FOR500: Windows Forensic Analysis

GIAC Certified Forensic Examiner (GCFE)
GIAC Certified Forensic Examiner (GCFE)
  • In Person (6 days)
  • Online
36 CPEs

FOR500 builds comprehensive digital forensics knowledge of Microsoft Windows operating systems providing the means to recover, analyze, and authenticate forensic data, track user activity on the network, and organize findings for use in incident response, internal investigations, intellectual property theft inquiries, and civil or criminal litigation. Use this knowledge to validate security tools, enhance vulnerability assessments, identify insider threats, track hackers, and improve security policies. Detailed and real-world exercises teach the tools and techniques that every investigator should employ step-by-step to solve a forensic case. Newly updated to cover all Windows versions through Windows 11!

What You Will Learn

Master Windows Forensics - "You Can't Protect the Unknown."

All organizations must prepare for cybercrime occurring on computer systems and within corporate networks. Demand has never been greater for analysts who can investigate crimes such as fraud, insider threats, industrial espionage, employee misuse, and computer intrusions. Corporations, governments, and law enforcement agencies increasingly require trained forensics specialists to perform investigations, recover vital intelligence from Windows systems, and ultimately get to the root cause of the crime. To help solve these cases, SANS is training a new cadre of the world's best digital forensic professionals, incident responders, and media exploitation experts capable of piecing together what happened on computer systems second by second.

FOR500: Windows Forensic Analysis focuses on building in-depth digital forensics knowledge of Microsoft Windows operating systems. You can't protect what you don't know about, and understanding forensic capabilities and available artifacts is a core component of information security. You will learn how to recover, analyze, and authenticate forensic data on Windows systems, track individual user activity on your network, and organize findings for use in incident response, internal investigations, intellectual property theft inquiries, and civil or criminal litigation. You'll be able to validate security tools, enhance vulnerability assessments, identify insider threats, track hackers, and improve security policies. Whether you know it or not, Windows is silently recording an unbelievable amount of data about you and your users. FOR500 teaches you how to mine this mountain of data and use it to your advantage.

Proper analysis requires real data for students to examine. This continually updated course trains digital forensic analysts through a series of new hands-on laboratory exercises that incorporate evidence found on the latest technologies, including Microsoft Windows versions 10 and 11, Office and Microsoft 365, Google Workspace (G Suite), cloud storage providers, SharePoint, Exchange, and Outlook. Students will leave the course armed with the latest tools and techniques and prepared to investigate even the most complicated systems they might encounter. Nothing is left out - attendees learn to analyze everything from legacy Windows 7 systems to just-discovered Windows 11 artifacts.

FOR500: Windows Forensic Analysis will teach you to:

  • Conduct in-depth forensic analysis of Windows operating systems and media exploitation on Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 8/8.1, Windows 10, Windows 11 and Windows Server products.
  • Identify artifact and evidence locations to answer crucial questions, including application execution, file access, data theft, external device usage, cloud services, device geolocation, file download, anti-forensics, and detailed system and user activity.
  • Become tool-agnostic by focusing your capabilities on analysis instead of how to use a particular tool.
  • Extract critical findings and build an in-house forensic capability via a variety of free, open-source, and commercial tools provided within the SANS Windows SIFT Workstation.

FOR500 starts with an intellectual property theft and corporate espionage case that took over six months to create. You work in the real world, so your training should include real-world practice data. Our instructor course development team used incidents from their own investigations and experiences to create an incredibly rich and detailed scenario designed to immerse students in an actual investigation. The case demonstrates the latest artifacts and technologies an investigator might encounter while analyzing Windows systems. The detailed workbook teaches the tools and techniques that every investigator should employ step by step to solve a forensic case. The tools provided can be used long after the end of class.

Please note that this is an analysis-focused course; FOR500 does not cover the basics of evidentiary handling, the "chain of custody," or introductory drive acquisition. The course authors update FOR500 aggressively to stay current with the latest artifacts and techniques discovered. This course is perfect for you if you are interested in in-depth and current Microsoft Windows Operating System forensics and analysis for any incident that occurs. If you have not updated your Windows forensic analysis skills in the past three years or more, this course is essential.

Buiness Takeaways

  • Build the skills necessary to conduct in-depth forensic analysis of all Windows operating systems, including on Windows XP through Windows 11, and Windows Server products
  • Develop in-house capabilities to investigate crimes such as fraud, insider threats, industrial espionage, employee misuse, and computer intrusions
  • Identify forensic artifact and evidence locations to answer crucial questions, including application execution, file access, data theft, external device usage, cloud services, device geolocation, file downloads, anti-forensics, and detailed system and user activity
  • Receive a pre-built forensic lab setup via a variety of free, open-source, and commercial tools provided within the SANS Windows SIFT Workstation
  • Build tool-agnostic investigative capabilities by focusing on analysis techniques instead of how to use a particular tool. Deeper understanding of core forensic artifacts and stronger analysis skills make any available tool more effective for attendees.

