Install, uninstall. It’s that simple, right? Well, not really. Some programs require configuration during installation, others can suffer malfunctions and prove difficult to uninstall.


There are many everyday tasks in computing that get taken for granted. Installing and uninstalling software is a good example. Often, adding or removing a program takes just a few clicks, and many people don’t even think about it. However, sometimes installing or uninstalling a program can be problematic. Luckily, there are few simple solutions to these problems.


Always check the amount of hardware space a program needs. This is printed on the back of boxed software. If the software you want to install has been downloaded, you’ll find its system requirements on the web page you bought it from, or in the “read me” file that accompanied the download. Software conflicts can cause problems too. These occur when you install a new version of a program without removing the old version first. Some programs also require you to configure them during installation and some just won’t uninstall no matter what you do.


Installation basic

Windows XP and Windows Vista both have fairly similar installation procedures. If you’ve bought boxed software, you insert the disk it came on into your CD or DVD drive. Most disks will “Autorun”, or automatically launch. If you’ve turned off Autorun, then you’ll need to go to My Computer and double-click on your CD or DVD drive to launch the installation procedure. If you’ve downloaded a program, you may need to extract its files from a zipped folder – right-click and choose Extract all. Once you’ve done that, you’ll need to look for a file called Setup and double-click it to run the installation. This file will typically be one of two types – an .exe or self-executing file, or an MSI, which stands for Microsoft installer.


By default most programs will install onto your C: drive, the section of the hard drive where the main operating system lives. If your hard drive is partitioned, try putting the program you want to install on a different partition – it will make both the program and your operating system a little faster, as the computer isn’t constantly looking for files stored in the same big folder. You can also do this with external hard drives, although it can make accessing bigger programs with lots of content (like Computer games) a bit slower. To install a program onto an alternative drive, wait until the installation procedure asks you where you want to install the program, then click browse and navigate to the drive or partition you want to use.


During the installation of some programs, you may need to give them information about files and folders you want them to be able to access, or about your computer’s graphics, sound or internet settings. This is called “configuration” an installation and it makes programs run more effectively on your PC. Customized the installations are slightly different. You may have noticed that some programs offer you a Regular installation or a Custom one.  Custom installations allow you to choose which parts of a program you install. For example, if you’re Photoshop Elements and you know you’ll never use a particular set of design templates, you can choose to leave them out. Some programs also come bundled with other – usually a Yahoo! Or Google Toolbar is included, and will automatically install unless you tell it not to. This can cause problems if you’ve already got a version of these products. You’ll need to uninstall them to fix it.



Uninstall Programs

Many programs have their own “Uninstaller” which you can use to remove the program. Some uninstalls can prove more complex, however. If a program doesn’t have an uninstaller, the first thing to try is your PC’s own uninstall procedure. There are subtle differences between Windows XP’s uninstall procedures and those that you’ll find in Windows Vista. In Windows XP, go to Control Panel > Add / Remove Programs, scroll though the list and click Remove next to the one that you want to get rid of.


In Vista you will do the same thing, except this time you’ll go from Control Panel to “Programs and Features” instead. These utilities will either find and use the program’s own uninstaller, or force the program to uninstall. After you have uninstalled a program it’s normally a good idea to empty your Recycle Bin and then reboot your PC. This will help to clean up any old program files that happen to be left lying around.


There are a few programs that require you to work harder to uninstall them. Nero Burning ROM and Symantec Antivirus are two examples. If you try to remove a program from your system and it just won’t budge, there are a couple of things you can do. In some cases, you might need to visit the program’s website and download the uninstaller. Before you do this, though, go to Start, launch the main All Programs menu and find the software you want o remove. It may well have an uninstall procedure hidden in a Start menu folder.


To remove really stubborn program, XP users can edit their computer’s registry. This is a database that lists all the programs that are installed on a computer. There are tools to help you access and use it, including Registry Mechanic from PC tools. Editing your registry is a complex business, so if you try it, create a System Restore point first and only remove entries you know you don’t want it. If you don’t know what a registry entry is, leave it alone.


Unfortunately, Microsoft has said that Vista’s registry is too complex for users to edit. Instead, Vista users can put the computer into Safe mode by rebooting it, pressing F8 as soon as it switches back on, and choosing Safe mode from the Advanced Boot Options menu, and then try uninstalling the program again. Take your PC out of Safe mode afterwards by rebooting it again.


Five ways to take control of your software

  • Customize all install

Always choose the option to customize the install. That way you can pick and choose the program you want and set the install directory.


  • Shutdown virus checkers

Shut down all spy checkers and virus checker temporarily, they may interfere with some install programs or corrupt file while they scan your PC.


  • Reboot your PC

After an install, reboot your PC to refresh drives and give Windows a chance to update files that may need to be changed for the install.


  • Uninstall often

It’s a good idea to uninstall programs you don’t need any more to conserve on disk space and keep your system free of clutter.


  • Defrag after uninstall

Run the Defrag utility to clean up your PC, especially after removing large programs such as Dreamweaver or Office 2007.