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Does This Download Help or Hurt?

Last Sunday's Help File column, in which I recommended a Windows utility called ZSoft Uninstaller, did not get quite the response I'd hoped for.

One of the first reader e-mails was this, from a Windows XP user who wrote in to say that she tried using this program to evict a couple of old graphics programs from her computer and got nowhere:

I installed the ZSoft Uninstaller after reading your column today. It didn't work. I have a couple of graphic programs on my Add/Remove list that can't be opened or removed. I've tried several times w/a TuneUp program & following instructions from the makers of the programs. I'm not even sure if they're actually on my computer or just the names are there. ZSoft didn't even list one of them as being on the computer. It never gave me the opportunity to remove the 2nd one. When I tried to close the program, my computer crashed & I had to reboot. I have removed the ZSoft Uninstaller. It caused me more problems than I originally had.

Another reader wrote that she couldn't get ZSoft to remove any of the unwanted programs on her machine--although at least it didn't crash the computer. And so far, I have yet to hear from any readers who said the program solved their problems. Hmm.

I did not make my original recommendation lightly. For many months, I'd been hoping to recommend a free but capable uninstaller to deal with programs that won't depart your computer through the usual "Add or Remove Programs" control panel. I thought about suggesting ZSoft after trying and rejecting two other freeware tools, then successfully using ZSoft to kick a program or two off my old laptop.

I also saw that this program had earned a four-out-of-five-stars rating at the popular Download.com site. After a reader reported that this application had worked to clean up his own computer of a few unwanted programs, I decided to go ahead with that Help File item.

I wish I could say I was surprised at this latest instance of readers telling me that a suggested cure was worse than a PC's current disease.

But I have heard too many stories of bizarre, incurable Windows malfunctions in my e-mail, Web chats and even paper letters. Every time, I read these reports--say, about Windows balking at downloading any more security updates from Microsoft's site or refusing to go into sleep mode--I am left scratching my head, wondering what advice I could give beyond the "we had to destroy the village in order to save it" remedy of wiping the hard drive and reinstalling everything from scratch.

It seems that, after a certain level of disrepair, accident or just bad luck, Windows can become ungovernable. Things fall apart, and there's nothing that you can do to put them back together. I had hoped that Windows Vista might fix this--but the problem seems as bad as ever in Vista.

Or maybe I just recommended an unworthy program on Sunday. If ZSoft Uninstaller has helped clean up your PC, I'd like to know about it. But if it hasn't, I need to know that too.


By Rob Pegoraro  |  October 26, 2007; 9:23 AM ET
Categories:  Feedback  
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