You Will Be Able To

  • Perform proper Windows forensic analysis by applying peer-reviewed techniques focusing on Windows 7, Windows 8/8.1, Windows 10, Windows 11, and Windows Server products
  • Use state-of-the-art forensic tools and analysis methods to detail nearly every action a suspect accomplished on a Windows system, including who placed an artifact on the system and how, program execution, file/folder opening, geolocation, browser history, profile USB device usage, cloud storage usage, and more
  • Uncover the exact time that a specific user last executed a program through Registry and Windows artifact analysis, and understand how this information can be used to prove intent in cases such as intellectual property theft, hacker-breached systems, and traditional crimes
  • Determine the number of times files have been opened by a suspect through browser forensics, shortcut file analysis (LNK), email analysis, and Windows Registry parsing
  • Audit cloud storage usage, including detailed user activity, identifying deleted files, signs of data exfiltration, and even documenting files available only in the cloud
  • Identify items searched by a specific user on a Windows system to pinpoint the data and information that the suspect was interested in finding, and accomplish detailed damage assessments
  • Use Windows Shell Bag analysis tools to articulate every folder and directory a user or attacker interacted with while accessing local, removable, and network drives
  • Determine each time a unique and specific USB device was attached to the Windows system, the files and folders accessed on it, and what user plugged it in by parsing Windows artifacts such as Registry hives and Event Log files
  • Learn Event Log analysis techniques and use them to determine when and how users logged into a Windows system, whether via a remote session, at the keyboard, or simply by unlocking a screensaver
  • Determine where a crime was committed using Registry data and pinpoint the geolocation of a system by examining connected networks and wireless access points
  • Use browser forensic tools to perform detailed web browser analysis, parse raw SQLite and ESE databases, and leverage session recovery artifacts to identify web activity, even if privacy cleaners and in-private browsing software are used
  • Specifically determine how individuals used a system, who they communicated with, and files that were downloaded, modified, and deleted

Windows Forensics Course Topics:

  • Windows Operating Systems Focus: Windows 7, Windows 8/8.1, Windows 10, Windows 11, Server 2008/2012/2016/2019/2022
  • Windows File Systems (NTFS, FAT, exFAT)
  • Advanced Evidence Acquisition Tools and Techniques
  • Registry Forensics
  • Shell Item Forensics
    • Shortcut Files (LNK) - Evidence of File Opening
    • ShellBags - Evidence of Folder Opening
    • JumpLists - Evidence of File Opening and Program Execution
  • Windows Artifact Analysis
    • Browser and Webmail Analysis
    • Microsoft Office Document Analysis
    • System Resource Usage Database
    • Windows Search Index Forensics
    • Windows 10 Timeline Database
    • Windows Recycle Bin Analysis
    • File and Picture Metadata Tracking and Examination
    • Myriad Application Execution Artifacts, including Several New to Windows 10 and 11
  • Cloud Storage File and Metadata Examinations

    • OneDrive and OneDrive for Business, Dropbox, Google Drive, Google Workspace, and Box
  • Email Forensics (Host, Server, Web), including Microsoft 365 and G Workspace (G Suite)
  • Microsoft Unified Audit Logging
  • Event Log Analysis
  • Chrome, Edge, Internet Explorer, and Firefox Browser Forensics
  • Microsoft 365 SharePoint, OneDrive, Teams, and Email
  • Google Workspace (G Suite) Applications and Logging
  • Deleted Registry Key and File Recovery
  • Recovering Missing Data from Registry and ESE Database .log Files
  • String Searching and File Carving
  • Examination of Cases Involving Windows 7 through Windows 11
  • Media Analysis and Exploitation to:
    • Track User Communications Using a Windows Device (Email, Chat, Webmail)
    • Identify If and How a Suspect Downloaded Specific Files to or from a Device
    • Determine the Exact Time and Number of Times a Suspect Executed a Program
    • Show When Any File Was First and Last Opened by a Suspect
    • Prove How Long an Application was Running and How Much Network Data was Sent and Received
    • Determine If a Suspect Had Knowledge of a Specific File
    • Show the Exact Physical Location of the System
    • Track and Analyze Removable Media and USB Mass Storage Class Devices
    • Show How the Suspect Logged on to the Machine via the Console, RDP, or Network
    • Recover and Examine Browser Artifacts, including Those from Private Browsing Mode
    • Discover the Use of Anti-Forensics, including File Wiping, Time Manipulation, and Application Removal
  • The Course Is Fully Updated to Include the Latest Windows XP, 7, 8, 8.1, 10, 11 and Server 2008/2012/2016/2019/2022 Artifacts, Tools, and Techniques

Hands-on Labs

SANS labs provide hands-on experience that reinforces course concepts and learning objectives. This course includes lab instructions with a step-by-step electronic workbook that's directly tied to the material to develop skills in an hands-on environment.

