Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Be warned

A neighbour of mine came round yesterday with a tale of woe regarding his computer. He'd decided to remove some of the programs that he no longer uses and having done so found that some of those that he did use would no longer function.

Now of course it is perfectly possible to remove programs from Windows as long as you follow the correct route using the appropriate installer/uninstaller program.

Those that are correctly configured, will clean up all traces including any entries in the registry. Some will leave bits and pieces that you have to remove manually. That often requires digging into the registry which is not recommended. In time, those bits and pieces will slow your system down. At that point you have to consider biting the bullet - re-format your drive and start again with a "clean" version of Windows.

One program which you are advised not to remove is Internet Explorer which is what my neighbour did. Like me, he uses Firefox and so felt no need to keep the redundant browser on his system. Microsoft only include an uninstaller program to comply with the anti-trust ruling against them- they don't expect you to use it!

The advice from Mozilla who supply Firefox

Although uninstalling Internet Explorer from Windows is possible, you are strongly advised not to remove it, for a number of reasons.

  1. Many web sites are programmed to work only with Internet Explorer. For example, webmasters authoring a site may have not tested with other web browsers. The majority of websites on the Internet should work with Mozilla browsers, but there are some sites that appear distorted or inaccessible unless IE is used as a browser.
  2. Windows Update requires Internet Explorer. As an alternative, you may be able to manually download security updates, but it will require more monitoring and work than letting Windows Update handle this for you.
  3. Some applications depend on libraries installed by Internet Explorer. These applications may no longer work or they may behave unexpectedly if IE is removed.
  4. Some anti-virus products require IE for updates. Live updates or automatic DAT updates used by both Norton and McAfee are built on Internet Explorer's foundation. You may be able to manually update your virus signature files but it could require more work.
  5. Both removing and restoring IE is risky and difficult. IE is complex with extensive hooks built into Windows, for efficiency and functionality. Thus unplugging it from your system may impact Internet connectivity, Windows functionality, and break functionality in Microsoft Office and non-MS products.
  6. IE is more than a browser, it is the foundation for Internet functionality in Windows.

My neighbour came across most of these issues. Once he had uninstalled IE, he could no longer get onto the Internet using Firefox added to which MS Word no longer functioned.

By re-installing MS Works he managed to get Word back but not the Internet. As he found, trying to re-install Internet Explorer doesn't work. Once the hooks are broken, and the libraries are removed they are not so easily restored. As my neighbour also found, System Restore won't do the trick.

Trying to get a working system back from this sort of situation without a complete re-format is something I've never attempted so unfortunately I couldn't really help him. My neighbour has had to resort to taking the laptop down to PC Doctor to see if they can sort it out - I'm sure they will.

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