggered when document is opened. E.g. The shadow copy is not created every time a file is changed; backup copies are created automatically once per day, or manually when triggered by the backup utility or installer applications which create a restore point. For program installed, there is always a snapshot capture of the machine state, or they sometime called it restore point created.

There is possibility to track temp files but not necessary the copy of the final file. It is dependent on the application use to open the files. E.g For microsoft office, one of the possible area is stored in the Temp folder and there may be more [3]. The recently open file are also tracked by office [4]. Interesting for outlook attachment, there can be log of it too [5].

Overall, unless using third party product monitoring the file or you are setting up honeypot, it depends mostly on the application as well.
The logging of file is space eater hence probably tracking and logging the event may suffice. Just some thoughts



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