  • lab 1.1 - Mounting Disk Images
  • lab 1.2 - Triage Imaging with KAPE
  • lab 1.3 - Mounting Triage VHDX Evidence
  • lab 1.4 - Memory Carving with AXIOM
  • lab 2.1 - User Account Profiling
  • lab 2.2 - System Profiling
  • lab 2.3 - NTUSER.DAT Analysis
  • lab 2.4 - Application Execution Analysis
  • lab 2.5 - Cloud Storage Forensics - Onedrive
  • lab 2.6 - Cloud Storage Forensics - Google
  • lab 3.2 - LNK Shell Item Analysis
  • lab 3.3 - Jumplist and Shellbags Shell Item Analysis
  • lab 3.4 - USB Analysis
  • lab 4.1 - Email Forensics
  • lab 4.2 - Windows Timeline and Recycle Bin Analysis
  • lab 4.3 - SRUM Analysis
  • lab 4.4 - Event Log Analysis
  • lab 5.1 - Automating Artifact Processing with KAPE
  • lab 5.2 - Chrome Browser Forensics
  • lab 5.3 - Edge and Internet Explorer Analysis
  • lab 5.4 - Firefox Forensics
  • lab 6.1 - FOR500 Forensic Challenge

NICE Roles

FOR500 maps to these NICE Roles

  • IN-FOR-001: Law Enforcement /Counter Intelligence Forensics Analyst
  • IN-FOR0002: Cyber Defense Forensics Analyst
  • IN-INV-001: Cyber Crime Investigator

What You Will Receive

  • Windows 10 Enterprise version of the SIFT Workstation Virtual Machine with over 200 commercial, open-source, and freeware Digital Forensics and Incident Response (DFIR) tools prebuilt into the environment
  • Trial licenses for the following commercial tool suites:
  • ISO images filled with real-world cases and artifacts to examine during and after class
  • FOR500 exercise workbook with 550 pages of detailed step-by-step instructions
  • MP3 audio files of the complete course lecture

Syllabus (36 CPEs)

Download PDF
  • Overview

    The Windows Forensic Analysis course starts with an examination of digital forensics in today's interconnected environments and discusses challenges associated with mobile devices, tablets, cloud storage, and modern Windows operating systems. Hard drive and digital media sizes are increasingly difficult and time-consuming to handle appropriately in digital cases. Being able to acquire data in an efficient and forensically sound manner is crucial to every investigator today. In this course section, we review the core techniques while introducing new triage-based acquisition and extraction capabilities that will increase the speed and efficiency of the acquisition process. We demonstrate how to acquire memory, the NTFS MFT, Windows logs, Registry, and critical files in minutes instead of the hours or days currently spent on acquisition.

    We also begin processing our collected evidence using stream-based and file-carving-based extraction capabilities employing both commercial and open-source tools and techniques. Students come away with the knowledge necessary to target the specific data needed to rapidly answer fundamental questions in their cases.

    • Install the Windows SIFT Workstation and get oriented with its capabilities
    • Undertake advanced triage-based acquisition and imaging resulting in rapid acquisition
    • Mount acquired disk images and evidence
    • Carve important files from free space
    • Recover critical user data from the pagefile, hibernation file, memory images, and unallocated space
    • Recover chat sessions, web-based email, social networking, and private browsing artifacts
    • Windows Operating System Components

      • Key Differences in Modern Windows Operating Systems
    • Core Forensic Principles
      • Analysis Focus
      • Determining Your Scope
      • Creating and Investigative Plan
    • Live Response and Triage-Based Acquisition Techniques
      • RAM Acquisition and Following the Order of Volatility
      • Triage-Based Forensics and Fast Forensic Acquisition
      • Encryption Detection
      • Registry and Locked File Extraction
      • Leveraging the Volume Shadow Service
      • KAPE Triage Collection
    • Windows Image Mounting and Examination
    • NTFS File System Overview
    • Document and File Metadata
    • File and Stream Carving
      • Principles of Data Carving
      • Recovering File System Metadata
      • File and Stream Carving Tools
      • Custom Carving Signatures
    • Memory, Pagefile, and Unallocated Space Analysis
      • Artifact Recovery and Examination
      • Chat Application Analysis
      • Internet Explorer, Edge, Firefox, Chrome, and InPrivate Browser Recovery
      • Email and Webmail, including Yahoo,, and Gmail
  • Overview

    Our journey continues with the Windows Registry, where the digital forensic investigator will learn how to discover critical user and system information pertinent to almost any investigation. You'll learn how to navigate and analyze the Registry to obtain user profile and system data. During this course section, we will demonstrate investigative methods to prove that a specific user performed keyword searches, executed specific programs, opened and saved files, perused folders, and used removable devices.

