At the recent Windows 95 SIG meeting there was a
lively discussion, followed by some messages on The PUB,
about problems with uninstalling software. The suggested
solutions included: using the Add/Remove Programs
facility in Windows 95; using a commercial de-install
software program; deleting the sub-directory containing
the software; living with unused DLL files scattered
throughout the system and ignoring redundant INI and
Registry entries; merely removing program sub-directories
and INI files, then editing the Registry (back-up first,
please); and performing a periodic re-install of the
entire operating system and applications to provide a
Add/Remove is problem laden and provides no true
record of what actually occurred. Consequently, selecting
Remove won't always remove every file. Deleting files and
directories on a best-guess basis is prone to
While commercial programs are an option, there is a
less expensive approach. Check the file area of The PUB,
in File/Utilities/PC Magazine, for V15N13.ZIP. This is
the freeware PC Magazine Utility, InCtrl3.
In a typical software installation, InCtrl3 records
the initial contents of the hard drive and monitors the
software installation process. It provides a report of
the files that were added, deleted, or modified and
records changes to both INI files and Registry entries.
This information can be stored in a report file to
provide a long-term record of the software installation
process. To uninstall the software simply review the
stored report and manually reverse the installation
InCtrl3 itself is extremely well-behaved during its
own installation. Extract the files from the archive into
a sub-directory, answer a few configuration questions,
and the program is ready to use: no complicated
installation routine here!
When you run InCtrl 3 it prompts for the installation
file to be used, the name of the software being
installed, and a name and location for the report file
that it will produce. A standard set of Windows
navigation buttons and dialogue boxes makes the process
InCtrl3 moves to the background and, in a small on-screen
window, gives a continually updated display of its
monitoring of a software installation routine. When the
installation is complete, the report can be viewed
immediately or saved for later review.
An example of a portion of the report (432 file
entries were actually recorded as additions) from the
installation of an HTML editing package is given below:
Installation report: Homesite
[Editor's note: header abbreviated to
FILES AND DIRECTORIES ADDED: (432)
note: numerous other entries were edited to conserve
FILES CHANGED: (2)
NO CHANGES MADE TO C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM.INI...
NO CHANGES MADE TO C:\WINDOWS\WIN.INI...
REGISTRY KEYS ADDED: (7)
[Editor's note: other entries were edited to
Evidently, the report listing is comprehensive; users
should be able to uninstall completely this package
InCtrl3 is another classic utility program from the
fine programmers at PC Magazine and, as usual for their
software, the price is right.
Chris Taylor, our PUB II SYSOP, has kindly
provided a few observations and cautionary notes about
Windows may tell you that not all components could
be removed and you must eliminate the rest manually.
Often there are files (for example, data) that the
installation program will not delete because it did not
create them, or since the file was in active use when the
uninstall program was run. Chris recommends: run
the regular uninstall routine and then look at the INCTRL
report and determine what remains. However, be very
cautious, since it is easy to unintentionally disable
Consider this scenario: you install program A,
which installs a new file (call it whizbang.dll) in the
System directory. Next, you install program B, which also
requires whizbang.dll; however, seeing that it is already
there it does not re-install it. Now you un-install A.
Referring to your InCtrl3 report you notice that whizbang.dll
was left behind and you delete it manually. The result:
surprise... program B stops working!
Allow the regular un-install routine to do it's job.
When you install a program it notes the presence of
previously installed files and adds a counter to the
registry (or increments an existing counter). During an
un-install, this counter will be decremented. In theory,
when it reaches zero, the uninstall routine at this point
knows that there are no longer any programs using this
file and it is safe to delete it. If you don't let the un-install
routine run, this counter will get out of synch with
reality. Of course, this assumes all players are playing
the game properly.
InCtrl3 is a 32 bit program that is suitable for
Windows 95 and NT. InCtrl2, is 16 bit, making it suitable
for Windows 3.1x users. Please see further commentary in
the Windows Sig on PUB II.
Neil J. Rubenking
Controlling Installations Under Windows 95; PC Magazine; pp. 307-350; July, 1996
Originally published: May, 1998