Sunday, October 14, 2001

A software uninstaller that uninstalls software... properly.

Sunday, October 14, 2001

When considering the uninstallers which come bundled with most applications I like to use the shopping centre escalator analogy. Have you ever noticed that if it's necessary to go upstairs to enter a shop, or get to the next level of a shop, there will be an escalator to transport you upstairs whereas you have to use ordinary stairs on your descent? Personally this doesn't bother me because I was taught from an early age not to be a lazy oaf, but the scheming behind this speaks volumes.

The proprietors want to make it as easy as possible for you to access their shops and spend your money, but couldn't care less how smooth your exit is. The same can be said of the vast majority of software vendors. Upon installing their wares, new files and registry entries will be haphazardly dispersed throughout your system without a thought pertaining to their future removal. This is considered your problem and you are consequently left to fend for yourselves. Packaged installers may appear to perform an exact reversal of their respective installation processes, yet many orphan files and useless registry entries are often left behind to gather dust and depreciate your system performance.

To address this problem you need to be able to take a snapshot of the files contained in your system folders and the composition of your registry prior to installing anything so you can then compare this state of affairs with that of your post-installation system. If a detailed log is kept of each and every change made to your system following the installation of a piece of software, those changes can be rescinded as simply as you would 'undo' a typo in your favourite word processor. Many uninstallers at least claim to do precisely this, yet on closer inspection I found that what some were actually doing was invoking the flimsy integrated uninstallers of the programs you wish to remove from your system - a task you could achieve with the same level of 'efficiency' by making use of the uninstaller built into the control panel of Windows (naturally as this is actually all this tool does!).

The challenge therefore is to track down uninstaller software developers who aren't money-grabbing, lazy, conniving charlatans. This I achieved, having spent a considerable amount of time trawling through a variety of shareware and freeware databases, upon stumbling across the Optimus Software group, who are responsible for developing 'Trash It'. This tool partly won my vote because it strictly follows the KISS (keep it simple stupid) approach to software development in that it does exactly what you want it to do and nothing more, which means it's light on useless fluff and is super efficient. Not surprisingly, some of the worst vapourware creating offenders are the authors of those 100-in-1 gadget suites which claim to do, well everything... while achieving very little.

If you save an individual log file for each future installation, you will no longer have to concern yourself with what is left behind when you remove unwanted, test-driven software. Think of it as instant Ghosting without a reboot.

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