    Data is moving rapidly to the cloud, constituting a significant challenge and risk to the modern enterprise. Cloud storage applications are nearly ubiquitous on both consumer and business systems, causing interesting security and forensic challenges. In a world where some of the most important data is only present on third-party systems, how do we effectively accomplish our investigations? In this section we will dissect OneDrive and OneDrive for Business, Google Drive, Google Workspace (G Suite), Dropbox, and Box applications, deriving artifacts present in application logs and left behind on the endpoint. We'll demonstrate how to discover detailed user activity, the history of deleted files, content in the cloud, and content cached locally. Solutions to the very real challenges of forensic acquisition and proper logging are all discussed. Understanding what can be gained through analysis of these popular applications will also make investigations of less common cloud storage solutions easier.

    Throughout this course section, students will use their skills in a real hands-on case, exploring and analyzing a rich set of evidence.

    • Profile a computer system using evidence found in the Windows Registry
    • Conduct a detailed profile of user activity using Registry evidence
    • Examine which applications a user executed by examining Registry-based UserAssist, Prefetch, Capability/AccessManager, FeatureUsage, Background Activity Monitor data, and others
    • Determine which files and folders a user opened and interacted with via multiple Registry keys tracking user interactions
    • Examine recently opened Microsoft 365 and SharePoint files and determine first and last open times
    • Identify critical folders accessed by a user via the Common Dialog and Open/Save keys in the Registry
    • Perform cloud storage forensics, recovering information on local files, cloud-only files, and deleted items available in logs, application metadata databases, and host-based artifacts.
    • Registry Forensics In-Depth
    • Registry Core
      • Hives, Keys, and Values
      • Registry Last Write Time
      • MRU Lists
      • Deleted Registry Key Recovery
      • Identify Dirty Registry Hives and Recover Missing Data
      • Rapidly Search and Timeline Multiple Registry Hives
    • Profile Users and Groups
      • Discover Usernames and Relevant Security Identifiers
      • Last Login
      • Last Failed Login
      • Login Count
      • Password Policy
      • Local versus Domain Account Profiling
    • Core System Information
      • Identify the Current Control Set
      • System Name and Version
      • Document the System Time Zone
      • Wireless, Wired, VPN, and Broadband Network Auditing
      • Perform Device Geolocation via Network Profiling
      • Identify System Updates and Last Shutdown Time
      • Registry-Based Malware Persistence Mechanisms
      • Identify Webcam and Microphone Usage by Illicit Applications
    • User Forensic Data
      • Evidence of File Downloads
      • Office and Microsoft 365 File History Analysis
      • Windows 7, Windows 8/8.1, Windows 10/11 Search History
      • Typed Paths and Directories
      • Recent Documents
      • Search for Documents with Malicious Macros Enabled
      • Open Save/Run Dialog Evidence
      • Application Execution History via UserAssist, Prefetch, Windows 10 Timeline, System Resource Usage Monitor (SRUM), FeatureUsage, and BAM/DAM
    • Cloud Storage Forensics
      • Microsoft OneDrive
      • OneDrive Files on Demand
      • Microsoft OneDrive for Business
      • OneDrive Unified Audit Logs
      • Google Drive for Desktop
      • Google Workspace (G Suite) File Stream
      • Google Workspace (G Suite) Logging
      • Google Protobuf Data Format
      • Dropbox
      • Dropbox Decryption
      • Dropbox Logging
      • Box Drive
      • Box Backup and Sync
      • Synchronization and Timestamps
      • Forensic Acquisition Challenges
      • User Activity Enumeration
      • Automating SQLite Database Parsing
  • Overview

    Being able to show the first and last time a file or folder was opened is a critical analysis skill. Shell item analysis, including shortcut (LNK), Jump List, and ShellBag artifacts, allows investigators to quickly pinpoint the times of file and folder usage per user. The knowledge obtained by examining shell items is crucial to perform damage assessments, track user activity in intellectual property theft cases, and track where hackers spent time in the network.

