Case study: Using SoftDetective to suppress Corel Guide sign-in prompt

Have you ever encountered a situation when an otherwise useful program does something annoying that you would want to disable, but the program itself does not offer an option for that? Take Corel PaintShop Pro External link , for example. It's a pretty useful piece of photo-manipulation software that you can use to do a lot of good things. However, when you run it, occasionally it shows a screen asking you to register to use something they call Corel Guide:

The Corel Guide sign up screen.

Corel Guide may be a good thing, and I might give it a try some day, but for now I just want to use the program, and after seeing that screen a few times it gets pretty annoying. Can it be disabled somehow?

Looking through the PaintShop settings screens does not show any option that would let us disable the Corel Guide screen. It means we need to find out how to do it ourselves. One thing that I noticed was that the Corel Guide screen did not appear every time I ran the program: it appeared only occasionally, about every 3rd run or so. This was a hint what to look for: apparently, Corel PaintShop keeps a number somewhere that it increments every time it's started. If that number becomes divisible by 3, it's a signal to the program to display the Corel Guide screen. If we could somehow prevent that number from being incremented, we would prevent the screen from being shown. The first question we should answer, though, is where exactly is that number being stored by the program?

The usual place where Windows programs store their settings is the registry, so that's the first place where to look. Unfortunately, when we launch Registry Editor and navigate to the Corel PainShop key, there is a lot of settings there:

Corel PaintShop keeps a lot of settings in the registry.

How do we find out which one is used by the program to keep the launch counter?

This is just the type of a problem that our software SoftDetective was designed to solve. Let's put it to use to find out what Corel PaintShop is modifying in the registry when it starts. To do that, let's run SoftDetective and specify the path to the Corel PaintShop application to monitor:

Using SoftDetective to monitor Corel PaintShop activity.

Press the Start button on this screen, and SoftDetective will launch Corel PaintShop and minimize itself to a small icon on the system tray. After Corel PaintShop has finished initializing and appeared on the screen, right-click on the SoftDetective icon in the taskbar and ask it to stop the monitoring. SoftDetective will produce a report of the activity it detected during the Corel PaintShop launch:

The report produced by SoftDetective.

There are a lot of things in the report, including the files added, deleted, and modified, as well as the registry keys and values. If the launch counter we are looking for is indeed stored in the registry, it's quite possible that it's a registry value that is updated on every launch, so we look for it under the category Registry Values Updated in the report. When we expand that branch, we see a value named LastLaunchCount there, which sounds like what we are looking for. The report shows that the value was incremented from 19 to 20 during the launch of Corel PaintShop. It sure looks like this is the counter we are looking for!

OK, so we found out the location of the counter, but how do we stop Corel PaintShop from incrementing it on every launch? By modifying the registry key permissions, of course! The report shows that the LastLaunchCount value is stored under the following key:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Corel\PaintShop Pro\X5\ResourceCenter\pppc

If we could revoke the permission to modify this key, we would prevent Corel PaintShop from updating this value, and therefore disable the trigger that makes the Corel Guide screen to appear. Let's do it:

First, a word of caution: the following steps involve modifying Windows Registry. If you are not very experienced with Registry Editor, you may want to ask someone more knowledgeable for help, because if you do something wrong, you could make the whole computer unbootable! Now it's good time to do a full backup of your computer, it should let you get back your files if something goes wrong.

PROCEED ON YOUR OWN RISK! We do not offer any guarantee that these instructions will work on your computer and we do not provide any support should any problem occur. YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN!

If you agree to the above, run Registry Editor and navigate to the registry key we've discovered earlier. Change the value of LastLaunchCount to something that is not multiple of 3 (for example, 1), to make sure it does not trigger the Corel Guide display condition:

The registry key and the value we want to protect from updates.

Select the pppc key in the left-hand panel, right-click on it, and choose Permissions from the shortcut menu:

The registry key permissions screen

Select your user account in the list (which is User in the example above; your user name will be something different.) As you can see, your user account has the Full control permission allowed. This is the permission that allows for the modifications of the values under this key, and we need to remove it if we want to prevent the modifications. The problem is, the checkbox is disabled and does not let us clear it. To make this check box enabled, we need to disable the inheritance for this key. Press Advanced, and on the next screen press Disable inheritance:

Disabling inheritance of the permissions for the registry key.

The next screen asks us how exactly we want to disable the inheritance, select the first option, Convert inherited permissions:

Convert inherited permissions

Press OK twice to return to the Permissions screen and now the check boxes should be enabled. Make sure that your user account is still selected, and clear the Full Control permission:

Let's clear the Full Control permission

Press OK to save the changes and close Registry Editor. From now on, when you start Corel PaintShop, it should be able to read the LastLaunchCount value from the registry, but it should not be able to change it, and that in turn should make the Corel Guide sign-in screen to stay out of the way.

How can I disable something annoying that some other program does?

Each program is different, they use different methods, and they store their settings in different places. Use the above as an example of how such a problem can be approached and solved. There no guarantee of a success, but with the tools like SoftDetective hunting such culprits down becomes much easier.

Happy computing!

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