Win95 Uninstall Programs: A dangerous crowd?
by Alan Zisman
(c) 1998. First
published in Toronto Computes,
Imsi WinDelete 97
approx. $30-50, for Win95/NT
CyberMedia MicroHelp Uninstaller ver 4.5
approx $50, for Win95/NT
Symantec Norton Uninstall Deluxe
approx. $60, for Win95/NT
There are a couple of things about Windows computers
that still give
Mac owners reason to gloat.
For example, install a typical Mac program, and a few
files get copied
onto your hard drive, maybe some preference files go into neat and tidy
locations in the System folder. These simple additions are equally
to remove if desired.
Try the same in your Windows 95 machine? hundreds of
small files into
the program folder. Dozens of DLL files (and others) into the general
folder (sometimes overwriting newer versions of the same files, causing
other programs to crash). Multiple undocumented additions to the
but vital Windows Registry. A mess!
Win 95 developers have to include an uninstall
too many of these don?t quite work as advertised, leaving bits and
scattered throughout the system. And older, Windows 3.1 programs often
lack uninstall routines entirely.
A few years of installing and deleting software can
leave a Windows
95 system slowed down with unneeded files and Registry settings,
A marketing opportunity
I?m not the only one to smell a product niche here? at
dozen companies have released programs promising to help uninstall
3.1 and Windows 95 programs. Each tries to add value by including other
general cleanup functions.
We?re looking at three:
WinDelete 97 is the most affordable of the collection.
It promises to
be ?The Only Complete Uninstaller, including Virus Protection, Zip,
and Internet Management?. Some of these functions, however, are the
of 3rd-party add-ins that are not integrated into the main program. The
CD includes registered versions of McAfee?s VirusScan for Win95 and Nt
along with a ZIP utility and a system benchmark and tuning utility, but
these are not documented and have to be installed separately.
Like the other programs reviewed, WinDelete offers to
install a program
that runs in the background and monitors future program installations.
Like the other programs, this option is not selected by default, but is
useful for simplifying future program removals.
WinDelete offers a mix of well-thought out and
poorly-thought out options.
Like the competition, for example, it allows a user to look through a
of Start Menu and Desktop icons, and select one for uninstallation.
the other programs, it offers the vital ability to archive or backup a
program, instead of simply deleting it. Unlike the competition,
it doesn?t offer a simple way to remove a program if its icon isn?t
in the Start Menu or on the Desktop?you can?t select a program that may
be left behind in a folder on your hard disk.
There is, however, a nice Integrity Check function,
not duplicated in
the competitor?s offerings? this checks system files like AUTOEXEC.BAT,
highlighting any references to non-existent files or folders. The
functions nicely let you remove unneeded Netscape plug-ins, along with
the tons of cached files that often clog systems.
It?s also the only program of the three that checks
for orphaned DLL
files?program library files left behind after the main program is gone.
It warns that this could be dangerous? as I found out; after running
?feature?, the spell check in my copy of Microsoft Works no longer ran.
Claiming over 2 million copies sold, Uninstaller
(originally from MicroHelp,
now marked by CyberMedia) is designed to look like a bright-orange box
of laundry detergent, promising to keep your system clean. It includes
a bonus copy of Dr. Solomon?s Anti-Virus utility.
When run for the first time, it takes 5-10 minutes to
system, creating a ?SmartLinks? database, that it then uses to map
connections. The interface seems simpler and more understandable than
Compared to that program, it also offers more choices of types of files
to clean up, such as unregistered fonts and empty folders.
Be warned, however, that this means it will offer to
remove many types
of files that you may in fact want?all those frills that make computing
more personal: wallpaper, screen savers, cursors and icons, clipart,
multimedia files. Similarly, the lists of ?unregistered executables?
lots of useful program files? it is too easy to delete such files
warning. You can select individual files for removal, or skip these
of files entirely, but an uninformed user could delete a lot of files
they really want to keep.
As with the other programs of this type, deleted files
are archived by default?so if you change your mind, most changes can be
The program does a good job of checking the Registry,
and cleaning up
settings pointing to programs that are no longer on your computer.
More attractive and better implemented than WinDelete,
but it?s too
easy for users to remove files they actually need.
Norton Uninstall Deluxe
Symantec is the new contestant in the bunch?their
program is a brand
new version 1.0.
They?ve obviously been paying attention to the
competition, and have
produced an attractive program with a feature set that?s virtually
to Cybermedia?s. Like that program, for example, it scans your system
first time it?s run. The optional Install Guard utility does a nice job
of monitoring program installations?unlike the similar features in the
other utilities, it offers user the option of trying out a program, and
cleaning it out if it doesn?t live up to expectations.
Like other Symantec utilities, such as the well-known
it wants to appeal to the power-user market. As such, it provides more
information about what it?s doing that the competitors? programs while
scanning or removing programs. The added details may not actually mean
anything, but it looks informative!
Unfortunately, its features don?t always live up to
the promise. For
example, like CyberMedia Uninstaller, it offers to remove unregistered
fonts? but on my system, it only found one such font?run immediately
Uninstaller found an additional 98 that had not been recognized by the
As a bonus, the CD includes copies of a wide range of
ranging from the Norton Utilities and AntiVirus to Java and web page
software. These are fully functioning, but self-destruct after 30 days.
What to get?
None of these programs manage to get my personal Must
WinDelete and Cybermedia Uninstaller can be too dangerous, while
Uninstaller doesn?t fulfill all its promises. I may simply stick to a
option: PC Magazine offers a range of free utilities, including one, In
Control, that can be used to monitor program installations. The saved
report can then be used to manually remove added items. Tedious, but