By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 1998, The Syracuse Newspapers
Installing new software on a PC is easy. Getting rid of it can be a nightmare.
Ideally, all new programs you install under Windows 95 would follow the rules set up by Microsoft and keep a record of each big and little file put on your hard drive. Ideally, each new program—or maybe Windows itself—would keep track of changes made to the hundreds of vital files your PC needs to run properly, and this record would be kept up to date week by week.
In the real world, of course, this never happens. Microsoft's guidelines for installing and uninstalling software don't go far enough and don't even apply to older software and to new programs written without Windows 95 in mind. And Windows has no built-in way of tracking changes to every file.
Software companies specializing in fix-it programs have been capitalizing on this weakness in Windows for two and a half years. Some of these programs do a passable job of tracking changes made by new software and reversing many of the changes, but only at what many would consider an unacceptable cost—the loss of vital data. In extensive tests last year, I found that both leading uninstallation programs, Clean Sweep 3.0 and Uninstaller 4, sometimes tried to remove essential files used by non-offending software and often missed files that should have been targeted for the trash.
But the gremlins in Windows have finally met their match. I've been testing a new program from Symantec, the company that makes the highly regarded Norton Utilities, called Norton Uninstall Deluxe. It has five major advantages over all the other uninstall programs:
Norton Uninstall Deluxe costs about $40 and comes on a CD-ROM disk. (A version on floppies can be purchased from Symantec.) I can't think of a better way to spend $40 if you own a PC with Windows 95.
Norton Uninstall is not a fix-everything program. It won't fix conflicts that show up in hardware devices, and it won't make Windows run properly if you've deleted vital files in some sort of software hara-kiri. But it does give you a reasonable chance of keeping your PC running efficiently in today's era of proliferating freeware and shareware.
As many other uninstall programs do, Norton Uninstall Deluxe can be set up to monitor all new installations in the background. You should always keep this feature turned on; it's a guarantee, about as solid as such things get, that you'll be able to rescue everything if a new program causes problems. A limitation built into Uninstall Deluxe forces you to install and test only one program at a time. You can't install Program A followed by Program B, and then decide you want Uninstall Deluxe to undo all the changes made by Program A. (It will try its best, but the results might not be perfect.)
Before it can do anything, Uninstall Deluxe always updates a complete database of "dependencies" of all the files on your PC's drives. This may take a few minutes if you have a lot of files and programs, but is absolutely necessary. Uninstall Deluxe uses this database to know which files it can safely remove. In my tests, I had Norton Uninstall Deluxe take out nearly 100 programs and move 40 or 50 more. It never made a single mistake.
Get this program. Use it. It is worth every penny.