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The Easy Way to Unclutter a New PC

If you recently purchased a new Windows PC for yourself or a loved one, you probably found that it came loaded with a boatload of trial software programs that compete for your attention with pop-ups and random "buy me" icons littering the desktop.

I spent a half hour or so over this past Christmas break clearing out the trial software from my stepmother's new HP desktop, and I remember wishing there was an easy way to automate the process of relegating these clutter programs to the digital recycle bin.

The shipment of these so-called "crapware" programs with new home computers has become so prevalent in the industry that Apple recently lampooned the practice in a television ad, in which it featured an obese "PC" that could barely waddle onto the set because it was so laden down by trial software.

Then, just this past week, I spotted the tool I'd been hoping some smart geek would create -- a free trial-ware banishing program called, appropriately enough, the "PC Decrapifier."

The list of crapware that this tool obliterates is fairly exhaustive: It nixes some 45 programs most commonly installed as trial-ware on new PCs, including, Sonic Record Now, AOL, several different types of Norton and McAfee and Trend Micro trial anti-virus products, Wild Tangent games, HP Rhapsody and MusicMatch, among others.

I had to restore an HP laptop of mine from scratch a few weeks back, restoring the original image of the hard drive as it was when I first turned on the machine. Low and behold, I had all of the same trial software programs installed at the end of the process. The PC Decrapifier took care of about a dozen programs in less than a half hour. While that's not blazingly fast, it sure beats the heck out of visiting the Windows "Add/Remove Programs" menu 12 different times.

Did you buy a PC recently that was loaded with trial software? How well did the PC Decrapifier do in ridding your machine of the stuff? What did it leave behind?

By Brian Krebs  |  April 19, 2007; 9:33 AM ET
Categories:  From the Bunker  
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Comments

I'd be interested to know how good the PC Decrapifier is at cleaning up after these programs, because even if you use Windows uninstallers they tend to leave a lot of junk behind - even in the Registry. And we all know what hell the Registry is. Microsoft were hoping to scrap it for Longhorn, but of course it's still there in Vista.

Apple were smart to use this issue in an ad. There's hardly any trial software on a new Mac, and what is there is good software - Microsoft Office for Mac and iWorks. And if you don't want Office, you simply drag it's icon to the Trash and, the architecture of the Mac being what it is, it's gone.

Now compare that with what you need to do if you don't want Norton Internet Security on your new PC:

_______________________

Go to Start --> Control Panel --> Add/Remove Programs.
Scroll down to your Norton/Symantec program
Click Change --> Remove All.
Upon completion of the Remove All process, you will be asked to restart your PC. Do so.

Now go to Start --> My Computer --> Program Files. Right click on each Symantec (or Norton) folder and select Delete.
Restart your PC.

Go back in to Program Files. Except now go to the Common Files folder at or near the top of the Program Files window. Delete every Symantec (or Norton) folder there.
Restart your PC.

Go to Start --> Search --> All Files and Folders --> More advanced options. Check each option except for Case sensitive
Now type Norton in the search box.

Delete each Norton folder from the search results (Again, right click, choose Delete)

Restart your PC.

Repeat step 6 except type Symantec in the search box.
Now let's go into the Registry. Be Careful here. First thing to do is Back up the Registry. I'll be saying more about the Registry later, but suffice to say the presence of uninstalled security software in the Registry can conflict with newly installed security software and cause system freezes. For that matter, so can folders of "uninstalled" programs. Once again, go to the Start menu, but this time, you want to click on Run then type in regedit.
Go to the top of the Regedit window. Click the + next to HKEY_CURRENT_USER to open the section (Hive). Go down the thread until you see Software. Click on Software and scroll down until you see Symantec. Right click on Symantec and choose Delete.
From there go down to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE and repeat step 9.
Restart your PC.

Again, go to Start, click on Run. Type in regedit
Click (+) next to HKEY_CURRENT_USER.

Click (+) next to Software.

Click (+) next to Microsoft.

Click (+) next to Windows.

Click (+) next to CurrentVersion.

Select the Run folder.

Right-click and delete each Symantec and NAV (Norton Antivirus) entry you see (if present).

Go To HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE and do the same thing.

Restart your PC.

Now make sure you follow the following instructions ***to the letter*** or you'll cause damage:

HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT. HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT is the top section (Hive) of the five sections in the Registry. It's on top of HKEY_CURRENT_USER which is on top of HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE. Click on the little + to open the HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT hive. Scroll way down until you get to the Symantec entries. Now just right click on each Symantec entry and hit Delete (making sure not to delete anything that isn't explicitly listed as Symantec!!)

Restart your PC.

http://www.askdavetaylor.com/how_to_fully_remove_norton_from_pc.html

_______________________

That's insane. It makes you wonder: first, why anyone is still using Windows in 2007; and secondly, how good a job the PC Decrapifier does at cleaning up after programs like Norton Internet Security, because it isn't easy to do so.

Posted by: Michael | April 19, 2007 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Although it takes a good deal longer than half an hour, I have found the best thing is to reinstall the system from scartch on a new PC with Windows. That way you may be able to specify the system disk size. It does depend on what you PC manufacturer has done to Windows re-installtion disk. Dell have seemed quite good in that regard; HP have messed with things they should have left alone on the system disk.

