(updated 12/16/2012)

Removing unwanted programs in Windows 95 or 98...

When a Windows program installs itself, it will do so in a two-pronged manner. First, it will copy its program files into a file structure that it will self-generate, then it will make many textual entries in the Windows registry. Usually, too, it will inform Windows how to correctly uninstall itself when it is no longer wanted.

To remove an unwanted program designed for Windows, click on Start > Settings > Control Panel > Add/Remove Programs. Select the program you wish to uninstall then click Add/Remove. The uninstall routine for that particular program will be invoked, and you will be able to safely remove the program.

Usually the unwanted program will be cleanly removed, but often the program's folders and any user data files will remain. Right-click on Start, then click on Explorer to see your file structure. Here you can manually remove the folders and any files that were not deleted by the uninstall routine.

If the program does not have an uninstall routine, here is a procedure you can follow that will usually safely remove any unwanted program.

1) Use the Registry Editor (click on Start > Run and type in "regedit" and click OK). Back up your registry using the Export Registry function.

2) Make sure that a given program is not running when you try to delete it. For older programs, this may involve removing program-starting lines in the files CONFIG.SYS, AUTOEXEC.BAT, WIN.INI and SYSTEM.INI. This may also require deleting program-starting entries in the StartUp folder as well. If you do find program-starting entries, re-start your computer once all these statements are removed.

3) Empty your Recycle Bin. You are about to delete some files, so it is nice to know that what will shortly be in the Bin will only relate to this uninstallation, in case you have to restore some or all of the deleted files for some unforeseen reason.

3) Using Explorer, find the folders that hold the unwanted program and delete them.

4) Delete any references to the unwanted program you can find in the files mentioned in Step 2.

5) Return to the Registry Editor. Use the Find function (CTRL+F) to locate any info in any key that relates to your unwanted program. To do so, try entering unique phrases that will only find what you want to find - for example, "Acro" will likely only find entries made referring to "Adobe Acrobat". There may be many, seemingly duplicate, entries to find.

6) Using Explorer, delete any program-related icons from the Start Menu.

7) Restart the computer and look for any unusual messages. These will be clues to any errors you have made. Check your other programs to see that they are working correctly. If all is well, empty the Recycle Bin again and you are done.

You should own a proper license for any program you use. Try to buy only programs intended for the Windows version you have, or for a newer version that permits installation on an older operating system. And try to find the programs made by the most reputable software companies. Try to keep your version current. There are no guarantees, though: popular brand name programs can often crash, while other "shareware" programs can run beautifully. Try to install only those programs you intend to use. Installing programs for a "look-see" can often lead to lost space and lost time.

When your machine is working well, you can export a copy of your registry using the Registry Editor. Give the exported registry a long descriptive file name, like "All hardware and software working 06-24-00", and save it with your personal data files. You can then return to a known working condition by using the Registry Editor to import that respective registry. You can also use Windows Restore with Windows ME or Windows XP.

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