Installing new software onto a Windows PC is fairly easy. But getting rid of those programs is another matter because they make all kinds of changes to the files that run the system. Cleaning those out can be tricky.
The brute-force method is to simply delete the program files and the folder that contains them from the hard drive. That's a bad solution because the program may have stashed files in other places. These orphans can muck up a system.
Some programs come with an uninstall wizard. To find the uninstall wizard for a particular program, click Start and then Programs. The menu that comes up might contain the uninstall program, and if it's on the menu, run it from there. Be sure to close any open programs before you run uninstall software.
If that doesn't work, put the program CD-ROM disk in the correct drive. Windows will auto-start the CD-ROM. On the main menu there might be an uninstall option. Sometimes, it's necessary to reinstall the program in order to uninstall it.
Third-party software such as Norton Uninstall or Clean Sweep seem to work best when they are installed before the programs they uninstall. While extremely thorough in removing programs, these tools can still leave bits and pieces behind.
Windows has its own program removal tool, which does a fairly good job. Double-click My Computer and then Control Panel. Now click Add/Remove Programs. The Install/Uninstall tab has a list of programs that Windows can uninstall. Scroll down the list, select the program to be uninstalled by clicking on it once and then click the Add/Remove button. That button is normally grayed out, but it will become available after a program has been highlighted.
The system will ask for confirmation that it should remove the selected program and all of its associated files. Once the process is complete, Windows will indicate that the removal was successful.
When a computer restarts after a program has been removed, it may flash an error in the form of a file name that Windows cannot locate. In most cases the files end with either a .dll or a .vxd extension. The .dll represents a Dynamic Link Library file and .vxd refers to a virtual driver file. Press the Enter key to get past these errors and boot into Windows.
To get rid of these error messages, go to the Desktop and click Start. Click Run and in the open box type "regedit" without the quotes. Click OK or press Enter. Click Edit and select Find. Then type the name of the missing file that Windows looks for when it boots up. Click OK.
If Windows finds that particular .dll or .vxd file, it will display it on the right side of a split window. Click that file to highlight it and then click Edit again. Click Delete and then follow the prompts. Restart the computer by pressing Ctrl + Alt + Del twice. The computer should no longer look for those .dll or .vxd files.
Jeff Levy hosts the "On Computers" radio talk show from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on KFI-AM (640).