PC TimeWatch F.A.Q.

F.A.Q. PC TimeWatch

The PC TimeWatch configurator doesn't start under Vista => DEP

If the PC TimeWatch configurator crashes when you launch it under Vista, it's because Data Execution Protection (DEP) is enabled for all programs. Enabling this option can only generate trouble with many applications. You should modify this setting as follows:

1.  Open System by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking Control Panel, clicking System and Maintenance, and then clicking System.

2.  Click Advanced System Settings. Administrator permission required If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

3.  Under Performance, click Settings.

4.  Click the Data Execution Prevention tab, and then click Turn on DEP for essential Windows programs and services only. If you select "Turn on DEP for all programs and services except those I select", even if you add pctimewatch.exe to the exclusion list, the problem will persist.

Protect your system BIOS

There are 2 main reasons for which you absolutely must protect the system BIOS with a password (see the documentation of the system's motherboard for details):

1. If the BIOS is not protected, the user can change the system date and time when booting. If the Enable system time monitoring option is not ON in PCTW or if the PC is not connected to the Internet, the user will be able to cheat.

2. If the BIOS is not protected and if booting on a CD is allowed, the user will be able to boot the system on a CD including some utility allowing to reset passwords or to change the type of an account (and therefore, to change a limited account into an administrator account). There are several such utilities available for free on the Web. So you must exclude the possibility of booting the system on a CD and then lock the BIOS settings by specifying a password. These operations are described in the system's motherboard manual.

Restricting Games (Dofus, World of Warcraft, Counter Strike, Half Life,...)

Sometimes, you'll discover that selecting a game from the user's or the shared start menu (by using the From user's start menu items or From common start menu items options) is not enough. Many games are started in an unusual way: when you double-click the game shortcut in the Start Menu or on the Windows desktop, you are not actually launching the game but the game launcher which in turn launches the actual game. So if you restrict the game launcher, this will not prevent the game from running. The restrictions will apply to the game launcher only and since it is present in memory only during a few seconds, this will not be very useful. In such cases, you should select the program to restrict by using one of these two methods:

  1. Launch the game and while it is running, launch PC TimeWatch. In the Program selection dialog box, chose either the From window list or From running processes method. You should be able to identify the window name or the process name corresponding to the game's main window.

  2. If method #1 doesn't work, then select By exe name. You don't need to launch the game before in that case. This assumes that you know the name of the game executable. Again, this should be the executable name of the game itself, not the launcher. For example, the process name of World of Warcraft is wow.exe. You can identify the game executable name by opening the Windows Task Manager (Ctrl + Shift + Esc - Processes tab), sorting the processes by name (click on the Image Name column header), launching the game and identifying the new process that has just appeared in the Task Manager window.

The DOFUS game is a special case. The developers have named the program executable DOFUS.DLL. If you restrict DOFUS.EXE, you are actually restricting the game launcher. To restrict DOFUS itself use the From window list method. Half Life and Counter Strike also use a launcher: the launcher executable is named steam.exe. Again, if you restrict steam.exe, you'll not restrict the game itself. Use one of the two methods described above.

Then proceed as usual for assigning time slots and/or time allocation to the program.

Special Note for Dofus 2.0:

Dofus 2.0 behaves differently than the previous version. First, it's not DOFUS.DLL that must be restricted but DOFUS.EXE.  Moreover, when DOFUS is launched, PC TimeWatch "sees" 2 images of the process in memory. This is due to a technical problem generated by a Dofus companion program, reg.exe. So the allocated time is counted down twice as quickly as it should. The only workaround for the moment is to allocate twice the time that you actually want to allocate to DOFUS.


This article also applies to some games installed by Windows like Internet Reversi.

PC TimeWatch license key and registry cleaners

Using registry cleaning software has always been a "risky business", whatever the quality of the used program. If you let the software take automatic decisions about what elements of the registry should be eliminated or modified, you are certainly exposed to some annoyances, to say the least.

As far as PC TimeWatch is concerned, the information related to the license key might be corrupted by such registry cleaning operations. If PC TimeWatch refuses to start after a registry cleanup, you'll have to enter your key again in order to re-activate the software. You don't need to request a new key unless you lost it. Your license key is permanent and can be re-used in this case.

A limited user cannot enable/disable a network connection

By default, Windows XP doesn't allow a limited user to enable or disable a network connection. This can generate problems when configuring the Internet entry in PC TimeWatch. Depending on your version of Windows XP, there are two different solutions to this issue (se below). In both cases, the user will then be able to activate/deactivate the Internet connection by richt-clicking on the network icon in the system tray (bottom right area of the desktop).

XP Pro
- StartExecute | gpedit.msc | OK.
- User configuration | Administrative templatesNetwork | Network connections.
- Configure the strategy named Ability to Enable/Disable a LAN connection.
- Restart the system.

XP Home
- Run Regedit under an administrator account .
- Select the
- Open the File menu and chose Load Hive...

- In the file selection dialog box, select the file named
NTUSER.DAT which is located in c:\Documents and Settings\<user>, <user> being the name of the account to which you want to give the permission. Say Paul. We'll use that name in the following steps. Click on Open.
- Give the name that you want to the hive when the system will prompt you for it (the account name - Paul - will do)
- Open the
HKEY_USERS key under which you should find a subkey named Paul.
- Go down the subkey hierarchy until you reach
- If a subkey named
Windows does not exist under Microsoft, create it. Otherwise, open it.
If a subkey named Network Connections does not exist under Windows, create it.
- Now select the possibly new key
HKEY_USERS\Paul\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\Network Connections.
- In the right pane, right-click and
New | DWORD Value.
Name the new value NC_LanConnect.
- Give it the value 1
Select HKEY_USERS\Paul.
File | Unload hive.
- Repeat the steps above for all users to whom you want to give this permission.

Close Regedit et restart the system.

Restrictions apparently not applied to a game or an application (Dofus example)

If you have specified restrictions for a given game and if these restrictions are apparently not applied, you may have chosen the wrong way of selecting the program in PC TimeWatch. Let's look at the Dofus example...

If you have selected the Dofus game by using the From user's start menu items or the From common start menu items in the Select Program dialog box in PCTW, you have actually selected the game launcher, not the game itself. Dofus.exe is not the main program. The main program is actually dofus.dll which is not a DLL but a renamed exe. So restricting dofus.exe doesn't help because it will have enough time to launch dofus.dll before PCTW terminates the dofus.exe program. In such a situation, you have to select the program to restrict by using the From window list option after launching the game. You'll then see a window named Dofus (dofus.dll). Select it and proceed as usual.

This method applies to all games and applications that are not launched directly but executed indirectly via a program launcher. Half Life or Counter Strike are also good examples: they are usually executed from a launcher named Steam. Restricting Steam will not restrict Half Life or Counter Strike in any way. You must use the method explained above.

Instead of the From window list option, you can use the By exe name option. This however, assumes that you know the name of the executable to restrict.

PCTW warning messages not displayed in Vista

Due to a registry change in Windows Vista, PCTW now cannot display its warning messages without interacting with the user.

In order to fix this, please proceed as follows:

  1. Connect to Windows Vista with an administrator account 
  2. Download this file: http://www.pctimewatch.com/Files/fixts.zip
  3. Unpack fixts.reg in any folder and double-click it.

The PCTW warning messages should then be displayed as usual.

You don't need to apply this patch if you install version

Protection against keyloggers and speed typing

PC TimeWatch now implements a protection system against most keyloggers. It's not as powerful as a generic and dedicated anti-keylogger software but it is enough to protect the PCTW Manager password.

The protection system is relatively complex and sensitive to the typing speed. If you are a speed typist and if PCTW tells you that you have entered a wrong password, please try entering the password again but slower.

NB: This feature has been removed from PCTW starting with version It was generating too much problems on certain systems.

If you decide to install a global protection against keyloggers, please look at these links:








A Google search with the keywords "anti-keyloggers" will also bring you to alternate solutions.

Ad-Aware and Spybot Search & Destroy are able to detect most keyloggers that might be installed on your system.


How to use the new "Program grouping" feature

Starting with version 1.5, the Prototype feature behaves differently and allows you to manage restricted programs as groups.

