The tech helper: Avoiding junkware (Feature)
By Jay Dougherty Feb 28, 2011, 2:06 GMT
Washington - You start up your browser one day and see a new toolbar that you don't remember installing. Or you boot your Windows PC, and suddenly there are several new icons on your desktop from an unknown source. Or you buy a new PC, and it's already crammed with programs that you never intend to use.
How does all this junkware make it onto your computer? How can you avoid it in the first place or get rid of it once it's on your system? Read on to find out.
Q: The Yahoo! toolbar has somehow been installed on my computer, and it now appears on my browser. How does this happen, and how can I get rid of it?
A: Toolbar makers - including Yahoo!, Google, Ask, and others - have devised numerous ways to get you to 'opt in' to having their products installed. In the case of the Yahoo! toolbar, you might have accidentally agreed to its installation by installing a related application such as Yahoo! Messenger, or you may have fallen victim to the downright sneaky installation of the toolbar through Oracle's frequent updates of Java, a popular technology behind numerous programs and web applications.
You can also all too easily agree to install toolbars from Yahoo!, Google, or others these days by neglecting to de-select the option while installing any number of freeware applications, which increasingly include tie-ins to these unrelated applications. The trend is annoying, and unfortunately your only defense is vigilance while installing all applications. Merely clicking Next repeatedly during installation, for example, can get you a lot of software you don't want.
The good news is that most such unwanted junkware applications can easily uninstalled by using your operating system's normal uninstallation routine. The Yahoo! toolbar, for example, is listed separately in Windows' Programs and Features uninstallation dialog box.
Q: I bought a new computer, and it came with a lot of software installed that I do not use and do not want. How can I get back to a clean installation of Windows?
A: The easiest way is simply to use the Uninstall a Program link in the Control Panel to remove the 'junkware' that came pre-installed on your PC. While this method probably will not remove every trace of the pre-installed software on your computer, what remains should not affect the performance of the system.
If you want the peace of mind of knowing that there's nothing on your system that you haven't installed, however, you'll need to reinstall the operating system from scratch. To do that, ask for or download the 'reinstallation CD,' which is essentially the operating system installation disk. Keep in mind that if you take this route, you will need to have on hand the installation disks for any desired additional software that came with your computer as well as, perhaps, the driver software for peripherals such as scanners. Windows 7, however, does include a good number of drivers, so assembling driver files is typically not as critical as it used to be.
Q: I installed Acrobat on my computer, and now I have Acrobat toolbars in my Office applications. How can I remove them?
A: Removing the toolbars that the full version of Acrobat installs is not as easy as simply de-activating the toolbar from the View menu of your various Office applications. When you use this method, the toolbars just re-appear the next time you start your application.
That's because Adobe inserts these toolbars (without asking) by making changes to the load behaviour of your applications. To do away with the toolbars entirely, therefore, you have to edit the Windows Registry, where load behaviour is often defined.
Open the Windows Run dialog box (Windows Key-R), type regedit, and press Enter. In the left-hand pane of Regedit, expand the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE node by double-clicking its name or by clicking the right-pointing arrow to the left of its name. Then expand the following nodes: Software, Microsoft, Office. Under the Office node, you will see entries for the various Office applications: Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, etc. Expand the Word node, and then expand Addins.
Under Addins, you will see an entry for PDFMaker.OfficeAddin. Select that, and in the right-hand pane, double-click the LoadBehaviour entry. Change the value in the resulting dialog box from 3 to 0, and click OK. Repeat for all other Office applications. When you're finished, the Acrobat toolbar will no longer appear when you start Office applications.
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