Files under <SYSTEMROOT>\appcompat\pca\:


Introduced in Windows 11, the Program Compatibility Assistant (PCA) is an application compatibility feature that aim to maintain support of existing desktop applications to new versions of the Windows operating system (like the Shimcache and Amcache artefacts). PCA is linked to the pcasvc service.

PCA only hold information about executions of programs with a graphical interface, installed or from a portable executable, or command line programs executed as GUI programs (such as by double-clicking on the CLI executable from Windows Explorer).

Information of interest

The information stored by the PCA is split in 3 text based files:

  • PcaAppLaunchDic.txt:

    • Most valuable file from a forensic standpoint and reliable source of program execution.

    • One entry per line, containing the full path of the executable and the timestamp of execution in UTC (in a pipe separated string).

    • Example: %SystemRoot%\FOLDER\executable.exe\|2023-05-25 01:20:30.123.

  • PcaGeneralDb0.txt and PcaGeneralDb1.txt:

    • Fewer entries than in the PcaAppLaunchDic.txt file, with most entries seemingly related to non 0x0 execution exit code.

    • One entry per line, containing the following information in a pipe delimited string:

      • Execution timestamp.
      • Execution status.
      • Full path of the executable.
      • Description of the executable and its vendor name.
      • File version.
      • ProgramId referenced in the Amcache registry hive (InventoryApplicationFile key).
      • Exit code of the execution.


View on GitHub