Let's assume that you want to restrict 3 games (Game1, Game2 et Game3) and apply the same settings (time slots and time allocation) to the 3 games. As usual, you'll start by creating a new prototype (model) named Games (Add program to restrict and check Create prototype). Setup the prototype as you wish.

Then, for each restricted game (Game1 to Game3), create a new entry and check Copy time slots from... while selecting the prototype named Games. You can also apply the Copy settings from... command to an already existing entry. This will have the same effect. From now on, Game1, Game2 and Game3 will be linked to the Games prototype. Any change made to the Games prototype will be applied to all linked entries. The time slots for linked entries are displayed in gray and you can no longer modifiy the linked entries directly, including the time allocation settings.

You can break the link between a restricted program and a prototype at any time by using the Detach from prototype command. The entry will then become independent from the prototype and will be displayed by using the standard colors.

You can also decide that some programs linked to a given prototype will share the time allocation defined at the prototype level. You just have to select the Share time allocation command in the contextual menu (right-click) of the relevant entries. You can share the allocation between all entries linked to a given prototype or between some of them. If you have allocated 3 hours per week to the Games prototype and if you have applied the Share time allocation command to Game1, Game2 and Game3, the user will benefit from a credit of 3 hours for the 3 games all together and not for each game separately. Using this command resets the time used for all linked entried.

Use this command again to stop sharing the allocation.

You can copy the settings of a prototype to the Windows and Internet entries but they will not be linked to the prototype.

PC TimeWatch, Windows Vista and Time Zone

Unlike Windows XP, Windows Vista allows the standard (non-admin) users to change the time zone used by the system. This is obviously a big issue for PC TimeWatch.

Depending on the Windows Vista edition that you are using, there are two different ways of solving the problem:

Windows Vista Ultimate, Business and Enterprise

  • Login to Windows Vista with an administrator account.
  • Start | Run| secpol.msc.
  • Go to Local Policies | User Rights Assignment.
  • Open the Properties window for the Change Time Zone privilege.
  • Remove the Users group from the list.
  • Possibly add to the list any non-admin account to which you still want to grant the Change Time Zone privilege..
  • Close the MMC console and reboot.

Windows Vista Home Basic et Home Premium

For an unknown reason, the gpedit.msc and secpol.msc snap-ins are not available in these editions of Windows Vista. In order to disable the Change Time Zone privilege for standard users, we had to write a little utility that partly replaces the missing MMC snap-in.

  • Please download http://www.pctimewatch.com/Files/SetTZPriv.zip and unarchive the SetTZPriv.exe in a folder of your choice.
  • Open a Command Prompt window and change the current directory for the directory where you have stored SetTZPriv.exe..
  • Enter the following command:

    SetTZPriv Users OFF

    This will deny access to the Change Time Zone privilege to all standard (non-admin) users.
  • If you want to grant this privilege to a particular standard (non-admin) user, enter the following command:

    SetTZPriv user_name ON

After following one of these two procedures, the users removed from the list will no longer be able to change the time zone on your system.

The complete syntax of SetTZPriv is as follows:

SetTZPriv <account_name> ON|OFF [machine_name]

The <account_name> argument is mandatory and specifies either an individual account or a group name. The machine_name argument is optional and specifies on which system the modification must be made. By default, this is the local machine.

PC TimeWatch and Safe Mode

Despite the downgraded behavior of Windows in Safe Mode, some restricted users prefer using Windows in Safe Mode rather than being constrained by PC TimeWatch. PC TimeWatch, like many other programs, cannot work when the system is booted in Safe Mode.

We do have a fix for this issue but we don't want to make it public. If you are concerned by this problem, please email to and we'll provide you with a solution.

Internet time counted down as soon as Windows session is opened

The Internet entry in the scheduler works like any other entry (Windows or a specific program). You can define both permitted time slots (as many as you want each day) and a maximum allocation per day or week. However, there's a particular problem with the Internet. Many users think that they are connected to a web site once the home page has been displayed. But the Web doesn't work this way. There's no idea of permanent connection. When your Web browser requests a page, the web server sends that page to your PC and you're immediately disconnected from the server afterwards - even if the physical connection is still active - until you request another page by clicking on a link in the page or by entering an URL manually. This makes impossible to measure how long the Internet has been actually used. The only thing that can be monitored is whether the Internet connection is available and ready to use. Not if it is actually used. If the user downloads two pages but spends 30 minutes reading each page, he will have been "connected" only during a few milliseconds but will have "used" the Internet during one hour. The Internet connection will have also been available during one hour and PC TimeWatch will count down one hour against the allocated time. No choice.


This is why the time is counted down by PC TimeWatch when the Internet connection is available, not when it is actually used. However, PC TimeWatch wouldn't count down the time allocated to the Internet if you disconnect your modem-router by using its software user interface (that is, if you logoff from your ISP). In that case, the default gateway entry is automatically removed, PC TimeWatch is aware of this and considers that no Internet connection is available.


So you can decide that you grant each kid an hour of Internet per day (using the Internet entry in the scheduler) while the permitted time slot is the whole day (no time slot would mean, that no access to the Internet is permitted during the whole day). But the allocated time might be quickly consumed without your kids having even launched Internet Explorer :-) .


Most users of PC TimeWatch proceed differently:


First approach:

You define which time slots in the day are permitted for Internet access and you don't set any limitation to the global allocated time. You are sure that your kids will not be able to use the Internet for a time that is longer than the sum of the specified time slots. Most of the time this is enough because many parents don't want their kids to spend time surfing the Web at any time in the day (there's a time for school duties, for sport, for web surfing,...).


Second approach:

You still define permitted time slots for the Internet entry but you add other entries in the scheduler for the Web browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox,...) and for any other program that you want to restrict (MSN Messenger for example). This time, PC TimeWatch will count down used time against the global allocation for Internet Explorer or MSN Messenger only when these programs are running. So you can therefore say that Internet Explorer can be used only one hour each day at any time while still authorizing another Internet related program to run. If you combine these settings with time slots defined for the Internet entry, you can achieve what you want.


Third approach:

You disable Internet all together for your kid’s account and you create another account for him/her where Internet is allowed for the specified time slots and / or duration. This way, your kid will use this account only for accessing the Internet and no connection time will be wasted. With Windows XP, your kid can easily switch between both accounts. When he/she will be leaving the account for which Internet is allowed, the countdown will stop.


Hope this helps.

Kaspersky IS crashes PC TimeWatch

Thanks to a report from a PC TimeWatch user, we have been made aware that Kaspersky IS (and probably Kaspersky Antivirus too) is causing PC TimeWatch and the PC TimeWatch tray icon program to crash upon startup. This also happens with other software written in the Delphi language, which is the case of the PCTW user interface module.

If you are affected by this problem, please add pctimewatch.exe and pctwti.exe to the Kaspersky "white list" so that these programs are ignored by the Kaspersky antivirus software.

PS: If you are affected by this problem, please check whether you are running the latest version of KIS:



Problem fixed by latest version of KIS.


You lost your PC TimeWatch Manager password

If you have forgotten your PC TimeWatch password, we recommend that you proceed as follows:

PCTW version earlier than 1.3 and non-registered users

1. Open a Windows session with an administrator account.

2. Stop the PCTW service by entering the following command at the command prompt (Command Prompt window: Start | Programs | Accessories menu):

c:\>net stop pctimewatch

3. Go to the C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\MainSoft\PCTimeWatch folder and make a copy of the ptwatch.ptw file (this is your configuration file). NB: under Windows Vista, this folder is named C:\ProgramData\MainSoft\PC TimeWatch.

4. Email us ( - without the spaces) that copy along with your registration code (if you are a registered user) so that we can be sure that you are you.

5. Restart the PCTW service by entering the following command at the command prompt (or merely reboot the system):

c:\>net start pctimewatch

PCTW version 1.3 and above (registered users only)

Go to the C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\MainSoft\PCTimeWatch folder (NB: under Windows Vista, this folder is named C:\Users\All Users\MainSoft\PC TimeWatch), make a copy of the ptwatch.sav file (this is your configuration file), and email us ( - without the spaces) that copy along with your registration code so that we can be sure that you are you .

We'll send you back the lost password.

