It’s that time of year again (at least, in the northern hemisphere — my apologies to readers south of the equator: try this in 6 months). Just as a house benefits from a once-yearly deep clean, so also does your PC. The process is simple to explain, but it can take a while to get through it for reasons which I will happily explain during this story. The three steps in deep-cleaning a PC are as follows:
1. Take an inventory of what’s installed and running on your PC
2. Uninstall or remove what you don’t use, or don’t want
3. Update what’s out-of-date
Step 1: Take an Inventory
For typical Windows applications, you can use the built-in Programs and Features widget from Control Panel to conduct this inventory. Or, if you’re like me you can use the free and excellent Revo Uninstaller instead. The following PowerShell command will also show you everything installed on your PC (including UWP apps, which do not show up in Programs and Features or Revo Uninstaller):
Get-AppxPackage -AllUsers | Select Name, Packagefullname
Warning! This produces voluminous output. On my production PC, the resulting list included 249 entries (which is pretty typical: most of my PCs produce somewhere between 230 and 260 such entries).
Decide What Must Go, Then Remove It
This task sounds easy, but may not be either clear-cut or straightforward when you get down to it. I started by uninstalling stuff I no longer use, or never used more than once. This took a while to dig through, but left my PC lighter by a dozen applications and an equal number of UWP apps. I like Revo Uninstaller because it does a little more serious clean-up after uninstalling the code (I use the “moderate clean-up” setting in that program). In some cases, I ended up removing older applications because their functionality had been rolled into newer versions of sibling programs. In my case, that meant removing a 2016 version of MiniTool Power Data Recovery (even though it still worked) because its functionality is now built into the commercial (for-a-fee) version of MiniTool Partition Wizard (MTPW).
In other cases, I removed applications because I didn’t use them any more or because they were out-of-date and I couldn’t figure out how to update them (see the concluding section on “What to Do with Web-based Meeting Programs?” at the end of this story). This included CCleaner (I don’t like the way it works any more), older versions of Corel PaintShop Pro (the installer doesn’t remove old versions when it installs new ones), older versions of the Java JDK (ditto), Evernote (have switched to OneNote), PatchCleaner (don’t use it any more: DISM works better), and more.
I haven’t yet dug deeply into the UWP apps except to get rid of Candy Crush and a few of the other built-in items I have no interest in running or using. Use your own best judgement here. You can remove anything that shows up in the PowerShell inventory I explained earlier. To remove one item at a time, cut its PackageFullName value and paste it into the Remove-AppxPackage -Package command sequence in PowerShell. Thus, for example, to uninstall Bing Weather, you’d enter this command:
Remove-AppxPackage -Package Microsoft.BingWeather_4.36.20503.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe
Repeat as needed.
After my inventory was done, I had 23 items in need of update or removal, according to SUMo. I kept 18 and got rid of 5.
[Click image for full-sized view.]
Update What’s Out-of-date
This is where things get interesting. I use KC Softwares’ Software Update Monitor Pro (SUMo Pro) because it checks everything I’ve got installed on my PC and provides (limited) update guidance on where to get updates. I’m not sure I would buy this again, though (I’d use the free version instead) because I had to figure out how to find the updates in 9 out of 10 cases myself, even using the tool. Why pay extra if you’re going to do the work yourself anyway? When it showed me that CCleaner was out-of-date, that reminded me I’m not using the program anymore (they changed its behavior and started bundling 3rd-party products with the download). I did use it to update a bunch of stuff though: Corel PaintShop Pro 2020, Samsung Easy Printer Manager, EasyBCD, Voidtools Everything, FileZilla, Java JDK and Java Runtime, Kindle, MediaMonkey, Node.js, Notepad++, and Zoom Meetings (which one of my primary contract employers uses for most of its meetings, though it is also starting to use Teams, thank goodness).
It took me the better part of two hours to work through this process. One item — AsrRuefi (Asrock Restart to UEFI utility) — turned out to be a “false positive.” According to the Asrock website my installed version (126.96.36.199) is current. Nor could I find a download for the supposed updated version (188.8.131.52) available for download anywhere reliable online. Another item — Nitro Pro — costs $128 to update. My current version still works perfectly, and I’m trying to decide if I really want to spring for that amount to make the version current. I’ve also emailed the program’s maker to see if an upgrade price lower than the full-price purchase might not be available. We’ll see about that one!
What to Do with Web-based Meeting Programs?
I found over a dozen entries in my installed programs list that related to web add-ons for Webex, GoToMeeting, Join.Me, RingCentral, Zoom, and more. What’s more, a lot of this stuff was out of date. Except for logging into the software and letting it update itself, there’s really no way to update this stuff. So, I elected to remove everything that was out-of-date. If I need it again in the future, the website will download a fresh (and presumably current) copy of the software as part of the “attend the meeting” process. You’d think these vendors might consider auto-sandboxing themselves, so they can peel themselves out of Windows once they’ve been used. Chances are that they’ll need a refresh upon next use anyway. Go figure.
Here’s what SUMo looked like after I was done with Cleaning. The AsrRuefi item is, as I mentioned, a false positive. And I’m still looking for a while to catch up on Nitro Pro for less than US$100, if I can find one. We’ll see.
Author: Ed Tittel
Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran. He’s a Princeton and multiple University of Texas graduate who’s worked in IT since 1981 when he started his first programming job. Over the past three decades he’s also worked as a manager, technical evangelist, consultant, trainer, and an expert witness. See his professional bio for all the details.