This is a common question that might be asked when you try to uninstall a program. This may be asked through a message box or a checkbox that says keep/remove user settings. There are a lot of ideas as to what the correct behavior should be here.
Should you remove all user settings?
Screenshot of User Account Settings
Some people claim that since you are uninstalling everything should be removed. This would make sense considering the potential for software rot. For instance the registry could become a junkyard littered with user settings for uninstalled programs. However the user may want to keep their settings if they are only uninstalling temporarily and plan to reinstall later. So it would seem to make sense to ask. Sometimes the user is unsure or does not know the answer.
HELP! It fails to remove all user settings?
But even if the program asks it may not be able to remove all user settings. Another user could have logged in and used the program but is now logged out. That user’s settings would not be deleted when you uninstall for the current user. There is also no safe or reliable way to accomplish this. Is there a better solution that does not annoy the user with extra questions and still allows them to remove everything if they choose? I will talk in the next post about how Install Monitor helps to solve this problem.
Last time we were talking about the issue of how to handle user settings when uninstalling. The uninstaller can either:
NOTE: The uninstaller cannot delete settings for users that are not logged in. The uninstaller would have to leave a program behind for these users to use to remove settings. This creates extra work for the developer.
User Settings vs Documents
Before going further it is useful to make a distinction between user settings and documents. Application uninstallers should NEVER delete user documents. User settings on the other hand may be deleted. (Image below taken from Artur84 of freedigitalphotos.net)
confused between user settings and user documents
User settings are stored in the registry under HKCU\Some Company\Some Product and on the file system under the application data folder like C:\Users\Bob\AppData\Local\Some Company\Some Product. User setting typically store per user program settings like the window size and position and last view.
How do I know if it is not a user document?
Things can however tricky when things that maybe should be user documents are treated as user settings. For example consider a saved state in a game. The game may choose to treat it as user settings and the user’s progress in the game may be erased when he uninstalls. How can a program prevent this from happening? In general it would make sense that any data that could represent a big investment of time and work on the user’s part should be treated as user documents.
How does Install Monitor help solve this problem?
Install Monitor tracks the items created during the installation and use of a program. As a result any user settings and documents are grouped with the program. When the program is later uninstalled if those settings are still there they will show up in Install Monitor under that program. The settings can then be deleted directly or with the “Clean up” button. Note that this conveniently solves the problem of deleting user settings for different users. When another user logs in they can also remove their settings in the same way.
In this post I wanted to talk more specifically about how Install Monitor helps to address software rot and bloat.
What is Software Rot?
Software rot if you remember happens through the process of installing, uninstalling, updating software. Over time software programs leave unused registry and file items. Like bad cholesterol in an artery it serves no purpose and can only slow down your computing experience.
How does install monitor help combat software rot?
Install Monitor helps to combat this by tracking what files and registry items are created by a program. It groups the respective items with each program. This allows you to see what is left behind by the program when you remove it. These items can then be cleaned up by using the “Clean up” button or deleting individual items. You should still be careful to make sure you are not deleting something necessary.
Why is software bloat a difficult fix?
Software bloat is a harder problem to tackle since it is directly related to the application’s design. A while ago I talked in more detail about one characteristic of bloatware, unnecessary background programs. As a consumer you can choose to use non-bloated alternatives if they exist. Sometimes you are stuck with a program because you need it for a printer or phone or some other hardware. Right now Install Monitor helps by telling you how big an application is in terms of disk size and number of file and registry items created. You can also see the number of ways the program can automatically start such as background programs. Future versions of Install Monitor will provide more metrics and offer ways to lessen the effects of bloatware.