If you can't see the C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\MainSoft\PCTimeWatch folder in Windows Explorer, please make sure that it is setup to show the hidden files and folders (Tools | Folder options | View | File and folders | Hidden files and folders | Show hidden files and folders). Also, you check the "Show contents of system folders" options.

If you are still using Windows 9x / Millennium or if you have installed Windows XP over an existing version of Windows 9x / Millennium, the \All Users\Application Data folder might be located under C:\Windows\Profiles.

Weekly allocation reset day

PCTW resets the weekly allocations on sunday, 0h00. However, there's a problem with the week number computation algorithm used by PCTW. The result is that since January 1st, 2007, the weekly allocations are reset on monday at 0h00.

PCTW version which is now available online fixes this problem. The allocations will be now reset on sunday at 0h00 whatever the current year. Since the installation of this new version resets all allocations, it is recommended to install it on a sunday or a monday.

PC TimeWatch and games requiring administrator privileges

Especially under Windows XP Home Edition, some of the users monitored by PC TimeWatch may complain that they cannot play some games if they don't have an administrator account. And giving them an administrator account is giving them the right to disable PC TimeWatch, which is not what you want.

This problem has been mentioned by Microsoft in the following article:


More sophisticated solutions are described below (credit given to Jimmy S.).

Before applying any of these solutions, you should be made aware that no game should normally require administrator privileges for normal use. The installation program might require such privileges but only temporarily (which means that the system administrator should install the game, not a limited user).

Playing games on the Internet under an administrator account opens a major security hole on your system. So you should first verify that the game actually requires an administrator account past the installation steps.

Solution #1: RunAsUser, SuperExec, RunAsSpc and Protection Manager utilities

These utilities have been designed just to solve this problem.

RunAsUser can be downloaded from:


NB: PalmerSoft seems to be out of business now. The above link is currently broken.

SuperExec is available here (beware: SuperExec appears to have problems under XP SP3. A new version fixing these problems and offering a lot of new features will be made available shortly).


The page is in french but the program supports the english language and can be downloaded from this link:


Launch the installer which allows you to install an english version of the software (page #3 of the wizard).

RunAsSpc is a german utility (english, german, spanish). It's also free for personal use but a reminder screen is displayed when the target application is launched. It doesn't create the shorcuts automatically like SuperExec but appears to work in all environments.


Protection Manager is a sophisticated commercial product specifically designed to solve this kind of problems and many others:


Solution #2: Jimmy's article
Some games will work with limited accounts after they have been installed and run once either using an administrator account, or by temporarily changing the limited user account(s) to an admin account in Control Panel / User Accounts, just for the purpose of running the game the first time in order to be able to install the necessary files and create the keys in the registry that it needs to function, but may not be able to due to the restrictive nature of limited accounts.


If that mouthful doesn't resolve the issue, use the "Run As.." command instead:

1. Click Start / Control Panel / User Accounts / Create a New Account / Name the Account: "able2play" (without quotes) / Next Pick: "Computer-Administrator" & Click "Create Account";

2. Click on your new able2play account and Create a Password for it;

3. When your limited user wants to play a game that requires Administrator privileges they can Right-Click the shortcut to that game / Click Run As... / "The Following User": able2play and enter the password. Simple as that!

I know what you're thinking: That defeats the purpose of the limited user account.
To secure the "able2play" account so that it can't be used to logon to the computer:

First add a shortcut to the windows logoff routine into the RUN key of the able2play registry. I made a reg patch to simplify this process if you wish to use it:

4. Logon to the "able2play" account,

Save this patch to your drive and then doubleclick it to install it to your registry.


*Instead of using the reg patch, click Start / Run / regedt32 / browse to:
[HKCU\SOFTWARE\ Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run] and
Click Edit / New / String value / ValueName: logoff / Value data: logoff

NB (credit: philippe1): Please note that this step is actually not necessary. The new able2play account will not be added to the Authorized Users list by default unless the PCTW Manager explicitly adds this account to the list. So nobody will be able to logon using this account.

From now on, if anyone logs on with the able2play account, the computer will log them off immediately. They will not gain access to an administrators desktop! :-) .

Next you can hide the account so that it won't show up on the Welcome Screen:
http://www.dougknox.com/xp/scripts_desc/xp_hide_users.htm (thanks Doug!).

You can also use the utility available on this page:


Direct link: http://www.intelliadmin.com/XPUserHide.exe.

Cheers, Windows XP MVP Shell / User
Jimmy S.

Game FAQs: http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=FH;[LN];gms
Visit my Zone.com / Gaming Helpsite: http://nibblesnbits.tk or Call /
Contact MS Support at:
My advice is donated "AS IS" without warranty; nor do I confer any rights.

Solution #3: For advanced users of XP and Windows 2003 only: RunAsAdmin

This software is presented here:


and can be downloaded from SourceForge:


It has been written to secure the XP environment. Once installed, all accounts, including administrator accounts, run by default in a restricted security context with limited permissions. Operations requiring administrator privileges need right elevation, like under Windows Vista.

This software can be used to solve the problem of games requiring administrator privileges. Once you have installed the software, you can setup all accounts to run unrestricted (they are restricted by default). They will therefore have their standard permissions enabled (you must do that for each account since options are stored on a per-user basis: login under the target account, set the unrestricted options in RunAsAdmin and logoff). When a limited user needs to run a program with administrator privileges, she can then do that from the RunAsAdmin tray icon or from the RunAsAdmin context menu in Windows Explorer. No password is needed. Please see the program's documentation.

However, RunAsAdmin is a low level software that is still in beta test. It directly replaces the standard shell and can therefore produce side effects. We have succesfully tested it here and it is apparently stable but you must be cautious and test thoroughly before adopting it. Only advanced Windows users should install RunAsAdmin.

Minor problem with Internet bonus

If you give an Internet bonus to a user, PCTW will work as expected (almost) but will continue to issue warning messages as if the bonus was not given. The connection will not be closed anyway and the bonus will be taken into account. Then the warning messages will start again until the end of the bonus period.

This problem only affects the Internet entry and will be fixed in the next release.

Confusing registration key and password during installation

We have observed that some users installing PC TimeWatch for the first time and already having purchased a registration key were entering this registration key in the password fields of the page of the installation wizard asking the user to provide a password for the PC TimeWatch Configuration Utility.

The installation program will never ever ask you to provide a registration key. What is requested from you (see the window text) is to provide a password that will be used to access the PC TimeWatch Configuration Utility (obviously, access to this program can't be granted to anyone). The password length must be between 6 and 50 characters.

If you enter your registration key in the password fields of this page, the installation program will crash (I must admit that such a situation has not been anticipated). We'll add a protection against this.

If you are already in this situation, please get in touch with us at . We'll help you recover from this problem.

Changes in the PCTW development schedule

The rapid adoption of Windows Vista by the PC manufacturers as well as the availability in the near future of retail versions of PCTW led us to modify our development schedule. Having a Windows Vista compatible version of PCTW appeared as a high priority. So we have focused our efforts on this particular point during the last weeks.

In about a week or less, a new version of PCTW functionnally equivalent to the current version but working under Windows Vista will be made available.

The new features currently under development will appear in a future version that should be made available before the end of the first quarter.

Potential problems with Windows 9x


If you get an error message related to the PC TimeWatch service (ptwsvc.exe) during the program installation or after an upgrade under Windows 9x, please upgrade to the latest version of PC TimeWatch:


and re-install PC TimeWatch over the existing version.

Please note that as time passes, using PCTW to restrict access to a Windows 9x system becomes less relevant given the big limitations of Windows 9x about security.

We will probably abandon the support of this OS in future releases of the product. Technical support will still remain available for users of this OS, though.

Problem with CA Pest Patrol & AOL Safety and Security Center

If you are using one these programs (they actually share the same engine), the PC TimeWatch Configuration Utility may refuse to load or may crash with an error upon startup because these programs unduly consider all programs using the Armadillo /SoftwarePassport protection system as spyware.