    Removable storage device investigations are an essential part of performing digital forensics. In this course section, students will learn how to perform in-depth USB device examinations on all modern Windows versions. You will learn how to determine when a storage device was first and last plugged in, its vendor/make/model, drive capacity, and even the unique serial number of the device used.

    • Understand the difference between mass storage class (MSC), human interface devices (HID), and media transfer protocol (MTP) devices
    • Track USB devices and BYOD devices connected to the system using the Registry, event logs, and file system artifacts.
    • Determine first and last connected times of USB devices
    • Determine last removal time of USB devices
    • Explore the new removable device auditing features introduced in Windows 8 and Windows 10
    • Use shortcut (LNK) file analysis to determine first/last times a file was opened, and track files and folders present on removable media and across network shares
    • Use Shell Bag Registry Key Analysis to audit accessed folders
    • Use Jump List examination to determine when files were accessed by specific programs.
    • Shell Item Forensics
      • Shortcut Files (LNK) - Evidence of File Opening
      • Windows 7-10 Jump Lists - Evidence of File Opening and Program Execution
      • ShellBag Analysis - Evidence of Folder Access
    • USB and BYOD Forensic Examinations
      • Vendor/Make/Version
      • Unique Serial Number
      • Last Drive Letter
      • MountPoints2 and Drive Mapping Per User (Including Mapped Shares)
      • Volume Name and Serial Number
      • Username that Used the USB Device
      • Time of First USB Device Connection
      • Time of Last USB Device Connection
      • Time of Last USB Device Removal
      • Drive Capacity
      • Auditing BYOD Devices at Scale
      • Identify Malicious HID USB Devices
  • Overview

    Depending on the type of investigation and authorization, a wealth of evidence can be unearthed through the analysis of email files. Recovered email can bring excellent corroborating information to an investigation, and its informality often provides very incriminating evidence. Finding and collecting email is often one of our biggest challenges as it is common for users to have email existing simultaneously on their workstation, on the company email server, on a mobile device, and in multiple cloud or webmail accounts.

    The Windows Search Index can index up to a million items on the file system, including file content, email, and over 600 kinds of metadata per file. It is an under-utlized resource providing profound forensic capabilities. The Windows 10 (and now Windows 11) Timeline database shows great promise in recording detailed user activity, including additional application execution artifacts, mapping file usage to specific programs and users, and additional device identification via synchronized artifacts. Similarly, the System Resource Usage Monitor (SRUM), one of our most exciting digital artifacts, can help determine many important user actions, including network usage per application and historical VPN and wireless network usage. Imagine the ability to audit network usage by cloud storage and identify excessive usage by remote access tools even after execution of counter-forensic programs

    Finally, Windows event log analysis has solved more cases than possibly any other type of analysis. Windows 11 now includes over 340 logs, and understanding the locations and content of the available log files is crucial to the success of any investigator. Many researchers overlook these records because they do not have adequate knowledge or tools to get the job done efficiently. This section arms investigators with the core knowledge and capability to maintain and build upon this crucial skill for many years to come.

    • Employ best-of-breed forensic tools to search for relevant email and file attachments in large data sets
    • Analyze message headers and gauge email authenticity using SPF and DKIM
    • Understand how Extended MAPI Headers can be used in an investigation
    • Effectively collect evidence from Exchange, Microsoft 365, and Google Workspace (G Suite)
    • Learn the latest on Unified Audit Logs in Microsoft 365
    • Search for webmail and mobile email remnants
    • Use forensic software to recover deleted objects from email archives
    • Gain experience with a commercial email forensics and e-discovery suite
    • Extract and review document metadata present in email archives
    • Understand the tools and logs necessary to respond to business email compromise events
    • Analyze the various versions of the Windows Recycle Bin
    • Use the System Resource Usage Monitor (SRUM) to answer questions with data never before available in Windows forensics
    • Track cloud storage usage hour by hour on a target system
    • Parse the Windows Search Index and take advantage of extended metadata collection
    • Merge event logs and perform advanced filtering to easily get through millions of events
    • Profile account usage and determine logon session length
    • Identify evidence of time manipulation on a system
    • Supplement registry analysis with BYOD device auditing
    • Analyze historical records of wireless network associations and geolocate a device
    • Email Forensics
      • Evidence of User Communication
      • How Email Works
      • Email Header Examination
      • Email Authenticity
      • Determining a Sender's Geographic Location
      • Extended MAPI Headers
      • Host-Based Email Forensics
      • Exchange Recoverable Items
      • Exchange and M365 Evidence Acquisition and Mail Export
      • Exchange and M365 Compliance Search and eDiscovery
      • Unified Audit Logs in Microsoft 365
      • Google Workspace (G Suite) Logging
      • Recovering Data from Google Workspace Users
      • Web and Cloud-Based Email
      • Webmail Acquisition
      • Email Searching and Examination
      • Mobile Email Remnants
      • Business Email Compromise Investigations
    • Forensicating Additional Windows OS Artifacts
      • Windows Search Index Forensics
      • Extensible Storage Engine (ESE) Database Recovery and Repair
      • Windows Thumbcache Analysis
      • Windows Recycle Bin Analysis (XP, Windows 7-10)
      • Windows Timeline Activities Database
      • System Resource Usage Monitor (SRUM)
        • Connected Networks, Duration, and Bandwidth Usage
        • Applications Run and Bytes Sent/Received Per Application
        • Application Push Notifications
        • Energy Usage
    • Windows Event Log Analysis
      • Event Logs that Matter to a Digital Forensic Investigator
      • EVTX and EVT Log Files
        • Track Account Usage, including RDP, Brute Force Password Attacks, and Rogue Local Account Usage
        • Prove System Time Manipulation
        • Track BYOD and External Devices
        • Microsoft Office Alert Logging
        • Geo-locate a Device via Event Logs
  • Overview

