A few weeks ago in this column, I outlined the importance of thorough disk housekeeping and file management. While I'm frequently a generous provider of unsolicited advice, I'm not always inclined to practice what I preach. With this in mind, I set out last week-end to tidy up my 1GB hard disk that had somehow accumulated 800MB of stuff. My Windows sessions had become sluggish and I knew it was time to sweep out the cobwebs.
I did not embark on this journey unprotected, however. Instead I installed the latest version of UnInstaller, by MicroHelp and spent an entire Sunday weeding almost 100MB of duplicate, orphaned or just-plain old files and programs from my hard disk. Gosh, I'd be really hard-pressed to come up with a week-end activity that could be more exciting than this! We're talking some serious fun.
UnInstaller is a utility program developed by Microhelp that is specifically designed for the Windows operating environment. When you install new programs, Windows not only creates a unique sub- directory location for your application, but it also adds various reference files and drivers to other areas of your hard disk as well. In addition, many critical .ini (initialization) files are updated. Simply deleting the subdirectory in the Windows File Manager usually leaves left over files or "orphans" hanging around your hard disk with no associated application.
These files, usually with cryptic names, may sit undetected forever on your hard disk, taking up valuable disk space. UnInstaller is an expert at locating orphaned files, duplicate files, as well as completely removing programs from your hard disk, including all the ancillary files that hide in other directory locations.
Although this program is very user-friendly, I would characterize the process as an intermediate-level activity since unintentionally deleting the wrong files could cause a complete system shut-down. UnInstaller gives you plenty of warnings and also provides options to create back-ups of the files you are deleting. However, unless you have a basic understanding of your critical system files, you may accidentally delete something you'll quickly regret.
Clearly the strongest feature of this application is its ability to delete entire programs, including all the related files scattered throughout your hard disk. UnInstaller will also prompt you to delete any data files associated with the doomed application as well, so be sure that you no longer need these files before you axe them from your hard disk.
I thought the Duplicate File Finder was terrific tool. It was amazing how many of the same files I had _"Saved As"_ to different directory locations. I also discovered that Microsoft Word, Publisher and Works all had the exact same Clip Art, each in separate directories. I deleted all but one directory and freed lots of space consumed by those hefty graphic images.
The Orphan finder is also a powerful tool, but one needs to be cautious here. This feature is designed to find files that no longer have associated applications, but I discovered UnInstaller was incorrectly identifying some files that were critical to the execution of some current applications. Be sure that you no longer have the program referenced in the "Orphans to Uninstall" dialog box before you forge ahead on your seek and destroy mission.
IniClean and System Clean-Up are more advanced UnInstaller features that allow you to edit your various initialization files and delete device drivers that are no longer used. Each time you delete files, or a range of files, UnInstaller reports the number of bytes that were recovered. Those numbers can really add up!
This program is truly a dream come true for obsessive-compulsive organizers, but please
remember my previous admonitions to you: If in doubt...don't. Always make back-ups and know
where your original software is. UnInstaller gives you plenty of opportunity to change your mind,
but once the deed is done, the files are gone! Be careful.
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