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Are you "InCtrl"?

by Alan German

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 pristine system.

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 catastrophic error.

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 process.

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 painless.

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 save space]


c:\Program Files\HomeSite2
c:\Program Files\HomeSite2\ASP.dat
[Editor's note: numerous other entries were edited to conserve space]


c:\Program Files\McAfee\VirusScan\Avconsol.ini


[Editor's note: other entries were edited to conserve space]

Evidently, the report listing is comprehensive; users should be able to uninstall completely this package without difficulty!

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 InCtrl3:

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 other programs.

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.

Editor's note:

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.

Bottom Line:

InCntrl (Freeware)
Neil J. Rubenking
Controlling Installations Under Windows 95; PC Magazine; pp. 307-350; July, 1996

Originally published: May, 1998

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