New Year’s Technology Resolutions, #3: Uninstall What You Don’t Use

Now that you’ve gotten your system fully caught up, it’s time to think about what programs you use, and to uninstall the ones you don’t use.

Before you remove anything from your computer, make sure you have the necessary disks or other backups in case you remove something you decide you’d want after all later, or essential system software. More and more these days, the manufacturers are leaving out the recovery CDs, counting on you to burn your own. If you don’t want to bother with that, in many cases you simply need to contact the manufacturer and have them mail you recovery CDs.

The uninstallation process is pretty straightforward in Windows XP. Go into your Control Panel (click the Start button, then click “Control Panel”), then click “Add or Remove Programs” from the screen that comes up. If you’re in Classic View, “Add or Remove Programs” is still there, between “Add Hardware” and “Administrative Tools.” Go ahead and double-click the “Add or Remove Programs” icon to see the list of programs installed.

First, identify the programs you recognize. It’s easiest to start with the big names. For example, let’s say you want to remove Mozilla Firefox. It’s a popular web browser, but maybe you’ve decided you’re going to stick with Microsoft Internet Explorer, or try Google Chrome. Click once on Mozilla Firefox, then click the “Remove” button. Follow the procedure that follows, and restart the computer if prompted. Repeat for all the programs you know, that you know you want to remove.

In Windows 7, the procedure is nearly identical. Go to Control Panel from the Start (or “Windows”) button, then find the “Programs” icon, where it says “Uninstall a program.” From there, you’ll see the list of programs, but when you click on one, instead of getting a “remove” button, you’ll have to click “Uninstall” at the top of the list, or simply double-click the program you’ve selected to begin the removal process. Again, follow that through until you’re told it’s successfully removed, then repeat as desired for the other programs you know.

Identifying the ones you don’t know, on the other hand, can be tricky. When you buy a new computer, the manufacturer may load it up with trial versions of otherwise useful software, samples of programs you’d never use, and games you have no interest playing. If it’s a brand new computer onto which you haven’t put anything of your own yet, go ahead and remove anything undesired, but remember my warning at the beginning of this post about having the important disks in case you later want or need something you’ve removed.

On a Mac, the process is straightforward. Find your “Applications” folder in “Finder” (the blue happy face on the left side of your Dock), then drag the program you want to remove to the Trash (or right-click, or control-click and choose “Move to Trash,”) then empty the Trash. There are many third-party programs dedicated to clearing out the supplemental files you may miss when dragging the main program to the Trash, but since Mac OS X does not include its own uninstaller the way Windows has since ’95, I’m content with just dragging the application icon directly into the Trash. If you want to be extra tidy, simply search Download.com’s Mac section for “uninstall.” There you’ll find programs like CleanMyMac, AppCleaner, AppZapper, etc.

Deleting Apps from iPods, iPhones, and iPads is even easier still. Simply press the icon for the app you want to remove and hold until all the icons start to jiggle, then click the X in the upper-left corner of that icon to delete it. Once it’s gone, simply hit your device’s home button at the bottom of the front, to stop the jiggling.

As always, these are general tips, and your specific case may need more in-depth explanation. I am available by e-mail for any specific questions you may have, and you can also comment below. Enjoy freeing up some space for the new year!

UP NEXT: Resolution #4, Back It Up

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