It is sometimes a good idea to uninstall software that you don’t use.

Why?

It may be using valuable resources on your computer that can affect performance. On the other hand, it may be annoying you because you don’t like it, or it ate your doctoral thesis, or was installed without permission by a 13 year old and now keeps insisting on checking for updates.

What does it mean to uninstall a program?

When you put a new program on your computer it is not just a case of copying the program files to a place where you can find them. The operating system (Windows) needs to put the files in a logical place, take note of where they are, make the program accessible, record information about the program so that it knows what to do with it each time you run it, and so forth. All of this is taken care of by the process of “installing” the program.
This means that if you subsequently wish to remove a program you need to set in motion a process that will “back-track” or “unpick” all of these steps. This includes, but is by no means limited to, deleting the files that were copied onto your computer when you installed the program. Note, by the way, that I refer to “files” in the plural: a single “program” is almost always composed of many individual files. This process of removing the files, settings, and other traces that make up a program is called “uninstalling”.

What you must not do

You must not just look on your computer for any files with the name of the program you want to remove and delete it/them. This would almost certainly leave you in a worse position than you were in before. There could be many situations in which Windows goes looking for a program file you have deleted and won’t know what to do when it can’t find it. At best you will see an error message and at worst your whole system will freeze. And what makes this worse is that you may also have broken the normal method for removing that program properly.
Another thing that it is tempting to do is to delete the icon on the desktop that launches the program. By all means do this if you just wish to reclaim some space on your desktop, but be aware that deleting a shortcut does not in any way delete or uninstall the program to which it is connected. Deleting a shortcut does just that – the program itself is left intact and the shortcut could be re-created at any time.

Correctly Removing (Uninstalling) Programs

The term usually used for removing a computer programs is “uninstalling”. Without hesitation, I would recommend that the first – and probably only – method you use is the Windows uninstall routine. This varies slightly depending on the version of Windows you are using.

Windows XP

Windows XP Control Panel and Run buttons

Windows XP Control Panel and Run buttons

  1. Click on the “Start” button and launch “Add or Remove Programs” by either of the two following methods:
  • Click on the “Run” option.
  • Type appwiz.cpl into the box and press the Enter key.

or

  • Click on the “Control Panel” option.
  • Double-click on “Add or Remove Programs”.
  1. Find the program you wish to remove by searching through the alphabetical list.
  2. Click on the program name.
  3. Click on the “Remove” button or “Change/Remove” button that will appear to the right of the selected program name.
  4. Follow the prompts.

Windows Vista

  1. Click on the “Start” button and launch “Add or Remove Programs” by either of the two following methods:
  • Type appwiz.cpl into the “search” box and press the “Enter” key.

or

  • Click on the “Control Panel” option.
  • Click on “Classic View” (at the top lefthand side of the screen).
  • Double-click on “Programs and Features”.
  1. Find the program you wish to remove by searching through the alphabetical list.
  2. Click on the program name.
  3. Click on the “Uninstall” button that is above the list of program names.
  4. Follow the prompts.

Windows 7

Windows 7 Start Button and Search box

Windows 7 Start Button and Search box

  1. Click on the “Start” button and launch “Add or Remove Programs” by either of the two following methods:
  • Type appwiz.cpl into the “search” box and press the “Enter” key.

or

  • Click on the “Control Panel” option.
  • Click on the triangle next to “View by” (at the top righthand side of the screen) and select either “Small icons” or “Large icons”.
  • Double-click on “Programs and Features”.
  1. Find the program you wish to remove by searching through the alphabetical list.
  2. Click on the program name.
  3. Click on the “Uninstall” button that is above the list of program names.
  4. Follow the prompts.

What if it doesn’t work?

Sometimes a program will not appear on the list, or clicking on the button to remove it will result in an error message indicating that the program can not be uninstalled. In that case, the next thing to try is to locate the “unwise” file in the program folder in which the program resides. This is getting slightly more hazardous as you need to be sure you are in the right folder (so that the right program will be uninstalled) and it is also possible that the uninstallation process will remove one or more files that are shared with other programs.

If there is no “unwise” file associated with the program, then the next step would be to install and run a utility such as Revo Uninstaller. To be honest, though, unless the program that you are trying to remove is definitely causing problems to the rest of the system, it may be better to leave it installed than to try these last two methods – unless you want to take the risk of learning more about computers (the hard way) than you had bargained for.

