Frequently Asked Questions About Software Inventory and Audit

Here you can find answers for a frequently asked questions about software license compliance, software inventory collecting methods and related topics.

Table of Contents

Is it possible to extract serial numbers for installed software from remote PCs?

Most of software vendors use proprietary licensing systems that protect software from unauthorized usage. The information about how this system works is one of the main trade secrets for any software company that is protected carefully. There is no any common license information storage and different software vendors store information in different places - in registry and on the file system. Some software vendors encode license keys using different algorithms to prevent their extracting from licensed systems. Moreover used licensing systems can be different in different versions of the same software.

In general, there is now way to extract license information for any software installed on a PC, but some software inventory tools can extract this information for a several popular applications, such as Microsoft and Adobe tools, for example.

Why my software inventory tool reports an incomplete list of the installed applications?

There are different approaches how you can get a list of installed applications from local and remote PCs. The simplest approach that is used by many software inventory tools is based on WMI. But WMI is able to report only software managed by Windows Installer, i.e. applications installed as MSI packages. In order to get a complete software inventory information that is represented in the Windows Add/Remove Programs, you need to combine inventory data reported by WMI with inventory data stored in the special uninstall key in the registry. You can learn more about this topic in the How to Audit Installed Software from the Command Line article.

Freeware Inventory Utility

EMCO Network Software Scanner allows auditing programs and software updates installed on Windows PCs that are located in a LAN/WAN.

Useful Resources
  • WMI Reference contains explanation of the infrastructure for management data and operations on Windows-based operating systems.
  • Microsoft Script Center is focused on teaching system administrators how to use Windows PowerShell and other scripting solutions to reduce time spent performing mundane tasks.