Only Computer Associates (and possibly Silicon Realms Toolworks, the editor of Armadillo) can fix this. Meanwhile, you should add pctimewatch.exe to the list of programs excluded from control by Pest Patrol or AOL Safety & Security Center (please see the documentation of these programs). If you are familiar with editing the registry, you can directly make the following changes:

1. Go to registry key named HKLM\Software\ComputerAssociates\ITMRT
2. Go to the HookExclude subKey.
3. Add pctimewatch.exe to the list
4. Go to the InjectExclude subKey.
3. Add pctimewatch.exe to the list
4. Reboot

The PC TimeWatch service doesn't start


If you observe that PC TimeWatch doesn't restrict anything at all and that the PC TimeWatch service doesn't start automatically upon system startup (ptwsvc.exe not present in the task list), this might be due to a timeout problem.

By default, Windows gives 30 seconds to a service to finish its startup operations when the system boots. If it doesn't receive a "startup completed" notification from the service within 30 seconds, it considers that the service cannot start. ptwsvc.exe starts quickly but needs to manipulate its configuration files in order to initialize itself. If for a given reason, disk access is blocked or slowed down during this period, the timeout may occur. This can happen, for example, if another already started service monopolizes the disk for its own needs. Normally, this kind of incident should be reported in the  Event Viewer, System section.
This problem, if it ever happens to your system, can often be solved this way:
1. Make a backup of your PC TimeWatch settings (File | Backup menu).
2. Uninstall PC TimeWatch.
3. Restart the PC.
4. Re-install PC TimeWatch.
5. Reload your settings (File | Load from backup... menu).
Uninstalling / reinstalling might change the load order of the system services and possibly eliminate the timeout problem.
If the problem is still there, you may try to change (at least temporarily) the 30 seconds timeout value of your system:
1. Launch Regedit
2. Right-click on HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control and select New | DWORD Value
3. Name this new value ServicesPipeTimeout
4. Assign it a value of 60000 (decimal value - 60 seconds).
5. Reboot and test again.
If PC TimeWatch now works normally, you should now try to identify the service that is intensively using the disk during the system startup.

PC TimeWatch and Windows Vista

PC TimeWatch version is not compatible with Windows Vista and should not be installed under this OS.

PC TimeWatch version offers a certain level of compatibility and works in slightly downgraded mode under this OS: the warning messages are not displayed.

Now that the final version of Vista is available to the developers, we'll start the necessary changes in order to make PC TimeWatch compatible with this new version of Windows.

Windows Vista is significantly more restrictive than XP regarding security. So the necessary changes are not trivial and must be tested thoroughly.

We plan to release a Windows Vista compatible version of PCTW when the new OS will be released to the retail channels, that is, during the first quarter of 2007.

False positives with F-Secure, Kaspersky, CA Antivirus,...


We have been informed that some antivirus programs - Kaspersky, CA Antivirus, F-Secure, and possibly others - have started to give false positives (Backdoor.Win32SdBot.axg) when scanning programs protected with the same protection system as PC TimeWatch. Of course, PC TimeWatch is not infected.

The problem will usually be fixed by updating your virus definition files.

Users are missing in the Authorized Users list


By default, all local users are presented in the Authorized users list unless they belong to the Guests group. If legitimate accounts do no appear in this list or in the list displayed when clicking on the Add button, tehe are two things that you could check in Control Panel | User accounts:

1. Check whether the account type is not Guest (XP Pro).
2. Check whether the account type is not Unknown.

In both cases, change the user type to Limited (not to Administrator anyway) and restart PC TimeWatch. The users should now appear in the Authorized users list or in the list displayed when clicking on the Add button.

Also, please note that renaming an account through the simplified User Accounts interface of XP Home or XP Pro in the Control Panel can lead to some confusion. If you rename an account this way, the account name is changed only in the login screen. The system (and PC TimeWatch) are still  "seeing" the old name. For example, if you have initially created an account as John and if you have renamed it to Bill, you will see Bill on the login screen but PC TimeWatch will still use the original name (John). So you may have the feeling that PCTW is not seeing this account. But actually, the settings specified for John will apply to Bill.

PC TimeWatch User Interface for daily allocations

PCTW version 1.4 significantly changes the way the user interface for setting daily time allocations works.

By default, the time allowance taken into account by PCTW for a given day is the value specified for All days. Therefore, in order to apply the same allocation for all days of the week, you just have to specify a value for All days and you're done. This value will be automatically applied to all days.

If you modify the value specified for All days afterwards, this change will be automatically propagated to all days.

If you directly modify the time allowance for a given day, this value will be taken into account by PCTW. It will then disregard for this day the value specified for All days.

If you want that the default allowance (specified for All Days) applies again to that day, you just have to select the day in the dropdown list and then click on the Reset button. PCTW will then apply to that day the value specified for All days.

If you have used a previous version of PCTW, the translation to the new format is done automatically. If the time allowance for a given day was 1 day 00:00, this indicated that PCTW had to apply the value specified for All days. In that case, PCTW will automatically consider that this day must be synchronized with the value set for All days. This value will be updated each time you modify the allocation for All days

This behavior is much more natural than in the previous versions and will generate less confusion.

Debug version of the PC TimeWatch service


Although this generally happens very rarely, PC TimeWatch may sometimes dysfunction, due for example to incompatibilities with other software (like antivirus programs). In that case, it will be easier for us to diagnose the problem and we'll spare a lot of time if before getting in touch with us, you install and run the debug version of the PC TimeWatch service. This version generates log files that will be very useful when analyzing the problem.

NB: You need to follow the steps below only if you have detected a problem with the PC TimeWatch service. Also, this debug version is not useful for analyzing problems related to the PC TimeWatch Configuration Utility.

Note: Starting with version 1.5, the debug mode is now built-in. It can be enabled from the Options dialog box in the PC TimeWatch configurator. You need to follow the steps below only upon request from the support.

In order to install the debug version of the PC TimeWatch service, please proceed as follows:

1. Log on with an administrator account.
2. Download this file: http://www.pctimewatch.com/Files/ptwcdebug.zip
3. Open the Services console (Control Panel | Administration Tools  | Services).
4. Locate the pctimewatch entry and right-click it. Select Stop to stop the service.
5. In the PC TimeWatch folder (usually C:\Program Files\MainSoft\PC TimeWatch), rename  ptwsvc.exe and ptwc.dll as ptwsvc.old and ptwc.old respectively.
6. Replace these files by the files contained in the zip archive that you have just downloaded.
7 Restart the service from the Services console (like in steps #3 and #4 but use the Start command instead).

From now on, the PC TimeWatch service will generate two log files: c:\pctw.log and c:\pctwc.log. When the problem that you have possibly detected occurs, please stop the PC TimeWatch service again as described above and send a copy of the two log files to . Describe as accurately as possible the problem that you are encountering. Please also attach a copy of C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\MainSoft\PCTimeWatch\ptwatch.sav to your email. NB: under Windows Vista, this folder is named C:\Users\All Users\MainSoft\PC TimeWatch.

Thanks for your cooperation.

Norman Virus Control bug - Errors when PCTW terminates a session

The Norman Virus Control antivirus software has a minor bug that causes error messages to be issued by NVC when PC TimeWatch terminates a Windows session.

PLJ Soft and Norman have exchanged information about this problem and Norman have now fixed it. The patch is available from Norman's support and will be included in the next release of NVC (5.82).

Reading the Usage/Statistics window

When you open the Statistics or Usage window from PCTW or PCTW-Usage, you may have noticed that for a given entry, the time consumption might be displayed either in red or in blue.

If the values are displayed in red, this means that the user has not started consuming time for this entry during the current period (day or week). Therefore, the data that are displayed are related to the last (not necessarily the previous) period during which the user has consumed time against the specified allocation for this entry.

As soon as the consumption begins (that is, within about 1 minute), the values are reset and displayed in blue. They are then related to the time consumption during the current period.

PC TimeWatch icon in the notification area

PCTW version 1.4 installs an icon in the notification area of the taskbar. This icon is optional and can be disabled from the Options dialog box.

When the mouse cursor is hovering this area, the displayed value represents the remaining time before the current Windows session closes.  The session can be terminated because the time allowance has been exhausted or because the user has reached the end of a time slot. When both possibilities exist, the icon displays the shortest time.

If the current user is the PC TimeWatch Manager, the icon indicates that this user is not restricted. Synchronization with the PCTW service may need up to 20 seconds. Meanwhile, the icon indicates that synchronization is underway.

Right-clicking the icon opens a popup menu allowing to exit the program or to launch the PC TimeWatch-Usage utility.

