My first view should always be to help the casual computer user, hence the last post.
With that said, since I feel I know you a little by now...
First of all, do use something like ERDNT or whatever to back up your registry every night, this is a very good precaution and an alternative to daily backups (I do a daily file backup though, but only a weekly system backup).
Secondly, use a registry Editor like Torchsoft's Registry Workshop or Resplendence software's Registrar Registry Manager to back up the registry prior to using these tools (a freeware alternative probably exist). Then back up the registry again if needed and do a compare. It is hard for any program to hide the settings applied by applying this approach.
This is how I learn settings used by programs and how to use them in my own scripts to apply and remove the settings.
Like you, I do enjoy having full control of what is going on with my installation at all times and hate having to rely on programs to do it for me.
Bypassing the host-file? even if you checked enable LMHosts lookup for the network card? Yeah, that is sneaky at best, more likely to be bordering to hacking if you ask me. A hard-coded IP-adress probably, if this is the case, or a hardcoded IP for the DNS to be used for the lookup. My vote is on the first possibillity.
Have you tried OutPost application firewall to stop what is not easy to get to from within Windows? I think Agnitum's Outpost is free. It should make you able to control what is allowed and what is not allowed net access from your machine. There is another one too, Binisoft's Firewall Control but to my knowledge, a donation is required to be able to have complete control.
I have my own way to do this as I mentioned before, but at least the last program is offering a shortcut to my way of doing it (I tested it a while back and it works) :iagree:
I have not read the entire thread, but will get back tomorrow if something groundbreaking should come up.