While it may not yet feel like spring outside, regular spring-cleaning
s hould always be on the minds of responsible PC owners, regardless of
the season. It's been three years since I wrote a column on uninstallers
and my favorite of the bunch, UnInstaller, has undergone a few changes since
UnInstaller, previously owned by Microhelp, is now part of the Cybermedia
family which includes such utility products as First Aid, Oil Change &
Guard Dog. This program remains a popular favorite with PC users seeking
to maintain optimal disk functioning and is consistently ranked among the
top 10 best selling Windows-based applications.
Gone are the old DOS days when a simple DELTREE command would efficiently delete a program directory along with its subdirectories and associated files. Today's programs still reside in a primary folder location, but related files and file references occupy space throughout your hard disk.
Trying to identify these ancillary files when deleting programs is like
looking for a needle in a haystack, since the file names usually are cryptic.
Uninstallers are programs that are designed to professionally remove
programs in their entirety from your hard drive as well as extraneous temporary files and duplicate entries. Windows 95 is equipped with an "Add/Remove Programs" option in the Control Panel but it's limited to 32-bit programs and won't recognize Windows 3.X 16-bit programs or old DOS programs. Win95 also won't perform regular maintenance to seek and destroy temporary files or registry errors.
The latest UnInstaller Deluxe is a slicker, more intuitive version of
the software I first sampled in 1995. The installation routine is quick
and easy and only requires 10 MB of free hard disk space.
During the interview process, you're prompted to designate folders of
your choice to be "protected," meaning that their contents will
never be deleted, no matter the age of the files. This is a nice safeguard
for your important data files. These selections can be edited at any time
by choosing "Options" from the UnInstaller menu bar.
This disk utility features three primary task areas: QuickClean, Applications and Advanced. QuickClean deletes Internet junk files and other unneeded files, empties the Recycle Bin and cleans the Registry file. The first time I ran QuickClean, UnInstaller found 194 invalid Registry database entries, 94 temporary files and three shortcut files totaling 8,740,674 bytes of disk space that were freed immediately. QuickClean is even more aggressive than the Disk Cleanup utility that's included with the new Windows 98 operating system.
Under the Application options, you can choose to remove a program completely from your system or simply archive it. When an application is archived, it's compressed on your hard disk to free up space, but the application shortcuts remain in place, allowing you to restore the application at any time. This is a great option for seldom-used programs that can be quickly recovered with a simple mouse click.
Also included under Applications is the Move utility that moves programs
to a different folder or completely different drive and then adjusts all
the references and shortcuts in your critical system files. I was most grateful for this Move option when I recently added a second hard disk to my computer and needed to rearrange program folders between the two hard drives. UnInstaller successfully adjusted all the entries in the registry and system files so that the relocated programs ran without a hitch.
The serious user will enjoy the Advanced options which search for duplicate files, duplicate DLL's (Dynamic Link Libraries), non-critical files, and other files which the seasoned user can choose to eliminate, if desired. These files are color coded to assist the user in identifying the files that can be safely removed.
The BackTrack Monitor is another slick, new feature that carefully watches the installation of new software and all associated system changes. If,for some reason, the new program isn't working properly, BackTrack will
completely uninstall the application and allow users to "go back in
time" and restore their PC to its prior configuration.
UnInstaller's closest competitors, CleanSweep Deluxe and Norton Uninstall,are excellent products as well, but UnInstaller is the better choice for novice users. Every feature can be accessed from the main screen and program files are color-coded and protected to prevent accidental deletion.
UnInstaller costs about $40, which seems a small price to pay for the
multitude of housekeeping utilities that are included with this program.
Whether you're a total neat-freak or just a clutter-bug, you'll appreciate the safety and ease with which UnInstaller tidies up your dusty PC.
For more information: www.cybermedia.com