How to customize the warning messages


You can now (starting with version customize the warning messages displayed by PC TimeWatch. If you want to do so, please follow the instructions below. If you feel unsafe, please do not proceed.

1. Logon under an administrator account.

2. Look for the file named messages.txt in the PCTW folder (usually c:\Program Files\MainSoft\PC TimeWatch).

3. Make a copy of it in the same folder and name it messages.ini

4. Open messages.ini in Notepad.

5. Look for the message section corresponding to your language

6. Modify the text as you wish but follow the rules below :

 - Add no new line (all text on a single line)
 - The %user% placeholder will be replaced with the current user's name. Use it where you wish.
 - The <h:mm: s> placeholder is the countdown field. Leave it unchanged.
 - Do not remove the \n placeholders when present.
 - Change only the text, nothing else in the file.

7. Save messages.ini

8. From now on, your custom messages will be taken into account.

9. If you have any problem or if you wish to return to the original messages, just remove or rename messages.ini.

PCTW doesn't logoff: the "Terminal Services" service is down


There's a potential problem with the "Terminal Services" service. Under XP Pro and XP Home, PC TimeWatch cannot function properly if this service has been stopped. This service is normally enabled and started by default but it might have been stopped or disabled for some reason on your system. This is an anomaly. In that case, PCTW will not be able to close a Windows session. The warning messages will be issued but the session will not be closed.

NB: If PCTW is working normally on your system, the following check is not necessary.

In order to check whether the Terminal Services service is properly setup on your system, please proceed as follows:

  1. Logon under an administrator account.
  2. Navigate to the Services console (Control Panel | Administration Tools | Services).
  3. Go to the line titled Terminal Services.
  4. The service must be started and the start mode must be set to Manual or possibly to Automatic.
  5. If this is not the case, please start the service and/or modify the start mode (right-click | Properties). Manual should be enough (select Automatic only if the service doesn't start automatically after a reboot).

Please note that disabling or stopping the Terminal Services service is only possible from an account having administrator privileges. This is not possible from a limited account. So this is not a security flaw in PCTW since this modification can only be made by an admin or by a program running under an administrator account. However, the next version of PCTW will automatically check whether the Terminal Services service is enabled and running and will try to automatically fix the problem if this is not the case.

Please note that the Terminal Services service is itself dependent on the Remote Procedure Call (RPC ) service. The latter must therefore also be enabled and started which is always the case on all systems unless something is wrong.

Protection against renaming and installation of a new version of a program

PC TimeWatch protects itself against renaming of executables (remember that Limited Users cannot - by default - rename executables installed under the Program Files folder).

If you install a new version of an executable (a new binary), the protection against renaming is disabled for this program. This is a problem if some users have write permission on the folders under Program Files or if the program is installed somewhere else on the disk.

When you install a new version of an application monitored by PC TimeWatch, you should remove the corresponding entry in PC TimeWatch and then re-create it. You can save the current settings for this entry by creating a Prototype based on this entry (please see the documentation about Prototypes) and then re-create that entry based on the prototype settings (Copy From option).

Restricted programs are running anyway

If a restricted program is allowed to run at a given time for a given user and you think it should not (according to your PC TimeWatch settings), please check whether you are in one of the following situations:
  • You have installed PC TimeWatch by using the account of a user you wish to monitor. By default, this account becomes the PC TimeWatch Manager. For security reasons, this account cannot be restricted. Normally, you shouldn't be able to creatre restrictions for this account after you have saved the list of authorized users created during the first run of the PC TimeWatch Management Utility. If needed, you should also change the PC TimeWatch Manager name during the first session by using the Options dialog box. Please read again the "Must read" and "First things first" information in the help file or in this forum.

  • The PC TimeWatch service is not running. Under NT, 2000 and XP, please use the Services icon in the Control Panel and make sure that the PC TimeWatch service is started and set to Automatic mode. Under Windows 98 and Millennium, please re-install.

  • Your restrictions were applied to the wrong user. Before adding restrictions to programs, you should make sure that you have selected the target user in the Settings for drop-down list of the main window. The displayed settings apply to the user currently selected in this list.
  • The restrictions were applied to the wrong program. For example, many games are launched by executing a "program launcher" which is not the actual program. This launcher is itself loading the main program. In that case, you should use another selection mode when creating the PCTW entry for this program (select from a window list or from the list of running processes instead of selecting from a menu).
  • You have given a bonus to this user for this program and the bonus has not been fully consumed.

  • You are running Windows XP Home Edition and have switched to another user session while the PC TimeWatch configuration program is still running in another session. While the configuration program is running, the PC TimeWatch service is suspended. No restriction is applied. You must close the program after you have setup the restrictions for the monitored users.

Controlling a PC TimeWatch Workstation over the network

Some users have asked how they could modify the PC TimeWatch settings of a given workstation from a remote system on the home network.

We are currently considering the development of a network version of PCTW but this project presents some technical difficulties and we don't expect to release such a network version in the very near future.

However, there are very satisfactory alternate solutions:

1. If you are using XP Pro on both systems, just use Remore Desktop Connection. See the XP online Help for instructions.

2. Otherwise, use VNC. It is free and works perfectly on a local network. VNC is available here: http://www.realvnc.com/ . 

Both programs allow you to remotely connect to any enabled workstation on the network and to work as if you were in front of it. If you choose VNC, we recommend that you install it as a service.

Commercial solutions are also available.

Disabling the PC TimeWatch splash screen

If you want to get rid of the splash screen displayed by the PC TimeWatch configuration utility upon startup, please proceed as follow:

1. Open the Control Panel | System applet.
2. Click on Advanced.
3. Click on Environment variables.
4. Click on New in the System variables group.
5. In the Variable name field enter ARMSPLASHOFF.
6. In the Variable value field enter 1.
7. Click on all OK buttons until all dialogs are closed.

Please note that this feature is undocumented and might be replaced by something else in the future.

I cannot load the PC TimeWatch help file from a network share or from the Internet

[Courtesy of EC Software, makers of Help & Manual]

The Microsoft Security Update 896358 (http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/bulletin/ms05-026.mspx) not only fixes a vulnerability in HTML Help, it prevents HTML Help files from execution, if the CHM file is installed on a network drive. CHM files installed locally continue to work.
    This affects all HTML Help files (.CHM files)!

When you open a CHM file from a UNC path or from a network drive even if the network drive is mapped to a drive letter, the HTML Help viewer opens and instead of displaying the topic, it displays an error message "Action cancelled" in the topic pane.

The Microsoft Security Update 896358 restricts execution of HTML Help files to the local machine zone. In fact it disables half of the CHM files in the world (the other half is installed on the C: drive).

How to fix this problem
    (1) Install your CHM files locally: When you distribute your program, install the acompanying CHM files on the local drive (my suggestion: install them in the \Windows\Help folder).

    If you cannot install them locally (and that's the case for applications already distributed), you must re-enable the execution of HTML Help files for the "Local Intranet Zone". This solution is described in the Microsoft knowledgebase article http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=896358 as the "less conservative approach". Here is a summary of that:

    (2) Re-enable the execution of HTML Help files:
    Open the Windows registry and go to the key
    Set the value of MaxAllowedZone to 1.

    Go to the key
    and also set the value of MaxAllowedZone to 1.

    "MaxAllowedZone"=dword:00000001 means that access is granted to the local zone (local harddrive) and the local intranet zone (network).

    You must perform these steps on every client computer in your organization to enable HTML Help for you. Mad
    If you develop software and distribute help files to clients, you must perform these steps on every computer where you help files are not installed locally. Crying or Very sad

Quick fix method:

Explaining the change of registry settings to every end-user is challenging task... I have compiled the changes into an registry excerpt that you can download and double-click to install it.

• Download the file KB896358_FIX.zip (attached to this thread), unzip and save it.
• Open the file KB896358_FIX.reg on every PC that is concerned
• By opening KB896358_FIX.reg, Windows merges the registry setting contained in this file into the registry of the PC.
• This modifies the registry settings as explained above.

