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Ghostly Remnants of Uninstalled Software

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  • User profile image
    earnshaw

    I'm sure everyone has had the "pleasure" of uninstalling some software from Windows, only to have remnants of the dearly departed infere with reinstallation.  This is really unacceptable.  Software that is tested by installing only on pristine Windows installation will behave badly on the less pristine.  And the error messages are abominable.  There is no advice whatsoever when you have removed, say mySQL, only to discover that such removal didn't take any databases or passwords with it.  Just complaints that the database that you are trying to create already exists somehow.  Or that the login that you attempt is producing an access violation.   Hours are regularly burned up trying to sort out such misbehavior.

  • User profile image
    giovanni

    Uninstalling software is one of the processes on Windows that needs the most improvement.

     

    Things have already improved a lot: every now and then I even dare to install some beta software on my production machine instead than on a dedicated virtual one, but every so often I stumble on uninstalled bits and pieces of software that was removed eons ago (yesterday I found a reference to Foxit in the MS Office: I uninstalled Foxit about two months ago).

     

    I have some hopes that virtualization might help with this while keeping backwards compatibility alive. My understanding is that this problem is the direct consequence of legacy software and bad habits. I would be curious if Microsoft is planning any change for Windows 8.

  • User profile image
    intelman

    It needs fixed, but hopefully not how I think it will be.

     

    Control Panel, Uninstall.

     

    Program Uninstalls

     

    Windows Pops up a wizzard, it asks if you want to remove additional files and warns you about the dangers.

     

    Click Yes. 

     

    UAC pop up.

     

    Click Continue.

     

    Click Scan.

     

    View a list of random remnants, click confirm.

     

    Summary, click finish.

     

    That is about as elegant as it is going to get. Windows has become more and more wizzardy. 

  • User profile image
    AndyC

    Before you can fix uninstallers, you need to persuade everyone to use a single installation technology. As is amply demonstrated by the apathy about Windows Installer, that's not as easy as you might think.

  • User profile image
    giovanni

    AndyC said:

    Before you can fix uninstallers, you need to persuade everyone to use a single installation technology. As is amply demonstrated by the apathy about Windows Installer, that's not as easy as you might think.

    Is the problem mostly due to legacy issues?

  • User profile image
    Cannot​Resolve​Symbol

    But removing data (or settings) along with an application is dangerous.  What if I need to update or reinstall MySQL on my server?  It would be bad if the uninstaller just automatically destroyed all my data.

  • User profile image
    AndyC

    giovanni said:
    AndyC said:
    *snip*

    Is the problem mostly due to legacy issues?

    In my experience it's a lot more to do with developers not really caring about installation. It's left as an afterthought and as long as it works in the most simple scenario, then it's fine. The better developers actually try uninstalling at least once, but there are plenty who don't seem to.

     

    Of course, there are those who'd say years of working as a sysadmin have just left me jaded to this kind of thing....

  • User profile image
    Shining Arcanine

    I solved this problem on my laptop by reformatting the hard drive and installing Gentoo Linux. Its package management system keeps track of what installed what, so if you ever upgrade or uninstall something, all of the remanants will be removed. The only issue (in terms of programming) so far is that I miss Visual Studio's debugger. I am to learn how to use GDB from the commandline to try to compensate for that.

     

    This solution probably is not for everyone, but so far, it has worked for me. Some of my peers suggested that I switch to Linux last semester, so I took advantage of the break to wipe the hard drive clean and install Linux. My main issue since switching is that my university's wireless network is locked down and requires a VPN to use for anything other than basic web browsing, the university provides a VPN client to allow access to other services and that client only works on Windows and Mac OS X. :/

  • User profile image
    Typhoon87

    Shining Arcanine said:

    I solved this problem on my laptop by reformatting the hard drive and installing Gentoo Linux. Its package management system keeps track of what installed what, so if you ever upgrade or uninstall something, all of the remanants will be removed. The only issue (in terms of programming) so far is that I miss Visual Studio's debugger. I am to learn how to use GDB from the commandline to try to compensate for that.

     

    This solution probably is not for everyone, but so far, it has worked for me. Some of my peers suggested that I switch to Linux last semester, so I took advantage of the break to wipe the hard drive clean and install Linux. My main issue since switching is that my university's wireless network is locked down and requires a VPN to use for anything other than basic web browsing, the university provides a VPN client to allow access to other services and that client only works on Windows and Mac OS X. :/

    I agree there are issues both within windows and on the developers side.

     

    There are native MSI, MSI wrappers like Wise, Installshield, Inno Setup, ect.  I think the issue within windows is that a pure MSI is just plain hard to code correctly. For many apps it is just plain overkill and is too complicated.

     

    The issues with wrappers could be bugs in the wrapper, poor code,

     

     I think that many application devs just dont give the installer/uninstaller the time and care that they need. Also I have seen new applications that use a version of installshield that is like 5 versions old. Which could be good or bad, is it using current MSI standards? Also it makes it  hard to package apps.  I do alot of SCCM application packaging and some installshield apps dont want to work with the IIS file it created, and of courste the error message is a very generic error code -5 and that is the extend of the log. How does that help me know what to do to fix it?  Is it a bug? The app does not support touchless install? Syntax error?  it gives you no assistance.

     

    The thing that gets me is when an app igonores the fact the user is not an admin and will either install in the local users profile which is annoying in a corprate enviroment.  Or it will start installing before checking for admin rights, get part way through then compalin and leave a broken installation.

  • User profile image
    W3bbo

    AndyC said:

    Before you can fix uninstallers, you need to persuade everyone to use a single installation technology. As is amply demonstrated by the apathy about Windows Installer, that's not as easy as you might think.

    Windows Installer isn't perfect, it has a learning curve and it's hard to make something as powerful as a Nullsoft installer with its simple way of doing things rather than the feeling of overengineering you get with MSI.

     

    Windows doesn't just need a unified installer system, it needs a proper first-class package mangement system. It's one of Linux's strengths and I'll bet OS X will get one soon (riding on the popularity of the iTunes App Store).

  • User profile image
    JoshRoss

    AndyC said:

    Before you can fix uninstallers, you need to persuade everyone to use a single installation technology. As is amply demonstrated by the apathy about Windows Installer, that's not as easy as you might think.

    How long do you think it will be until App-V is moved from the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack to the mainline version of Windows?  Something along that line would solve this mess in short order.  The solution would have a locally hosted application manager, rather than a hosted application manager.  The bottom line is that the installation and uninstallation of software affects the reliability of Windows.  I can understand why this has taken so long; It is a complicated solution to an even more complicated problem. However, the Windows devs do not shy away from difficult problems. Queue the A-Team theme song.

     

    -Josh

  • User profile image
    giovanni

    JoshRoss said:
    AndyC said:
    *snip*

    How long do you think it will be until App-V is moved from the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack to the mainline version of Windows?  Something along that line would solve this mess in short order.  The solution would have a locally hosted application manager, rather than a hosted application manager.  The bottom line is that the installation and uninstallation of software affects the reliability of Windows.  I can understand why this has taken so long; It is a complicated solution to an even more complicated problem. However, the Windows devs do not shy away from difficult problems. Queue the A-Team theme song.

     

    -Josh

    I have high hopes about App-V, does anyone know if there is a chance that it will be part of Windows 8?

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