Posted by: Steve | April 19, 2007 9:59 AM | Report abuse

We got a new Dell at home for Christmas which was loaded with unwanted junk. So I reformatted and reinstalled.

But Dell hadn't sent the cd-roms for the DVD software. I called tech support and three times, by two different people I was asked and answered as to why I would reinstall a brand new machine.

Posted by: John | April 19, 2007 10:39 AM | Report abuse

A step in the right direction. Now we need a way to shut down Microsoft's "Genuine Advantage", "FireWall", "Automatic Updates" and "Virus Protection" harassment.

Posted by: ewuhouston | April 19, 2007 10:47 AM | Report abuse

It looks like the spammers are hitting your blog, too.

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Posted by: wordsmithereens | April 19, 2007 11:18 AM | Report abuse

reply to ewuhouston

Take a look at WinPatrol. Excellent granular control of all running apps and startup.

Posted by: wordsmithereens | April 19, 2007 11:20 AM | Report abuse

An interesting product, which might turn out to be pretty handy. I dropped it onto my USB full of widgets affectionately described as my "toolbox." I haven't had opportunity to use it yet, but it may simplify the process of cleaning up people's PCs.

In the past, I've used Jouni Vuoro's RegCleaner to follow up after removing stuff with Add/Remove Programs. Sure, it's old now and shouldn't be used by the uninitiate, but if you know what you're talking about with uninstalled programs leaving junk in the registry, it can help you find and pare down obsolete references.
http://www.worldstart.com/weekly-download/archives/reg-cleaner4.3.htm

Another dated but still useful gizmo is Mike Lin's Startup Control Panel... I use it all the time to control what Windows really starts when it boots. Of course, you need to be careful with this one too, but it's handy if you know what you're doing.
http://mlin.net/StartupCPL.shtml

I'll probably use these two programs to follow up behind PC Decrapifier and catch things it might have missed.

Posted by: dtjohnso | April 19, 2007 11:30 AM | Report abuse

I wish that OEM's would just give us/me the option of ordering a new PC with a Clean Windows Install.

(I'd settle for then sending me a shrink wrapped "full version" of Windows with a new PC so I can install it cleanly myself)

Posted by: DonS | April 19, 2007 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Symantec has a program called SCleanSwipe available on their site. It has to be the best removal tool I've seen from a software vendor. It gives you the options as to what you want to uninstall as well as successfully pulling items out of the registry (unheard of until now). Of course you need to reboot at the end but I'll gladly take the one reboot after a 5 minute removal process instead of multiple reboots over an hour with the hopes that it was successful.

McAfee has an uninstaller as well but it built into the removal process. It can leave a couple of items behind but overall it finishes in a close second behind Symantec's stand alone remover.

Hope this helps,
Dennis

Posted by: Dennis | April 19, 2007 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Trying to clean up a new system like this is haphazard at best. In the long run, it is better to wipe the system, install the OS from scratch and then install ONLY what you want. Leaves you with a lean mean running machine that is stable and much more secure. This is EXACTLY why many organizations employ the practice of "imaging" new systems.

When are OEM's going to understand they are part of the problem by shipping systems as they do? Unfortunately, it's all about money as they get a cut from these software makers for pushing their wares.

This could change if more of us demand something different!

Posted by: TJ | April 19, 2007 2:08 PM | Report abuse

At the office when I oder a new laptop, I make sure that we intend to stick with that particular brand/model for as long as possible. When the laptop arrives I spend two whole days tweaking and removing junk from it. I run sysprep and then use Acronis to create an entire backup image of the hard drive, and them dump that image on the other machines.

Its nice to know that when you order a Inspirion 9400 or a CH-51 I just need to reimage the entire thing instead of wasting hours rebuilding one again.

Cheers. :)

Posted by: DOUGman | April 19, 2007 2:47 PM | Report abuse

At the office when I oder a new laptop, I make sure that we intend to stick with that particular brand/model for as long as possible. When the laptop arrives I spend two whole days tweaking and removing junk from it. I run sysprep and then use Acronis to create an entire backup image of the hard drive, and them dump that image on the other machines.

Its nice to know that when you order a Inspirion 9400 or a CF-51 I just need to reimage the entire thing instead of wasting hours rebuilding one again.

Cheers. :)

Posted by: DOUGman | April 19, 2007 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Why not just reformat a new system?

Posted by: Adam | April 19, 2007 4:31 PM | Report abuse

You mean "Lo! and behold", I think. Archaic language does tend to confuse an "autocorrecting" spelling checker program.

Posted by: AP | April 19, 2007 11:35 PM | Report abuse

Per Brian "....I had all of the same trial software programs installed at the end of the process." HP is notorious for that.

That is why I manually do what must be done, and once more there shall be peace.

Remember spend the time initially, which will *save* you time later.

D.

Posted by: Re: Adam | April 20, 2007 1:36 AM | Report abuse

Lo and behold, not "low and behold." Thank you, someone, for pointing out that autocorrect probably did it.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 20, 2007 7:17 AM | Report abuse

So does the decrapifying software ever mistakenly remove useful programs instead of the crapware? Also, is it not harder to reinstall windows now that most manufacturers no longer ship an OS disk with the computer?

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Dennis post that there is a program called SCleanSwipe by Symantec. I cannot find anything by that name. Closest I can find is CleanSweep. WHere can I find SCleanSwipe? Thanks.

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