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Windows95/98 Uninstaller Programs

by Art Cassel
2000/08/19


WINDOWS95/98
UNINSTALLER PROGRAMS

 

by Art Cassel

UNINSTALLER PROGRAMS

We all come to a point when we discover things are getting a little crowded on our hard drive. What do we want to get rid of? A game demo? That music database we so diligently started and then abandoned? Our hard drives are loaded with programs that we never use. Go to add/remove programs in control panel and delete them. Simple as that!

But wait. Nothing in Windows is ever that simple.

The publisher of that program has not set up the "remove" program to remove everything. When the uninstall is done, there is usually tons of trash left behind. Along with folders and files, there are usually registry entries left on the system. The solution? An uninstaller program.

I personally use Clean Sweep. I've tried others but I like the interface on Clean Sweep. It's probably no better or no worse than the others out there, but it's just the one I settled on. There are a number of problems with any uninstall program out there.

CLEAN SWEEP
     by Symantec
  

We all tend to forget that every program on our computer is nothing more than code that eventually boils down to nothing more than a series of on/off instructions. There are no brains to it. It can't think. It just obeys the on/off commands. The marvelous parser in the old game of Zork had no concept of what you typed in. It just responded to the code it received with code of its own.

Ideally, an uninstall program would remove all vestiges of the program you're trying to remove. They are usually quite able to do just that and more. The and more is a problem. The uninstall program is set up to remove the installed files and files the program refers to. This is done because most programs create new files that were not part of the original installation. Being nothing more than code, the uninstall program will delete these files and unfortunately, any other files it decides are linked to that program. I once tried to delete a 2 meg game demo and noticed that Clean Sweep was going to remove over 45 Meg. On checking what it planned to delete, I found it had decided that MS Word and most of MS Office were part of the game. Needless to say, the uninstall was canceled. Oh no! Now I've stated that add/remove programs doesn't work, and uninstallers can't be trusted. There's no way out. Ah, but there is.

Use both. I begin by using add/remove programs in the control panel. This is a safe option. The programmer has set it up to remove what he wants to remove of his own program and nothing more. The bulk of the program is now entirely gone or at worst, most of it is gone. It's time to put the uninstaller to work. It will remove what's left of the program. If the program is completely removed, it will only remove it's own log file. Before allowing it to delete anything, check the list of what it plans to remove. Files it wants to delete should be in folders created by, and referring to the original program you are removing. If they are not, and you can't see a relationship between the file and the original program, play it safe. Don't allow it to delete that file. If you end up in that situation, be leery of registry entries it wants to delete. If everything is obviously part of the program you are removing, there may be registry entries that seem to bear no relationship to the program being removed. This is not uncommon. Many programs stash passwords and serial numbers in nondescript registry entries. Demo programs frequently hide time stamps in seemingly unrelated registry entries to prevent reinstallation of a program who's trial period has expired.

Make sure you've checked everything the uninstaller is going to remove before proceeding and make use of backups for those occasions when your second guessing was wrong. Using the above precautions, you'll end up with all kinds of room on that hard drive you're cleaning. 

Art Cassel

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