Norton Uninstall Deluxe

Symantec offers an alternative to uninstall applications

Although Windows applications are useful and productive tools, they have the dubious distinction of being some of the rudest programs you can buy. When you install a program on Windows NT, the installer usually dumps lots of strange files with cryptic filenames in various directories on your system instead of confining everything to the directory you specified during installation. Now, you need a utility that is going to remove these rogue files. If you look on the shelves of any software store, you'll see many applications that claim to be able to clean up your system. Some of these applications display ingenious packaging that makes them look like boxes of laundry detergent. Although Symantec's Norton Uninstall Deluxe isn't a detergent, it's just as effective in removing unsightly splotches of loose files.

I've always thought that the barebones uninstall applet in NT could take care of just about everything I needed. However, NT's uninstaller is essentially a shell that passes commands through each application's own uninstall tool. Therefore, uninstalling an application with what NT provides can leave many files and Registry entries behind. Norton Uninstall Deluxe is rumored to be one of the finer uninstall utilities on the market, and I figured it offered the ultimate acid test for me to see if an uninstaller provides benefits above and beyond NT's own tool.

Norton Uninstall creates a database and checks your current system status against that database every time the program opens. Although this approach guarantees a high level of reliability, it can be cumbersome on systems that contain many files. For example, starting Norton Uninstall on my test system took about 5 minutes from execution to get to a responsive interface. To be fair, the test system in question contains nearly every application I've ever reviewed, so it has more than 200,000 individual files on the hard disks. I learned the hard way that once this database update process starts, you can't cancel it.

The user interface departs from the traditional title bar and menu combination you see in nearly every application on the market today. Norton Uninstall employs an abstract-looking free-floating UI, which you can see in Screen 1. The UI's right pane houses descriptions of each tool, so you can easily see what each feature does.

When an application is installed, Norton Uninstall's InstallGuard applet takes a snapshot of your system's original configuration. This capability lets you remove the last application you installed and rollback your system's status to its original state. To test the uninstall feature, I installed two applications on my system. The first program I fed to Norton Uninstall was Final Draft, a Windows-based screenwriting utility. When I launched SETUP.EXE, Norton Uninstall kicked into action and asked if I wanted InstallGuard to monitor the installation process. After about 5 minutes, InstallGuard let me finish the installation, then Norton Uninstall took another 5 minutes to save the results in a backup file. Firing up the main Norton Uninstall program (another 5-minute task) let me remove every last remnant of Final Draft from my test machine. Aside from the time the product required, Norton Uninstall seemed to work as advertised, and I was satisfied with the uninstall results.

Final Draft is a simple program: Installing it only places the files on disk, instead of modifying the Registry. The real test came when I installed Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 4.0, an integrated application that not only adds Registry entries in addition to placing crucial system files on your boot volume, but also hijacks NT's desktop. After kick-starting IE4's Setup application, InstallGuard leaped in and saved the system configuration. After I had installed IE4, InstallGuard attempted to save the results but hung while collecting the new Registry entries.

Despite the mixed success rate I had with Norton Uninstall, its Registry Cleanup feature was extremely useful. If you go through your Registry, you'll probably find many orphaned entries that NT's uninstall utility hasn't removed. One or two orphaned entries won't take up too much disk space, but when these entries start adding up, you might find yourself wondering where your disk space went. (You can check the current size of your Registry by opening the System Properties sheet, switching to the Performance tab, and clicking the Change button.) Registry Cleanup plows through the Registry, compares the entries with the applications installed on your system, and removes any leftover relics.

Norton Uninstall Deluxe offers many benefits, including an applet that lets you move applications--lock, stock, and barrel--to another drive, and the price is right. Unfortunately, working with the program felt a bit clumsy; the product does not feel at all like an integrated utility that works seamlessly with the operating system. Although NT's default uninstall tool isn't as thorough as Norton Uninstall, it also isn't as cumbersome to use.

Norton Uninstall Deluxe
Contact: Symantec * 800-441-7234, Web:
Price: $39.95
System Requirements: Windows 95 or Windows NT 4.0, 486 or higher, 8MB of RAM for Win 95, 16MB of RAM for Windows NT, 10MB of hard disk space CD-ROM drive
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