    With the increasing use of the web and the shift toward web-based applications and cloud computing, browser forensic analysis is a critical skill. During this section, students will comprehensively explore web browser evidence created during the use of Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge, Firefox, and Google Chrome. The hands-on skills taught here, such as SQLite and ESE database parsing, allow investigators to extend these methods to nearly any browser they encounter. Students will learn how to examine every significant artifact stored by the browser, including cookies, visit and download history, Internet cache files, browser extensions, and form data. We will show you how to find these records and identify the common mistakes investigators make when interpreting browser artifacts. You will also learn how to analyze some of the more obscure (and powerful) browser artifacts, such as session restore, HTML5 web storage, zoom levels, predictive site prefetching, and private browsing remnants. Finally, we'll explore browser synchronization, providing investigative artifacts derived from other devices in use by the subject of the investigation.

    Throughout the section, students will use their skills in real hands-on cases, exploring evidence created by Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Internet Explorer, and Tor correlated with other Windows operating system artifacts.

    • Learn to manually parse SQLite databases from Firefox and Chrome
    • Explore the similarities and differences between Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge
    • Track a suspect's activity in browser history and cache files and identify local file access
    • Analyze artifacts found within the Extensible Storage Engine (ESE) database format
    • Examine which files a suspect downloaded
    • Determine URLs that suspects typed, clicked on, bookmarked, or were merely re-directed to while web browsing
    • Parse automatic crash recovery files to reconstruct multiple previous browser sessions
    • Identify anti-forensics activity and re-construct private browsing sessions
    • Investigate browser auto-complete and form data, bringing the investigation closer to a "hands-on keyboard"
    • Learn how each browser synchronizes data with other devices and how to leverage synchronized data to audit activity occurring on previously unknown user devices like mobile phones, tablets, and other workstations.
    • Browser Forensics
      • History
      • Cache
      • Searches
      • Downloads
      • Understanding Browser Timestamps
      • Chrome
        • Chrome File Locations
        • Correlating URLs and Visits Tables for Historical Context
        • History and Page Transition Types
        • Chrome Preferences File
        • Web Data, Shortcuts, and Network Action Predictor Databases
        • Chrome Timestamps
        • Cache Examinations
        • Download History
        • Media History
        • Web Storage, IndexDB, and the HTML5 File System
        • Chrome Session Recovery
        • Chrome Profiles Feature
        • Identifying Cross-Device Chrome Synchronization
      • Edge
        • Chromium Edge vs. Google Chrome
        • History, Cache, Cookies, Download History, and Session Recovery
        • Microsoft Edge Collections
        • Edge Internet Explorer Mode
        • Chrome and Edge Extensions
        • Edge Artifact Synchronization and Tracking Multiple Profiles
        • Edge HTML and the Spartan.edb Database
        • Reading List, WebNotes, Top Sites, and SweptTabs
      • Internet Explorer
        • IE Forensic File Locations
        • WebCache.dat History Files
        • Cache Recovery and Timestamps
        • Microsoft Universal Application Artifacts
        • Gaining Access to Credentials Stored in the Windows Vault
        • Internet Explorer Tab Recovery Analysis
        • Cross-Device Synchronization, Including Tabs, History, Favorites, and Passwords
      • Firefox
        • Firefox Artifact Locations
        • SQLite Files and Firefox Quantum Updates
        • Download History
        • Firefox Cache2 Examinations
        • Detailed Visit Type Data
        • Form History
        • Session Recovery
        • Firefox Extensions
        • Firefox Cross-Device Synchronization
      • Private Browsing and Browser Artifact Recovery
        • IE and EdgeHTML InPrivate Browsing
        • Chrome, Edge, and Firefox Private Browsing
        • Investigating the Tor Browser
        • Identifying Selective Database Deletion
      • SQLite and ESE Database Carving and Examination of Additional Browser Artifacts
        • DOM and Web Storage Objects
        • Rebuilding Cached Web Pages
        • Browser Ancestry
  • Overview

