ActiveX components are more than just the plug-ins used to jazz up Internet Explorer; they're a key component of the way Windows works. IE is only one of the many programs that implements ActiveX in some way, and there are many ActiveX components in any given Windows system.
That being said, Microsoft doesn't provide any way to explore the list of ActiveX components other than by plowing through the Registry. Unless you know how to decode the cryptic way the Registry stores information about ActiveX items, it's a slog to find out what's been installed and what's not.
Programmer Nir Sofer seems to have a utility for everything, and he has in fact written one to help administrators make sense of the trove of ActiveX controls in a computer:
The program requires no installation and runs in any directory. When it's run, it will prompt you for the location of the ActiveX object list, which is normally dumped from the Registry (HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID). However, this isn't the only place you can extract ActiveX object information from—you can also load it from a text file as dumped by the program itself, or from a list of manually supplied CLSIDs/ProgIDs. You can also opt to display ActiveX controls only, or only ActiveX objects that have no corresponding file (i.e., corrupt entries).
The results can be sorted by any of their corresponding attributes, including CLSID, ProgID, description and textual names (product, company, file version, etc.) One handy datum listed for all the controls is the last-modified date; sort on this field and you can see the most recently registered controls quickly.
As in other NirSoft applications, the final report can also be dumped to an HTML file, and double-clicking on a row will bring up the results in a modal dialog box with each field in a separate text area. Individual controls can be registered, unregistered, enabled, disabled or deleted, and pressing F2 will bring up their corresponding Registry entry.
Serdar Yegulalp is editor of The Windows Power Users Newsletter. Check it out for the latest advice and musings on the world of Windows network administrators -- and please share your thoughts as well!
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This was first published in July 2006