Windows 8 will contain a new feature that allows you to refresh your computer. Known as “Refresh your PC”, it will keep all personal data, Metro style apps, and important settings from the PC, and reinstall Windows. So in other words it makes reinstalling easier. In a way it’s a tacit admission that sometimes Windows users are left with no other choice. Why would you need to reinstall?
Windows 8 Newly Added Features to Restart and Refresh your PC
One reason is software rot which I talked about a while back. Still another reason is sometimes you run into a case where there is a single application that is causing problems. Uninstalling and reinstalling that application also does not fix the underlying issue. The application is somehow in a state where it is not running properly and cannot be fixed through reinstallation.
If you ever been in that situation it can be really frustrating since you have to reinstall everything because of a single misbehaving but necessary application. Reinstalling Windows and your applications usually involves fumbling around for install discs or re-downloading programs. You also have to make sure you preserve all your data. Backups of course can make things easier but it’s still messy. It’s like getting a new house because you lost your house keys.
Mirekusoft Install Monitor can offer a better alternative to this frustrating experience. By monitoring installed applications it determines what resources belong to each application. That makes it possible to thoroughly remove installed applications. This can help you to remove an application that cannot fix itself. Fully removing the application with Install Monitor and then installing again can often fix most issues. This method allows you to “refresh” individual applications. You can maintain a clean system that is free from the debris of removed programs.
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.
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.
The idea of software rotting might seem weird but it is an actual concept. The main way this happens is from installing too many programs over time. This might be done by installing free, trial, or beta software. Another source of installs are program updates. Even if you do not install many programs, most programs will need to install updates.
What is software rot?
Watch out for software rot
So what specifically causes software rot?
Most programs will install fine for the first time but usually they do not remove themselves that well. They usually leave tons of stuff littered on the file system and registry. It can be difficult or impossible to track every thing that is left behind. In some cases the only way to make sure everything is gone may be to “nuke from orbit” or reinstall the operating system and start over. Sometimes a bad uninstall can even cause problems reinstalling. Some programs especially trialware will intentionally leave items behind to prevent you from reusing the program.
The situation is almost like inviting somebody over your house to stay as a guest. When the person leaves your house, he leaves a lot of his stuff behind you are left to clean up. There are a lot of programs like registry cleaners that claim to cleanup your system. They take a long time and there is no guarantee of success. That would be like inviting someone who has never been to your house to restore your house to how it was before.
How should I best handle software rot?
You could also have a backup or use a program that allows you to restore to a point in the past or try/decide changes. This gets messy if you install multiple programs over a period of time and/or can’t decide right away to keep or discard something. Over time a fast computer is slowed down by old software remnants it will never need. As a result some people get in a habit of reinstalling Windows after a period of time.
Image courtesy of stockimage / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.