    Nothing will prepare you more as an investigator than a full hands-on challenge that requires you to use the skills and knowledge presented throughout the course. With the option to work individually or in teams, students will be provided new evidence to analyze, and the exercise will step them through the entire case flow, including proper acquisition, analysis, and reporting of investigative findings. Fast forensics techniques will be used in order to rapidly profile computer usage and discover the most critical pieces of evidence to answer investigative questions.

    This complex case involves an investigation into one of the most recent versions of the Windows operating system. The evidence is from real devices and provides the most realistic training opportunity currently available. Solving the case requires students to use all of the skills gained from each of the previous course sections.

    The section concludes with a mock trial involving presentations of the evidence collected. The team with the best in-class presentation and documentation wins the challenge - and solves the case!

    • Full-length Windows 10 forensic challenge
    • Bonus: One additional complete take home exercise to continue honing your skills!
    • Digital Forensics Capstone
      • Analysis
        • Process and Triage a New Full Set of Evidence
        • Find Critical Evidence Following the Evidence Analysis Methods Discussed Throughout the Week
        • Examine Memory, Registry, Chat, Browser, Recovered Files, Synchronized Artifacts, Installed Malware, and More
      • Reporting
        • Build an Investigative Timeline
        • Answer Critical Investigative Questions with Factual Evidence
        • Practice Executive Summary and Report Generation
        • Present Technical Case Findings

GIAC Certified Forensic Examiner

The GIAC Certified Forensic Examiner (GCFE) certification validates a practitioner’s knowledge of computer forensic analysis, with an emphasis on core skills required to collect and analyze data from Windows computer systems. GCFE certification holders have the knowledge, skills, and ability to conduct typical incident investigations including e-Discovery, forensic analysis and reporting, evidence acquisition, browser forensics and tracing user and application activities on Windows systems.

  • Windows Forensics and Data Triage
  • Windows Registry Forensics, USB Devices, Shell Items, Email Forensics and Log Analysis
  • Advanced Web Browser Forensics (Chrome, Edge, Firefox)
More Certification Details


There are no prerequisite courses required to take this course. The artifacts and tool-agnostic techniques you will learn will lead to the successful analysis of any cyber incident and crime involving a Windows Operating System.

Laptop Requirements


A properly configured system is required for each student participating in this course. Before coming to class, carefully read and follow these instructions exactly.

You can use any 64-bit version of Windows, Mac OSX, or Linux as your core operating system provided you can install and run VMware virtualization products. Students are provided with a digital forensic lab built into a VMware Virtual Machine. You must have a minimum of 8 gigabytes (GB) of RAM or higher for the class virtual machine to function, but 16 GB of RAM is highly recommended for the best experience.

It is critical that your CPU and operating system support 64-bit applications so that our 64-bit guest virtual machine can run on your laptop. VMware provides a free tool for Windows and Linux that will detect whether your host supports 64-bit guest virtual machines. For further troubleshooting, this article also provides good instructions for Windows users to determine more about CPU and OS capabilities. For Macs, please use this support page from Apple to determine 64-bit capability.

Please download and install VMware Workstation, VMware Fusion, or VMware Player on your system prior to the start of the class. Your version of VMware cannot be more than one version behind the latest available version of the software. If you do not own a licensed copy of VMware Workstation or Fusion, you can download a free 30-day trial copy from VMware.


  • CPU: 64-bit Intel i5/i7 (4th generation+) x64 bit 2.0+ GHz processor or more recent processor is mandatory for this class (Important a 64-bit system processor is MANDATORY.)
  • 8 GB of RAM or higher is mandatory for this class (Important - 8 GB of RAM or higher of RAM is mandatory and minimum. For the best experience, 16GB of RAM is recommended.)
  • USB 3.0
  • 300+ GB host system hard drive minimum
  • 200 GB minimum of free space on your host hard drive: Free space is absolutely critical to host the virtual machines and evidence files provided with the class
  • Students must have Local Administrator access within their host operating system and access to the BIOS settings


A USB removable storage device is necessary to complete one optional exercise in the course. The storage size of the USB media should be larger than the RAM size of the student laptop.


