Win2K SP2 Status
A month ago, I passed along the news that Microsoft planned to release Windows 2000 Service Pack 2 (SP2) sometime during first quarter 2001. I'm not sure whether my source had a typo in the communications we exchanged about this topic or whether Microsoft needs more time to test and incorporate changes in SP2. As of late last week, SP2's new release date reaches out another 3 months, possibly as late as the end of June. While we wait, we must stay on top of crucial security updates and hotfixes, which means some serious baby-sitting of more than 200 bug fixes and hotfixes. For fun, we'll continue to watch the slipstream directory for new builds grow on a weekly basis. Based on current schedules—Win2K SP2 in second quarter 2001 and Windows NT 4.0 SP7 in third quarter 2001—you should set aside significant time on your fall planning schedule to test and distribute updates.

Add/Remove Programs Fuzzy Logic
How often have you used the Add/Remove Programs utility to remove a program, only to discover that the uninstall routine can't find a crucial file? Uninstall routines get confused when we place applications in nondefault directories, when we install them on a hard disk that isn't the boot drive, and in numerous other cases. Even when Add/Remove Programs runs, it almost always prompts you to remove components "that are no longer needed," as if we knew which of 75 files should stay or go. The most aggravating message—one we've been reading since the dawn of Windows—is the wrap-up message that states "not all components have been removed." Even when Add/Remove Programs finishes successfully, these messages leave us wondering about the efficacy of the removal process. On the reverse side of the coin, errors in an uninstall routine can leave application data in the registry key that tracks installed software, so in some cases, Win2K and Windows NT indicate software is installed when, in fact, the files have been removed.

My first reaction to this chicken-and-egg problem is to manually remove the application files, delete related icons, and carve out application-specific registry entries. The manual method is a patience tester, and when I finish, I never have 100 percent confidence that I've successfully excised every component. Instead, I have visions of a registry full of floating detritus unconnected to the real world.

The manual removal process has two potentially dangerous side effects. When you manually remove registry entries that refer to a specific application—especially registered components that appear in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE_CLASSES—you might permanently corrupt other installed applications from the same vendor that share the component. And if you don't pay attention, you can accidentally delete the wrong key, with potentially disastrous consequences.

Add/Remove Programs Antidote
Last week, I purchased a firewall product after running the vendor's trial version for the 30-day evaluation period. When I started to install the retail version, the setup routine instructed me to first remove the evaluation copy. However, when I fired up Add/Remove Programs to uninstall the trial version, the process failed. While digging through the vendor's instructions about how to manually remove its software, I found a reference to the Windows Installer CleanUp utility.

The Windows Installer CleanUp utility has been around for several years. Microsoft categorizes the clean-up utility as an Office 2000 tool, but the utility can also help you remove third-party software when the standard uninstall doesn't work. Windows Installer CleanUp lets you select a specific Windows installer program to activate and removes the registry items associated with that program. Windows Installer CleanUp has two versions: Msicuu.exe for Win2K and NT and Msicu.exe for Windows Millennium Edition (Windows Me) and Windows 9x. Double-click the executable to install the 360KB utility. After installing Windows Installer CleanUp, you'll see its entry near the bottom of the programs list under the Start menu. The tool also registers itself in the Add/Remove Programs list.

When you start Windows Installer CleanUp, the utility displays a list of programs it recognizes and offers you the following four options:

  • Select All—selects all programs in the list
  • Clear All—unselects all programs in the list
  • Remove—removes Windows Installer registry settings associated with the selected program(s)
  • Exit—exits Windows Installer CleanUp

Luckily, Windows Installer CleanUp recognized the trial version of the software I wanted to uninstall and successfully removed all traces of it. I then installed the retail version of the product with no problems. The next time you meet an ornery uninstall routine, I suggest you try Windows Installer CleanUp before you dive into the manual removal process. You can read Microsoft's documentation for this tool in article Q238413 "http://support.microsoft.com/support/kb/articles/Q238/4/13.asp". FYI, Microsoft includes the following disclaimer with the Windows Installer CleanUp tool: "This utility is provided 'as is' to help resolve installation problems for programs that use the Windows Installer. The use of this utility may make it necessary to reinstall other programs, and caution is advised."