NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article
CyberMedia UnInstaller 4.5 For Windows 95 and Windows NT 4.0
A Review by Doug MacDonald - September 97
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Uninstaller 4.5 is the latest version of the program highly recommended by Don Stephens (AKA Don TWO) in his recent presentation to our group on the background of software removal utilities. After having used this product for several weeks, I concur with Don's recommendations. There are a number of uninstaller programs available, all of which can be obtained for about the same price ($29-39); I am convinced Uninstaller 4.5 is the best and the safest.

Without reiterating all Don's comments concerning why uninstaller software is necessary, there are many good programs out there that do not come with their own uninstall routines. Much of the excellent shareware available on our BBS and on the Internet lacks automatic uninstall procedures. Few programs originally written for Windows 3.x (16 bit architecture) are capable of removing themselves. The Windows programming paradigm involves data link libraries (.DLL), Visual Basic Extensions (.VBX), OLE control extensions (.OCX), links (.LNK), and other files whose use and program connections are not obvious to most users. Without some means of identifying all the files associated with a given program, there is no way to be absolutely sure you have eliminated everything when you elect to remove an application from your system.

The advent of the Internet, the World Wide Web, and fast, effective browser software have also added to the "extra," hard to identify, files that quickly accumulate on a user's system. In order to reload HTML pages rapidly, most browsers develop an extensive cache of previously visited pages that they retain on the user's hard drive "in case" the user wishes to return. This is a valuable timesaver for those sites that you visit frequently, but most of us have no need to retain information about all sites we have visited recently. Windows 95 and Windows NT both employ a Registry that controls many aspects of the operating system. While the Registry permits many of the hardware and software tricks that these modern operating tools can perform, it also can accumulate a lot of "waste" data that is basically impossible to remove without a thorough knowledge of Registry functions.

These and other reasons combine to make Uninstaller 4.5 a good investment. What causes this product to be better than most of its competition is the thoroughness of its "Smart Link" technology. Most uninstaller software analyzes programs and files on the user's hard drive and establishes the links that bind certain of these programs together. Uninstaller 4.5's "Smart Link" system goes a bit further. It works bi-directionally on all programs: it looks not only from executable files to the associated supporting link libraries and controls, it also works backwards from each of the supporting files to determine the executables that they support. Each time the main Uninstaller executable file is activated, it performs this analysis once again to determine the status of the system at the present moment. It compares that status with previous status matrices it has stored so that it is immediately aware of any changes that have occurred since the last time Uninstaller was run. If you install new software with the installation monitor running, of course, Uninstaller 4.5 is aware of exactly what the installation routine did as it added a new program to your system. (By far the safest way to install new software, by the way!) The two-way search system may take a bit longer than some uninstaller systems, but the delay is well worth it.

"Smart Link" also knows when a given library or supporting file is working with more than one executable. This prevents the program from recommending removal of a set of supporting data link libraries that you subsequently discover you need to run a totally different program! I have had this very frustrating experience when using other uninstaller software. Uninstaller 4.5 contains in its own internal references the names of all key files for both Windows 95 and the Windows NT operating systems; it therefore prohibits any effort to uninstall those files. No system is absolutely foolproof, but Uninstaller 4.5 has gone a long way toward ensuring that you will not inadvertently remove files that can cripple your system. You can still do it, of course, but you will have to work at it!

Like most of its competition, Uninstaller 4.5 permits automatic compression and backup of files selected for removal. (This is always a smart option to exercise until you are certain you have not removed something you should not have erased!) Variations on this same technology permit the user to Move, Archive, and Transport files, programs, directories, or entire suites of programs as necessary. For individuals maintaining parallel systems on desk and laptop systems, these features are invaluable. A full array of reporting capabilities exists so that you can maintain a written record of your actions, as desired. The User's Manual is complete, concise, and readable. It can even teach you a little about how Windows 95 and its application programs work!

Of particular note for me was the way in which Uninstaller 4.5 presents information about your system. Depending upon whether you choose to remove entire applications (including all supporting files), or just individual files, the display (which is reminiscent of a Windows File Manager) makes it quite clear what you are about to do. Files are individually color coded green (safe to delete), yellow (may present problems if you delete), and red (do NOT delete). There are special options permitting the user to clean up only extra Internet files and "junk" files. (Care needs to be exercised here though -- Uninstaller will identify as "unnecessary" such things as True Type font files that have not been used recently. This might create problems if there is more than one user on a machine. [My wife produces newsletters for two groups to which we belong; she often uses decorative fonts that I rarely open. She prepares the newsletters on her own machine, but usually prints the final copies using my machine with our laser printer. I remove "extra" fonts at my peril . . .!])

Uninstaller 4.5 will not make you an expert on the Windows 95 or Windows NT Registry system, but it will permit you to safely delete unnecessary registry items. It does this by displaying exactly what it is that you are deleting and where it comes from, thus allowing you to make the decision about deleting any particular item. If you don't understand what you are doing, you had better not delete any Registry entries! One set of uninstalling software that I have offers a registry cleanup option, but does not show you anything about what it is doing. The one time I used it I ended up having to reinstall Windows 95 in order to get back to a working system! The "clean up" was obviously just a bit too zealous!

In summary, there is never a substitute for thinking carefully when you go to delete software from your system. Uninstaller 4.5, however, is a safe, effective partner that permits you to keep your system running efficiently without a lot of fear or hassle. It is well worth the price and is readily available at both computer and discount stores in this area for around $39.00. It is occasionally available at a discount from mail order facilities at prices as low as $29.00. An evaluation copy of the Uninstaller 4.5 CDROM is available in the NWAPCUG Software Library.

(NWA-PCUG Editor: Through 9/30/97 CyberMedia is offering User Group members a special price of $19.95 for the full package and $9.95 for the upgrade with $6.95 S&H.)

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