Host Operating System: Fully patched and updated Windows, Mac OSX (10.10+), or a recent version of the Linux operating system (released 2016 or later) that also can install and run VMware virtualization products (VMware Workstation, VMware Fusion, or VMware Player). Please note: It is necessary to fully update your host operating system prior to the class to ensure that you have the right drivers and patches installed to utilize the latest USB 3.0 devices. Those who use a Linux host must also be able to access ExFAT partitions using the appropriate kernel or FUSE module

CRITICAL NOTE: Apple systems using the M1 processor line cannot perform the necessary virtualization functionality and therefore cannot in any way be used for this course.


  1. Microsoft Office (any version) with Excel or LiberOffice with Calc installed on your host. You can download Office Trial Software online (free for 30 days)
  2. Install VMware Workstation, VMware Fusion, or VMware Player (your version should be no more than one version behind the latest available from VMware)
  3. Download and install 7Zip on your host (Mac users should ensure they have a capable unarchiving tool such as Keka)


  1. Bring the proper system hardware (64bit/8+GB Ram) and operating system configuration
  2. Install VMware (Workstation, Player, or Fusion), MS Office, and 7zip and make sure everything works before class.

If you have additional questions about the laptop specifications, please contact

Author Statement

"After 30 years in law enforcement, three capabilities immediately rise to the top of my list when I think of what makes a great digital forensic analyst: superior technical skill, sound investigative methodology, and the ability to overcome obstacles. This course was designed to impart these critical skills to students. Unlike many other training courses that focus on teaching a single tool, FOR500 provides training on many tools. While there are some exceptional tools available, forensic analysts need a variety of tools in their arsenal to be able to pick and choose the best one for each task. However, forensic analysts are not great because of the tools they use, but because they artfully apply the right investigative methodology to each analysis. A carpenter can be a master with all his tools and still not know how to build a house. FOR500 teaches analysts to apply digital forensic methodologies to a variety of case types and situations, enabling them to apply the right methodology to achieve the best outcome in the real world. Finally, the course presents the problem-solving skills necessary to be a truly successful forensic analyst. Almost immediately after starting your forensic career, you will learn that each forensic analysis presents its own unique challenges. A technique that worked flawlessly for previous examinations may not work for the next one. A good forensic analyst must be able to overcome obstacles through advanced troubleshooting and problem-solving. FOR500 gives students the foundation to solve future problems, overcome obstacles, and become great forensic analysts. No matter if you are new to the forensic community or have been doing forensics for years, FOR500 is a must-have course." - Ovie Carroll

"Former students have contacted me regularly about how they were able to use their digital forensic skills in very real situations that were part of the nightly news cycle. The skills you learn in this class are used directly to stop evil. Graduates of FOR500 are the front-line troops deployed when you need accurate digital forensic, incident response, and media exploitation analysis. From analyzing terrorist laptops and data breaches to investigating insider intellectual property theft and fraud, SANS digital forensic graduates are battling and winning the war on crime and terror. Graduates have directly contributed to solving some of the toughest cases out there because they have learned how to properly conduct analyses and run investigations. It brings me great comfort knowing that this course places the correct methodology and knowledge in the hands of responders who thwart the plans of criminals or foreign attacks. Graduates are doing just that on a daily basis. I am proud that FOR500 helped prepare them to solve cases and fight crime." - Rob Lee

"Digital forensics has never been more in demand than it is today. Zettabytes of data are created yearly, and forensic examiners will increasingly be called in to separate the wheat from the chaff. For better or worse, digital artifacts are recorded for almost every action, and the bar has been raised for investigators working to repel computer intrusions, stop intellectual property theft, and put bad actors in jail. We wrote this course as the forensics training we wish would have been available early in our careers. Keeping up with the cutting edge of forensics is daunting, but with frequent updates I am confident this course provides the most up-to-date training available, whether you are just starting out or are looking to add new skills to your forensic arsenal." - Chad Tilbury

"Ovie has been great as an instructor for this course. His knowledge and passion to share his insight with us has excited me in learning and reviewing the case materials again even after lessons. I stayed back to spend extra time to read and learn so that I could prepare in anticipation of what he is offering us the next morning. He conducts start-of-the-day recaps and end-of-the-day pop quizzes to tie in knowledge that would have otherwise been just 'another artifact' that was taught. He showed us how to think critically, to tell the story, and to always ask questions." - Yao Guang Tan


This is a very high-intensity course with extremely current course material that is not available anywhere else in my experience.
Alexander Applegate
Auburn University
As a member of the IR team, this course will aid in investing compromised hosts.
Mike Piclher
URS Corp.
Best forensics class I have had yet (and pretty much the only one that gives you some sort of framework on HOW to attack an exam).
Juan M.

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