An Installation Saga

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Summary:

Have you ever run an installation program that wreaked more havoc than the installed application was worth? We often talk about user headaches from faulty software, but sometimes the pain begins with the installation process itself. Just for fun, here's a humorist's fictional account of a nightmare installation he (barely) endured.

I had reached the point where I was absolutely terrified to install a new program. The last one I tried, a browser plug-in designed to enhance the experience of viewing one particular Web page, had covered my desktop with eighty-six icons, then placed a program in the system tray to prevent me from deleting shortcuts. It took me three weeks to get my computer back (did I mention that it also disabled msconfig, regedit, and Barney Goes A-Rampaging ?).

Which is why I eagerly snapped up a copy of Anthrax Software's User Cleanout. This seemed the answer to my prayers-a program that would keep installations from doing anything too unfriendly.

Installing User Cleanout proved as easy as getting a signed confession from a baby. I popped in the CD-ROM, closed all other Windows programs as I was instructed to do, and let the User Cleanout installation have its way with my hard disk. Eventually, I got a dialog box asking if I wanted to register the program online right away. I clicked "No" and was told I'd be reminded to register again in five seconds. I registered.

As I closed the installation program, I got one more message: "User Cleanout may not have installed properly. This is because you had a Windows program running during the installation. The program you had running was User Cleanout Installation."

A Whole New Computer
I rebooted. My Windows logon screen was now replaced with the Anthrax Software logo, the Cleanout Monitoring Surgeon took up half of my desktop, and the system tray contained fifteen little User Cleanout icons. On the other hand, my Start Programs menu was now cleaner and neater than it had ever been before; instead of the screen full of options it had once presented me, there were now only two submenus: User Cleanout and Other Stuff.

I went to Other Stuff and I loaded my email program: Lookout Below. But instead of the program, I got an error message: "The system file EZBRAKE.DLL has been replaced with some bizarre version that isn't compatible with much of anything. If you ever want to see your email again, please replace this file with the version on the Windows CD-ROM that didn't ship with your PC."

Luckily, I knew I had a copy of EZBRAKE in a .zip file. But when I double-clicked the .zip file, up came User Cleanout, asking me if I wanted to "Secure Wipe-Out" this file. I soon discovered that .doc, .xls, .txt, and .bat files were all associated with User Cleanout's Secure Wipe-Out feature.

You Want to Uninstall What?
By now I was beginning to suspect that maybe I didn't really want User Cleanout on my system. So I ran the program's uninstall routine, which asked me if I was sure, then if I was really sure, then if I was absolutely, positively willing to go through living hell to get rid of this program. I was.

When the uninstall was done, it gave me the standard message: "Some elements could not be removed. You should manually remove unidentified items related to this application." Through massive labors, I was able to identify them: 637 Registry keys, 15 altered versions of standard Windows .dlls, and a program called User Cleanout.

By now, I realized that there was only one option left: backing up my data to a CD-R, reformatting my hard drive, and reinstalling everything from scratch. So I popped a fresh disk into the drive and up popped a message: "Uninstalling User Cleanout disables your CD drive. In order to use the drive, please reinstall User Cleanout from

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