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Tech 101 | Tech Q&A

Installing Utility Aids Removal Later

November 09, 2000|DAVE WILSON | dave.wilson@latimes.com

Question: Some programs do not have an uninstall utility. How can I completely get rid of these programs to free up more space in my hard drive?

Answer: Well, the bad news is it's too late to do anything about the stuff that's already been loaded on your machine. But everybody should be using any one of several different utilities on the market designed to track the installation of programs so that they can be completely removed. You should install one of the utilities on your hard drive to aid you in future removals.

Program installation in the Windows environment is hideously complex. Bits of code are stashed in out-of-the-way places. Attempting to delete this stuff yourself guarantees that you're going to damage your system. The uninstall utility that comes with Windows is safe, but it's incomplete--in tends to leave lots of bits behind--and doesn't always work.

These commercial uninstall programs sit on your box and monitor every installation, keeping a log of precisely what's happened so they can undo it. The best ones won't let you delete a critical file that will be needed by another program. We're partial to Norton CleanSweep, but the truth is there isn't much difference in the products out there; do yourself a favor and pick one up.

Q: I am using the Microsoft ME operating system and like it very much. But I am not able to shut it down via the normal procedure. This results in having to shut the computer down via the shutdown button on the computer, which in turn really makes the next time I use the computer a long wait while the computer goes through a series of tests.

A: All recent versions of Windows--95 and 98--have had trouble shutting down. This can be a big deal. Under some circumstances, improperly shutting down your computer can corrupt the operating system. While there are software patches available for download from Microsoft to address this issue in earlier versions, there are no patches available for Win ME yet.

Shutdown problems are often caused by programs that don't work well with others. You can get a handle on what's running on your system by hitting the following keys simultaneously: CTRL, ALT and DELETE. Hit these keys only once, since if you hit them twice, you'll reboot.

Pick a program from the list on your screen. Highlight it. Tell the computer to End Task by clicking on the appropriate button. That program will shut down. Give your system a couple of minutes to make sure things haven't stalled. Then hit your magic sequence of keys again to make sure the program has stopped running in the background. At this point, try shutting your computer down. If you guessed right, the system hang should have gone away. If you guessed wrong, you'll have to try something similar with all the rest of the programs to locate your problem child.

With the single exception of Explorer, everything is pretty much up for grabs here. Go to it.

Q: I recently purchased a new PC that was set up by the store. But an error was made in spelling my name in setting up the computer. Now when I access Properties within My Computer, my misspelled name appears. How do I make the correction?

A: The safe, albeit painful, way to do this is by reinstalling the operating system. This process is in fact so painful that we suggest simply ignoring the misspelling, unless it's something nightmarishly humiliating to you.

The unsafe--and very much not recommended--way is to dive into the system registry and make some changes. We beg you: Do not do this thing. Mucking about in your Windows system registry is extremely hazardous. Modifying the system registry is for experts only, people who make backups of their backups so that when they botch an operation, they can recover without killing the patient.

But if you do want to edit your system registry, go to the following key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersion. The string value you need to change is "RegisteredOwner."

Please do not flood the friendly geeks at Q&A labs with questions like "How do I edit the system registry?" or "What the heck is a string value?" We're not gonna load this gun for you, folks.

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Dave Wilson is The Times' personal technology columnist. Submit questions to Tech Q&A at techtimes@latimes.com.

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