Clean out the debris left by deleted apps

You may think you have uninstalled a program -- but wait -- what's that? Lots of bits and pieces left over cluttering up your system. What to do? Third-party uninstall applications are available, but my experience with them has been wanting. I recommend using the manual method instead. Here's how . . .

First, if an application doesn't come with an uninstall option (look in the Start menu, in Control Panel's Add/Remove Programs applet, or in the program's own folder), then delete the app's folder. It may be called C:\Program Files\program name, C:\Program Files\vendor name\program name, or simply c:\program name. Use Windows Explorer to find the folder, then select it and press . Click Yes every time Windows asks you if you really want to delete it.

Next you'll want to remove the program's Shortcuts. Right-click Start and select Explore. In Explorer, remove any Shortcuts or folders within the Start Menu folder that are named for that program. For instance, if you launch "BadCode" by selecting Start-Programs-BadCode, you'll want to go to the C:\Windows\Start Menu\Programs folder and delete BadCode. But if you launch "SystemCrasher" by selecting Start-Programs-System Crasher-SystemCrasher, you'll want to delete the C:\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\System Crasher folder.

Now it's time to clean out the System folder. Doing this isn't an exact science - it requires guesswork and caution. While in Explorer, go to C:\Windows\System. Select View-Options (or View-Folder Options). On the View tab, select Show all files, then click OK.

Right-click an empty space in the folder and choose New-Folder. Name the new folder Probably Garbage. While you're still in the System folder, select View-Arrange Icons-by Name. Look for file names similar to the program's name, then drag each one to Probably Garbage. When you are done, move Probably Garbage to another place on your hard drive or better yet, to another drive. Wait three months to make sure you don't need any of these files before you delete them for good.

Finally, you should clean up the Registry. Editing the Registry is always dangerous, so make sure you have a good backup first.

When you're ready to clean, select Start-Run, type regedit, and press to enter the Registry Editor. Press , type the name of the unwanted program, and press .

Whatever result the search returns, click it, press , then select Yes. Watch out for entries on both panes of the Registry - deleting an entry from the right pane alone may not be enough. Press to continue the search, deleting each reference you find. When you're done, close the Registry Editor and reboot.

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