Lesson Learned: More on Post-Uninstall Clean-up

Last week, my blog “Should Software Makers Clean Up After Themselves?” expressed my consternation that responsible software vendors could create uninstall utilities that don’t completely clean up after themselves. I reported that one well-known program that I just uninstalled left 462 registry entries and 151 files behind. I was wrong: it also installed the Viewpoint Media Player, which runs as viewpointservice.exe, and not only left it running on my machine, it also continued to load up and run at boot time, even with no consuming processes to serve.

I thought that Revo Uninstaller would catch and kill this, but the state of my PC this morning argues otherwise. I just happened to drop into Task Manager to look at my list of running processes, and observed the Viewpoint process cheerfully consuming unnecessary system resources. Fortunately for me, Revo Uninstaller was happy to uninstall the program from my PC. I was also pleasantly surprised to observe that the program left no traces of itself behind after the uninstall, unlike the maker of the software that brought the Viewpoint Media Player onto my desktop in the first place.

This all goes to show emphatically that my 7th grade math teacher’s exhortation “Always check your work!” holds true for uninstalling software, as it does to making sure that your numbers add up and your logic holds water. I suppose I should know better. Alas, it didn’t occur to me to check up further after the uninstall, even though there was already strong evidence that the softare maker’s uninstall utility wasn’t as thorough or complete as it should have been.

Let me therefore smite my forehead and say “Doh!” Upon further consideration, if the vendor doesn’t clean up its own work, why should I have assumed it would clean up other components that it installs to support its own infrastructure? Obviously, a bad assumption on my part. But instead of beating myself up about this, I’m going to file it in the “Lessons Learned” category.

I’m also going to add the following activities to my post-uninstall checks:

  1. Open Task Manager and see if any lingering processes have been left behind (Viewpointservice.exe for the Viewpoint Media Player, in this case).
  2. Open Services.msc, and do likewise for services (this will also have the beneficial side effect of forcing you to get familiar with the services active on your Vista PC).

I suggest you do likewise, particularly when Revo Uninstaller (or the uninstall tool of your choice) finds something to clean up in the wake of the vendor’s own uninstall utility.

Tip on Listing and Comparing Active Vista Services and Processes

If you run cmd.exe as administrator you can type the following command

net start >> C:svcs-yymmdd.txt

to produce a text file that lists all the services currently running on your PC for some specific date. That’s where the yymmdd comes into play; if you make more than one such file in any given day, you can always add an hhmm timestamp at the end of the filename. You can then create other such files whenever you like, and use a file comparison program to compare the most recent version with the reference version of your choice.

The same technique works, more or less, works with the Sysinternals PSList utility from Microsoft. You can also run it at the command line, and direct the output to a file with a similar command

pslist >> C:procs-yymmdd.txt

to produce a text file that lists all the processes running on your PC for some specific date (note that a process named pslist will always show up, because it’s the process that makes creating the process list possible). This will enable the same kind of file comparison capabilities described for the services listing, however.


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