Dropbox logoDropbox has been around for a year or so. Recently it has been gaining some very positive reviews. I have been using it for a month or two and have found it faultless.

Dropbox performs two tasks simultaneously and very well. It works on PCs, Macs, Linux computers and on mobiles

  • It invisibly and continuously backs up files that are in a special folder on your computer to online storage (ie in “The Cloud”)
  • It invisibly synchronises all the files in that special folder to all your computers that have Dropbox installed. It will even do this “across platforms” (eg Windows computers and Macs can share the same file. Whether or not they can both read the files depends on what types of file they are and what software is installed). So, the same contents are always available in all the computers.

What does that mean in practice?

  • You can have free automatic online backups of up to 2gb. This aspect of Dropbox could be invaluable even if you only use one computer.
  • If you use more than one computer and find that you have to copy important files between them (using a USB pen drive, for instance) then all of that messsing about can be a thing of the past. Simply store those files in your special folder and they will automatically be backed up to “the cloud” and downloaded to the same special folder on your other computer(s).
  • The potential for file collaboration with co-workers, students etc is enormous. As a teacher you can, for instance, hand out assignments by placing them in a shared folder. You can then set up individual shared folders with your students to receive their work back.

I’ve been using it for a couple of months now and have found it invaluable for making sure that my notebook computer always has the latest versions of my most important files – spreadsheets, pdf files, databases, project administration files etc. You can’t think of this synchronising to other computers as a method of backing up files because a change or deletion on one computer is propagated to all the places where you have Dropbox installed. However, the online storage keeps up to 30 days worth of previous versions of files so you should be able to restore changed or deleted versions from the online backup (available via your web browser). I haven’t tested this yet, and would do so first if I ever thought I might need to rely on it.

I tried to break it today by having the same file open on two different machines and then changing each file separately. I wanted to see if it could cope with this and fully expected it to just retain whichever of the two files I saved last. It impressed me, though, by anticipating the problem and saving BOTH files, making it clear which machine had originated which version. I realise that this is a situation that won’t crop up for a lot of people, but the fact that they had not only devised a sensible resolution to such conflicts but also made it unambiguously clear to the user what had happened gives me confidence in the solidity of this product.

I have only shown this product to two clients so far and both of them immediately asked me to install it for them.

You can join Dropbox and receive 2gb online storage for free. If 2gb is not enough data storage, you can upgrade to a paid subscription account to get even more storage.

dilsblog - dropbox giftUse this linkhttp://db.tt/hsQlQNB – to create your DropBox account and install the software. If you use this link then both you and I will receive an extra 250mb free storage space (this referral system works up to a maximum amount of free storage space of 8gb).

Do you ever wish the “PrtSc” (print screen) button would do what you want – eg

  • Print the whole contents of the screen to the printer
  • Print a part of the screen to the printer
  • Save part or all of the screen to an image file that you can use and refer to later

Gadwin PrintScreen does all of this. Amongst the options are:

  • Capturing the screen, the active window, or a user-defined rectangle
  • Sending the captured image to any or all of the clipboard, printer, email, or file
  • Choosing the file format of a captured image (gif, jpg, bmp, tif, png)

Set your options to begin with and then just use it. You don’t have to plough through the options each time you use it – just press PrtSc (or a different key combination if that’s what you’ve chosen to do). If you set it to load up when Windows starts, it’s always there – at a single keystroke.

A lot of the images in my blog are captured with Gadwin. It’s also excellent for capturing web pages as the results are exactly the same as you see on screen, whereas printing web pages can often lead to unpredictable results and pages and pages of guff spilling out of the printer.

It’s very handy for keeping a record of on-screen forms that you’ve just completed. I have a special folder that only contains “screen captures”. Gadwin is set to always save to that folder so I always know where I saved an image that I may want later. Periodically, I clear the folder of images I’m not likely to need again.

Dilsblog - GadwinI have been using it for a year or two now and I just take it for granted. There is also a paid-for version (PrintScreen Professional – $21.95) that includes an image editor and annotation facility but I’ve never needed this.

Gadwin PrintScreen is free and is available for download at http://www.gadwin.com/download/. It works with all versions of Windows.

… and, yes, I did capture the image above from Gadwin’s website using the program..

© 2011-2019 David Leonard
Computer Support in London
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