Safer fix: allow access to .CHMs in specific folders only
(Added by Tim Green 26 Aug. '05)

Note that the registry fix we provide above re-enables access to all .CHM files across the network on all computers where you apply the fix. This effectively completely disables the Microsoft patch, which is a security patch that was implemented for a good reason -- .CHMs on networks are potentially just as dangerous as .EXEs. If you have a sensitive network where security is a high priority you may want to use a less blanket method. This solution allows access only to specific folders on the network, so only .CHMs stored in those folders will work. All other folders will still have the security patch restrictions in place.

Locate the key:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\HTMLHelp\1.x\ItssRestrictions and create a string value called UrlAllowList. Give it a value of


where hostname is the name of your server and sharename is the folder path where the .CHM files are located. This method can be deployed on all PCs on your intranet by using a Group Policy object.

This solution was pointed out by Pete Lees and posted by Fabio Pagano. The full description and more background information, also on the security issues involved, can be found here:



 Filename:  KB896358_FIX.zip
 Filesize:  327 Bytes

Please remember this

Emails recently sent to the support indicate that two important facts about the PC TimeWatch service are often ignored:
  • The PC TimeWatch service is always suspended when the PC TimeWatch Configuration Utility is running. In that case, no restriction is applied and the countdown against time allocations is suspended. For obvious security reasons, the configuration utility must be closed once you're done with the PC TimeWatch settings. If no user action is recorded by the system during 10 minutes, the configuration utility closes itself after saving the current settings (please see the documentation about this).

  • The user account designated as the PC TimeWatch Manager is never ever restricted in any way.


"Time used" information appears to be wrong

When you display the statistics for a given user either from PC TimeWatch or from PC TimeWatch Usage, it seems that the displayed information in the Time Used column is wrong.

Actually, until the user has started consuming time in the new period (day or week), the information displayed there is related to the previous period. It will be updated as soon as the starts consuming time in the new period (within one minute).

In the next version of PC TimeWatch, this information will be displayed in a different color (red) in that case.

Internet and installation of version 1.2

PC TimeWatch 1.2 introduces the capability of restricting Internet access the same way programs are restricted.

When installing over an existing version, you should make sure that you review and adjust the settings for the Internet entry for each user, so that the time slot set for this entry doesn't remain empty.

Failing to do so may prevent a user from accessing the Internet even if you didn't specify any restriction. This is because the Internet entry for a given user is not created unless the settings for this user are displayed at least once in the PC TimeWatch Configuration Utility.

You can disregard this information when installing for the first time.

Installing a new version

When you install a new version of PC TimeWatch, a reboot is almost systematically required. You can avoid this if you stop the PC TimeWatch service before installing the new version. The service will be automatically restarted after the installation terminates.

Also, you should not install the new version if the PC TimeWatch Configuration utility or the PC TimeWatch Usage program are currently running.

PCTW and RTC Connections

If you are using an RTC connection, please note that PC TimeWatch doesn't hang up the phone line when closing the connection. It works at another system level. So it would be a good idea to check the Disconnect if idle and Disconnect when connection may no longer be needed options in Internet Explorer | Tools | Internet Options | Connections | Settings | Advanced (or equivalent option of your browser or of your modem configurator).

False positive - AdvancedKeylogger Spyware

AOL or some Symantec products may falsely report that PC TimeWatch installs the AdvancedKeylogger spyware.

This is absolutely wrong. PC TimeWatch doesn't install any spyware or adware and has been certified 100% clean by Softpedia. Neither Ad-Aware not SpyBot are making the same mistake.

How to apply different settings according to the current period (work days, weekend, holidays,...)

Currently, PC TimeWatch doesn't allow to define a global allowance for Windows or a program that is different for each day of the week. The same value applies to all days. I am currently looking at the possibility of implementing such a feature. Feature implemented in version 1.2.1.

Meanwhile, you can always create various configuration files (one for each day, or one for the weekend and one for the work days). You just have to setup PC TimeWatch for the weekend and save the configuration (File | Backup...) in say, weekend.ptw. Repeat the operation for the work days (save the configuration in workdays.ptw). Then, on Friday evening, you can reload the settings stored in weekend.ptw (File | Restore...).  It's less practical than having this capability directly accessible from the PCTW user interface but it's much more flexible because you can create as much different configurations as you want, each being adapated to a given period (work days, weekend, holidays,...).
These configuration files should be stored either on a removable medium, or in a protected folder (set the permissions so that a monitored user cannot access these files).

PCTW and PCTW Usage are mutually exclusive

You cannot run the PC TimeWatch Configuration Utility and the PC TimeWatch Usage program at the same time.

This is also true if PC TimeWatch Usage is running in one session under Windows XP Home and you're trying to launch the PC TimeWatch Configuration Utility in another.

Likewise, you cannot have multiple instances of PC TimeWatch Usage running simultaneously in different XP Home sessions.

You must confirm the list of authorized users

When starting the PC TimeWatch Configuration utility for the first time, the first thing you should do is to open the Options dialog box (Tools | Options or Options button in the toolbar). This dialog box displays the list of authorized users (the users allowed to run an interactive Windows session).

By default, and the first time the list is displayed, all the system users are proposed as authorized users. This is a suggestion. You must either confirm this without doing any change by immediately clicking the OK button or possibly remove users that you (temporarily) don't want to authorize on the system. You must exit the Options dialog by clicking OK to confirm your choice.

If you start using PC TimeWatch without opening the Options dialog at least once and modifying the "authorized users" list or any other option, the internal list of authorized users will be empty and PCTW will not behave as expected.

Systematically authorizing all users is not necessarily a good thing. This is why PCTW requires that you confirm this list, as explained in the documentation.

Please remember that non authorized users (accounts) cannot run an interactive Windows session. But a non-authorized account can be (may be) logged on invisibly by the system or by an application. Many accounts on your machine are not interactive users but accounts used by the system to run certain tasks. PCTW will never restrict such accounts in any way.  On the other hand, running an interactive Windows session under such an account can generate problems or even jeopardize your system's safety. PCTW automatically eliminates from the "authorized users" list a number of well-known system accounts. But it also lets you prevent an unknown system account from being used to do an interactive logon. That's why you must confirm the list of authorized users.

From the above, you can understand that when you create a new Windows account after the installation of PCTW, you must go through the procedure described in teh first paragraph of this article by uisng the Add... button, so that the new account be added to the list.


PC TimeWatch timer granularity

PC TimeWatch is designed to be as less intrusive as possible. In order to consume the smallest possible amount of CPU time, the timer that PC TimeWatch uses to regularly check the system state is based on a 1 minute interval.

This means that there might be a delay of up to 1 minute after a user logs on outside of a permitted time slot before PCTW decides to close the session.

This delay doesn't exist when a restricted program is launched.

My key has expired

Your license  key can be installed within a 30-day period after its creation. This doesn't mean that the program will not run beyond this period but you'll not be able to install the key after the 30-day period. If you need to re-install PC TimeWatch on a different system afterwards, please send-us an e-mail with your customer information and the license key that was initially given to you. We'll send you a new key. You can re-install on the same system without having to re-enter your key.

If you have registered with RegSoft, you just have to request a new key from them.

PC TimeWatch and admin accounts

PC TimeWatch is about controlling users. We have had some reports from users using PC TimeWatch to restrict accounts having administrator privileges.

Let's be clear. If users have administrator privileges, they can do what they want on the system, including disabling the PC TimeWatch service. Using PC TimeWatch against such accounts is like putting all your money in a safe, leaving the key on the top of it along with the secret code written on a post-it note attached to the safe door. It's useless.

Many users think they absolutely need an administrator account. This is wrong. Please read our FAQ about this.

False positives with Norton AntiVirus

False positives have been reported when submitting PC TimeWatch to Norton AntiVirus: PC TimeWatch allegedly installs Adware.TSAdbot.

This is wrong. PC TimeWatch doesn't install any virus, spyware or adware. PC TimeWatch is certified 100% clean par Softpedia.

PC TimeWatch service not starting

A few users have reported a problem with the PC TimeWatch service not starting when the system boots. This happens on certain systems only, depending on your configuration and the version of Windows that you are running.

We are currently investigating this problem and a fix is under testing.

If you want to participate in the test, just drop me a message and I'll send you a new copy of ptwsvc.exe along with installation instructions.


Version 1.1.1 released. It normally fixes this issue.

Error 5-11 when entering license key

In some rare cases, you may receive the following error message when entering your license key:

Error while unpacking program, code 5-11. Please report to author.

