About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

February 19, 2013

Program Installations with a Twist, Part 1

This column was brought about by a group of us geeks discussing the current Windows operating systems.  Of course, this included the Windows Registry and the way applications are now installed on a Windows based computer.  Basically there was a consensus that we would like to do away with the registry and the way applications are set up.

Windows RegistryFirst, we need a very simple definition of the registry.  The registry is a component of Windows which sets up all hardware, software, and any attached devices in a large database with information about each of those items.  Basically, the registry contains settings for everything on and in your computer.  When you open an application the registry is pinged and all the data pertaining to that app is loaded into the program to help it run quicker and be more stable than in the past. 

Now let’s talk about installations of today’s applications.  Back in the day, a program installed all of its related elements into one folder.  For instance, if you installed a program named, "Double Click anagrams" it would be installed in a folder named something like, "DCAna."  Then when you wanted to delete the program from your computer all you had to do was delete that specific folder and you were done.

Today when you install a program, most often it will install many files for that application in one folder. (C:\Program Files\Program Name) makes some additions to the registry, then adds configuration files, DLL files and other library files all over your hard drive.  When you uninstall these applications using the Windows 7, "Programs and Features" module it attempts to uninstall all of them, but unfortunately sometimes misses some of them.  This creates a problem I had not heard of before but was informed about, "cruft." Crufts are the junk files left behind when an install is not totally successful.   

I think it could be nice to go back to the old days and take the easy way out to delete applications…completely and cleanly. 

In steps, "Portable Applications." I wrote about them over three years ago coming from a different angle.   

Sometimes today when you install a new program, usually one you download, you may have the option of installing it normally or in a portable version.  If you choose to install it as a portable version or get a program specifically designed to be a portable application, you can defeat the "cruft-monster."

Portable apps are entirely autonomous. When you install them, you pick one folder where you want it installed.  Once installed in that location you will find that program and all of its related files in that one, and ONLY ONE folder.  It puts absolutely no files anywhere else on your system and it runs as well as the original file which installed everywhere on your system.  They are completely self-contained which means that 1: you can move the folder to any other location on your computer or copy it to another computer and it works and 2: if you do not like the program, you can delete the folder it is in and it is gone…totally.

We will talk more about portable applications next week.

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