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Add or Remove Programs \windows\system32\appwiz.cpl

Uninstall applications and add or remove Windows XP components.

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Control Panel Add or Remove Programs

Command Prompt appwiz.cpl


The Add or Remove Programs window has three options—or it has four, if Service Pack 1 or 2 is installed.

Change or Remove Programs

A list of all your installed applications, or at least those applications that were registered for uninstallation, is displayed here. The Add or Remove Programs dialog doesn’t actually perform any software removal; rather, it launches the uninstall utility that was registered when the application was originally installed. Some uninstallers have the capability to selectively add or remove components of the application, while others simply delete all the files that were copied during installation.

Select an application by clicking its name. Note that this listing can take a little getting used to, as the entries change size when they’re selected. If the application has provided such information, you’ll see the amount of disk space consumed by the installation, as well as how often the program is used. Click Change/Remove to launch the uninstaller for the selected program.

Uninstaller programs vary widely, but most will display a progress indicator and explain what they are removing, what they’re not removing, and whether or not you need to restart your computer. Along the way, though, you may be prompted to remove shared files. Each shared file is registered with Windows, along with a numeric counter; applications that use the file increase the counter when they’re installed and decrease the counter when they’re removed. When the counter reaches zero, uninstallers assume the files are no longer needed and prompts for their removal; unless you specifically know that a file should not be deleted for some reason, just answer yes (see Figure 4-6).

Figure 4-6. A throwaway tool added by SP1 (the SP2 version is shown here), Set Program Access and Defaults does little but hide Microsoft’s default applications from view

Add New Programs

There’s not much point to this section. The first button simply looks for the file, setup.exe, in your floppy drive and CD drive, and if found, launches it. The second button launches Windows Update (discussed later in this chapter).

Add/Remove Windows Components

The Windows Components Wizard lets you add or remove any of the optional programs that come with Windows XP. Select a category and click Details to selectively install or remove any particular component. Note the Description below the list for a one-line explanation of the component, or refer to the corresponding section in this chapter for more information.

Set Program Access and Defaults

Added as part of Service Pack 1, this new button (which appears on the Start menu and on the Add or Remove Programs screen) ostensibly makes it easy to change the system defaults for web browser, email program, media player, IM app, and Virtual Machine for Java. But in reality, it doesn’t change much at all. It doesn’t configure the software you select, nor assign file extensions to them (for example, opening HTML files in Firefox instead of the default Internet Explorer), nor uninstall the default programs. Instead, it simply lets you specify which of these programs can be accessed from the Start menu and desktop. That’s about it.

Click the button and you’ll see two prefab software lists. Click the Microsoft Windows radio button and XP is set up to use Microsoft applications—namely Internet Explorer, Outlook Express, Windows Media Player, Windows Messenger, and the Microsoft Virtual Machine. Click the Non-Microsoft radio button and it hands the reigns over to what it thinks are the competing products. (For example, IE might be replaced with Firefox, Outlook Express by Eudora, and so on.) Click the Custom radio button and XP will list all the appropriate programs from each category in drop-down menus; check the boxes to the right to be able to access the program from the Start menu; uncheck the boxes to hide them. Note: older programs that don’t know how to communicate with the Set Program Access tool may not show up in these lists.

Ultimately, this tool is about as useful as the Microsoft Catalog icon. You can easily ignore it, unless the sight of an Outlook Express icon repels you.


  • You can remove entries from the Change or Remove Programs list without actually uninstalling the corresponding applications using TweakUI (see Appendix D).

  • Applications are registered in Add or Remove Programs with keys in the Registry key, HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Uninstall.

See Also

“Control Panel”

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