This error is related to the protection system and will be fixed in a future version. You can just ignore it. Just launch the program again.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

[Windows 9x] IPHLPAPI.DLL cannot start

You might sometimes get this error message when Windows 98 or Windows Millennium starts.

IPHLPAPI.DLL is a Windows DLL used by the PC TimeWatch service. This DLL is known to trigger this error on some systems. This is not a problem with PC TimeWatch but since PC TimeWatch needs this DLL, the problem might appear after you have installed the program.

There are multiple reasons for this error to occur. Generally, you'll be in one of the following cases:

#1: The error systematically occurs when starting Windows.

The DLL might be corrupt or missing or you might have an older version. You can restore it from your CD or as described in this document: http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;823256. You can also download the DLL from this site: http://www.ascentive.com/support/new/dll_iphlpapi.phtml

#2: The error occurs only occasionally

Another program might also be loading the DLL upon startup (the error doesn't occur if you reboot the system). In this case, try to identify which program needing access to the Internet is also launched when Windows starts (see in the Startup menu or in the various Run keys of HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Currentversion or HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Currentversion in the registry).

A utility like PC Mag's Startup Cop (or similar) might help determine which program conflicts with PC TimeWatch when loading IPHLPAPI.DLL.

Windows Millennium users:
It seems that Windows Millennium is less sensitive to this problem, especially if you have applied the Microsoft update for WinMe available here.

Please note that if the PC TimeWatch service fails to load because of this error, you'll have to launch it manually (by double-clicking ptwsvc.exe in the application folder) or to reboot the system. Otherwise, PC TimeWatch will be disabled.

PS: We are currently testing a version of the PC TimeWatch service that will load the IPHLPAPI DLL dynamically, thus making PC TimeWatch less sensitive to that problem.

We have discovered new problems about this DLL. Starting with version of the PC TimeWatch service, a new loading mechanism will be used. Unfortunately, we still do not have any 100% foolproof solution to fix this problem.

Your license key is permanent

You don't need to re-enter your license key each time you install a new version of PC TimeWatch. It is permanent.

Just install the new version over the previous one.

Tampering with the trial version

Some programs have been made available that, according to their authors, are able to reset the trial period of virtually any copy protected application. There are a few things that you should keep in mind if you plan to use such tools:

1. Using a registry wiper to reset the trial period of PC TimeWatch is illegal.

2. This may cause PC TimeWatch to behave erratically. That is, you might lose data.

3. PC TimeWatch will now detect such tampering attempts and will systematically disable the trial version certificate on the user's system. That is, you will no longer be able to run PC TimeWatch at all unless you enter a valid license key.

4. Using registry "wipers" may jeopardize not only the target program but also other (possibly registered) programs on your system.

5. Usually, the release of such "cracking" tools goes hand in hand with the mass deployment of viruses and spyware. Such tools might contaminate your system. Also, the Web sites from where you can download these tools are usually not safe.


Windows 98/Me crashes when PC TimeWatch terminates a session

During our tests on various Windows systems, we have experienced situations where Windows 98/Me crashes when PC TimeWatch terminates a session because the user is not allowed to run Windows at a given time or because his time allocation is exhausted.

This problem is not a problem with PC TimeWatch itself. We have observed that it is usually caused by some adware / spyware that might be runnning on the machine. The Admilli service is a good example.

If such crashes occur on your system, please run an anti-spyware software like Spybot - Search & Destroy on your system before reporting a bug.

Users with admin rights

In some cases you might want to monitor users to whom you have granted administrator rights.

By default, these users will therefore be able to stop the PC TimeWatch service. This is obviously not what you want. You should deny this permission to these users.

The following article explains several methods allowing to control access to the system services. It was written for Windows 2000 but also applies to Windows XP:


The simplest solution is probably solution #3: using the SUBINACL utility. If you don't have it, you can download this utility from this link:


The syntax for PC TimeWatch would be something like:

SUBINACL /SERVICE \\MachineName\pctimewatch /DENY=[DomainName\]UserName[=F]

The square brackets denote optional information and should not be entered anyway.

The correct settings may vary according to your needs.

Please note that you should also deny write access to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\MainSoft\PC TimeWatch to these users.

Please think twice before giving too much rights to monitored users. The more rights they have, the more easier it will be to defeat PC TimeWatch. It's not a good idea to give users full administrator rights anyway.

PC TimeWatch and Time Zones

Changing the Time Zone currently used by the system will obviously affect how PC TimeWatch applies the scheduling rules defined by the PC TimeWatch Manager.

If the Enable system time monitoring option is On, the Time Zone that is used by the system when the PC TimeWatch service starts (that is, when the system starts) will be used as a reference by PC TimeWatch and will be systematically restored whenever it is changed.

If the system administrator needs to change the Time Zone used by the system, he must first stop the PC TimeWatch service, do the change and then restart the PC TimeWatch service.

PC TimeWatch and Fast User Switching (XP)

The Fast User Switching feature of XP is supported by PC TimeWatch.

However, for technical reasons, the final warning message will not be issued by PC TimeWatch just before it closes a Windows session, if the session to be closed is not session #0 (that is, the session allocated to the first user who has logged on after the system boot). We might fix this in the future.

Otherwise, using the Fast User Switching feature doesn't generate any restriction in PC TimeWatch. The time is counted down only when a user's session is active.

Setting the system clock back during the trial period

The protection system used by PC TimeWatch makes some tests to ensure that the system clock hasn't been set back in an attempt to bypass the trial period license restrictions.

If you set the clock to a date earlier than the present, the program will no longer run until the date is set to the present again.

So you should make sure that the system time and date are correct before installing.

PC TimeWatch and Firewalls (Zone Alarm)

If you are using some form of personal firewall like Zone Alarm, you may receive warnings about PC TimeWatch trying to connect to the Internet. Just allow the program to connect.

This will only happen if the Enable system time monitoring option has been checked.

Remember that PC TimeWatch will try to connect only if there's an active Internet connection on your system.

Also, if the Enable system time monitoring option is checked, even if there's no active connection and no possibility for PC TimeWatch to retrieve the correct time from the Internet, the program still continues to make some computations allowing to detect whether the system time has been tampered with.

How restricted programs are terminated

PC TimeWatch always tries to close an application properly before using the brute force method to terminate the process. So, when the time is elapsed, PC TimeWatch sends a notification to the application's as if the user had tried to close the window. If the application has a dirty flag set, it should normally gives the opportunity to the user to save the current document.

PC TimeWatch waits a moment for the application to close itself and only if this doesn't happen within a given time-frame, the brute force approach is used.

Limitations in Program Monitoring

PC TimeWatch manages all 16-bit applications as if they were one application; they are restricted as a unit. To restrict 16-bit applications, launch the program(s) you want to restrict, then select "add from running process" in PC TimeWatch and select NTVDM.EXE.

Mouse cursor hovering the tray icon area

You may have noticed (although this may not be visible under Windows 2000) that when a program is terminated by PC TimeWatch, the mouse cursor quickly sweeps the tray icon area. This is not a bug but intended behavior. This is the only way to remove from the system tray an icon created by a program that was just terminated by PC TimeWatch.

New versions of a restricted program

Unlike other similar utilities, renaming or moving an executable doesn't prevent PC TimeWatch from monitoring the program unless a new version of the executable is installed. If this happens, remove the relevant program entry and re-create it. Installing the same version of a program, even in a different folder, doesn't cause any trouble to PC TimeWatch.

Windows 98 and Windows Millennium users

Login mode

PC TimeWatch distinguishes between users by their login name. Although PC TimeWatch can work in all modes, it is strongly recommended that you enable session login and user profiles on your PC, preferably before installing. Otherwise, you'll not be able to differentiate time allowances between users and PC TimeWatch will run in a less secure environment. Also, in "no login" mode, the risk of getting a locked down system is high. You would have to boot the system in safe mode to recover.

To enable session login and user profiles, use the Passwords applet in the Windows Control Panel. Click on the User Profiles tab and select Users can customize their preferences and desktop settings.... Check the two options in the User profile settings panel (Include desktop icons... and especially Include Start menu...).

If you haven't created separate usernames for each person who will be monitored by PC TimeWatch, you should do so now, before continuing with PC TimeWatch. To create usernames, open the Users applet in Control Panel and select Add User. You should assign passwords to each username to prevent users from logging into each other's accounts. Also, when creating a new user, you should select the default Create copies of the current items and their content option in the Personalized Items Settings dialog box.

Windows may ask you to reboot after creating the usernames, but don't do so yet. There is one other setting you need to check. Open the Network applet in Control Panel, and make sure that the Primary Network Logon is set to Windows Logon and not Client for Microsoft Networks. A security flaw in the Client for Microsoft Networks option makes it possible to log on under another user's identity without entering a password. After making sure that the Primary Network Logon is set to Windows Logon, you can reboot your computer.

System time

Under Windows 98 and Windows Millennium you just can't prevent a user from tampering with the system time. However, if you set the system date and time to a correct value before installing, PC TimeWatch will be able to detect changes and it will try to correct them. If you have a connection to the Internet, even a non permanent one, PC TimeWatch will try to update date and time from the Internet.

"Must Read" and "first things first" information

It is absolutely essential that you read this section before proceeding with the PC TimeWatch Management Utility.

PC TimeWatch is about restricting users. It is able to prevent a monitored user from running a Windows session or a program outside of pre-defined time slots or for a longer period of time than specified by the time allowance associated with that program. When the user has consumed all the time allowance for a given program, the program is terminated. When a user has consumed all the time allowance for Windows, she is logged off. Attempting to open a Windows session or to run a program when not permitted causes either Windows to logoff or the program to terminate.

In order to avoid a "locked down" situation where nobody could use the system, certain users have special rights. The user specified as the PC TimeWatch Manager can always run a Windows session and is never restricted in any way. Users belonging to the Administrators group are also always authorized to run a Windows session in emergency mode. See below.

So before using PC TimeWatch you must make sure that the system users that you want to restrict are clearly identified and that they do not belong to a security group that would prevent PC TimeWatch from monitoring their activity (monitoring doesn't mean "spying on" but merely looking at which programs the user is running, when and for how long).

See in or in how you can setup the system to get PC TimeWatch work optimally for you. Please do that now and come back to this topic afterwards.

Management Utility

The PC TimeWatch Management Utility is just a configuration program. This is your interface with the PC TimeWatch service. You don't have to keep this program running. On the contrary, once you have setup the scheduling rules for the users you want to restrict, just save your settings and close the utility. This will tell the PC TimeWatch service that it should re-start monitoring program execution.

Auto logoff

For security reasons, if the PC TimeWatch Management Utility is idle for 10 minutes, the current changes are saved and the application terminates itself. In that case, the settings that were active before the current PC TimeWatch session will be saved in a file named autobackup_n.ptw, n being 1, 2, 3,... (the higher the number, the more recent the backup file). You'll find this file in the PC TimeWatch data folder. The current changes will be saved as if you had clicked on the Save settings button.

The PC TimeWatch Manager

The PC TimeWatch Management Utility is owned by a Manager who can launch it from any user session, provided she enters the correct password. The Manager defines the time allowances and the permitted time slots as well as the "authorized users" list. A user not belonging to this list cannot run a Windows session. On the other hand, a program not monitored by PC TimeWatch is always permitted to run.

So it is very important that you chose the PC TimeWatch Manager carefully. See .

Emergency mode

As soon as PC TimeWatch an anomaly (for example an attempt at tampering with its data), it switches to a special mode called emergency mode. This causes the current Windows session to be immediately terminated (unless the current user is the PC TimeWatch Manager or an administrator). Then, and until the anomaly has been removed - see -, only the PC TimeWatch Manager and users belonging to the Administrators group will be allowed to run a Windows session. In normal mode, users belonging to the Administrators group can be restricted as long as they are not the PC TimeWatch Manager..

System time

It is essential for PC TimeWatch that the system time be accurate. Under NT and above, the system administrator can prevent any user from tampering with the system time. Under Win98 and Millennium, you cannot do anything about that.

So PC TimeWatch has its own mechanism to update the system time if an anomaly has been detected. This mechanism uses the system's Internet connection (if any) to update the system time. However, if the system is not currently connected, no attempt will be made to connect. That is, PC TimeWatch itself should never cause a dial-up dialog to popup. This protection can be enhanced on NT based systems. See .

Again, it's obvious that PC TimeWatch cannot work correctly if the system date and time have been tampered with or are not accurate. You must at least make sure that the current date and time of your system are correct. Please do that now by using the Date and Time applet in the Windows Control Panel.

Depending on your version of Windows, it will be more or less easy to prevent the user from tampering with the system time. The above mentioned mechanism is able to detect unwanted changes made by the user to the system date and time even if no Internet connexion is available.

A problem can occur if the system time is wrong when the PC TimeWatch service starts, and the user wants to reset the time manually. This can happen on some laptops that do not reset the system clock upon restart from standby mode. When the user tries to reset the time, the PC TimeWatch Clock Monitor sets it back to what it was. If the system time needs to be reset, the PC TimeWatch Manager can turn off the system time monitor in the dialog. As soon as the system time has been reset, the system time monitor should be turned back on.

Default user under Windows 9x

Under Windows 98/Millennium, there's always a user named Default. This user is not a real user. However, the settings specified for this user will apply when Windows 98/Millennium is used in "no login/no profile" mode or when the user bypasses the login window by using the Esc key, which you can't avoid under these systems. In such situations, the same settings (those defined for the Default user) will apply to any user including the PC TimeWatch Manager, because you will not be identified as such. This is why we do not recommend using PC TimeWatch when profiles are disabled.

Windows NT, Windows 2000 and Windows XP users

User accounts

Any user belonging to the Administrators group or having permissions equivalent to those of an Administrator will be able to disable the PC TimeWatch service and / or uninstall the program (provided she has the PC TimeWatch Manager password). As the PC TimeWatch Manager, this is not what you want. So you have to make sure that the accounts that will be monitored by PC TimeWatch are not administrator accounts or do not belong to the Power Users group.

You can be the PC TimeWatch Manager without being an administrator but it would be better if you were. After all, you're supposed to be the leading authority on this system. However, the capability of being the PC TimeWatch Manager without being a system administrator allows you to delegate the permission of modifying the program settings to someone else by simply giving her your password, while you're away from home for example. Then, when you're back, you change the password and you're the big boss again.

Users monitored by PC TimeWatch should not belong to the Administrator group or, on Windows 2000, the Power Users group. On WinXP, monitored users should be in the Limited group; on Windows 2000 they should be in the Users group. Members of the Administrator and Power Users groups have privileges allow them to:

  • Simply stop the PC TimeWatch service.
  • Manually uninstall the program.
  • Access the registry and remove any PC TimeWatch data.

This may vary according to how your system is administered.

Windows systems include a built-in account called Guest that has very limited access privileges. When you first install PC TimeWatch, all users on the system are authorized to use the computer, including the built-in Guest account. When you first run PC TimeWatch, you should open the Options dialog, check the settings, and click OK to confirm they are correct. After you save the .ptw file, the Guest account will no longer be authorized to use the computer while PC TimeWatch is running. It will not even appear in the user list. The PC TimeWatch restrictions will be used in place of a Guest account. Please note that this also applies to any account belonging to the Guests group.

Please note that a user not having administrator rights will not be able to change the PC TimeWatch Manager and her password. In all cases, even if you have given your password to an untrusty person, you'll be able to reset it by following the instructions in the document available from the Help menu.

Time synchronization on NT / 2000 / XP systems

As explained earlier, it's important for PC TimeWatch that the system time be accurate. Although PC TimeWatch can manage this on its own, it would be good to setup the Time Service feature, so that the system time be "naturally" accurate, thus not forcing PC TimeWatch to take control of this.

A very good document about how to configure the time service is available here.

Limited access to the registry

Monitored users (the users you want to restrict) should not have the permission to write to the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE key in the system registry. This is the default on Windows XP and this is the recommended setting for most systems. For other versions of Windows, you should verify this (however, under Windows 98 and Windows Millennium, the registry cannot be secured).

If for any reason, you must give monitored users write access to this key, you should at least protect the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\MainSoft\PC TimeWatch key.

If you are not familiar with the registry, these articles might help:


How To Use the Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 Registry Editor Features
Enhance Security Through Registry Permissions