Protect Yourself Against Catastrophic Installs

SAN FRANCISCO (03/20/2000) - Installing software is dangerous. Every time you put another program onto your system, you run the risk of breaking something that's already there. And uninstalling a new app doesn't always fix a troublesome installation, because uninstall routines seldom do their job completely. So how do you install new software without risking disaster?

One way is to use PowerQuest Corp.'s SecondChance or Wild File's GoBack. These programs track all of the changes made to your hard drive. If an installation messes things up, either program can roll your hard drive back to an earlier condition.

A word of caution: Before you use one of these programs to restore your setup, back up your data. You might want to get Windows back to where you had it last Tuesday, but you don't want to lose a week's work in the process.

If you would rather not spend money or risk installing these programs, you can simply back up the Windows Registry before installing a new piece of software.

This won't protect you as well as GoBack or SecondChance, but it will let you restore the part of Windows that sustains the most damage after a bad installation.

You can back up the Registry in Windows Explorer. Select View*Folder Options (or View*Options). Click the View tab, select Show all files, and click OK. Now create a folder called C:\Regback. Go to the Windows folder, find the files system.dat and user.dat, then hold down as you drag those two files to C:\Regback.

If you need to restore the Registry, you must first exit to DOS. Do this by selecting Start*Shut Down*Restart in MS-DOS mode. At the DOS prompt, type the following commands, pressing at the end of each line:attrib -r -s -h c:\regback\*.*attrib -r -s -h c:\windows\user.datattrib -r -s -h c:\windows\system.datcopy c:\regback\*.* c:\windows /yattrib +r +s +h c:\windows\user.datattrib +r +s +h c:\windows\system.datEmpty the Temp Folder AutomaticallyCan I set something up to automatically empty the temp folder on a regular basis?

Francis Pham, West Chester, Ohio

You can safely remove anything in C:\Windows\Temp that was created before the current Windows session. So the best time to have it automatically emptied is during boot-up. Here's how to do that:

Select Start*Run, type the command sysedit and press to launch the System Configuration Editor. Once there, go to the autoexec.bat window. That batch file may contain text, or it may be blank. Either way, add these two lines:deltree /y c:\windows\tempmd c:\windows\tempSave the file and exit the program.

From now on, you'll get an empty temp folder every time you boot.

Run Programs at shutdown

Is there a way to run certain applications automatically when I close Windows?

Mark Leugner, Regina, Saskatchewan

What better time to scan, defrag, and back up your hard drive than when you're shutting down at the end of the day? Unfortunately, Windows doesn't provide a way to do this, so you'll have to go with third-party software.

I recommend Kill Win, a little program by BK Soft that lets you set up an icon to run one or more programs, then shut down Windows. There are two current versions of the program--one free and one shareware--and both are available at or on FileWorld. (Both also require the Visual Basic 6.0 runtime, also on FileWorld. See "Must Have That DLL," Answer Line, April, can use either version to automatically run other programs before closing Windows, but to do so with the free Kill Win 2.1.6, you'll have to create a batch file. Select Start*Programs*Accessories*Notepad. Assuming you've installed Kill Win in the C:\KillWin folder, enter the text c:\killwin\killwin /w. Press .

On the next line, type start /w, followed by the command to run a program. For instance, if you want to scan your hard drive, type start /w scandskw c: /n.

The 'start /w' will make the batch file wait before it goes on to the next command. Press to go to the next line. If you want to run more than one program, type each command on its own line, prefaced with start /w. Finally, type c:\killwin\killwin /s on the last line to exit Windows.

Save the file with the extension .bat, as in Close Windows.bat, and place it somewhere convenient, such as on your Start menu. When you want to shut down Windows, select Start*Close Windows rather than the usual Start*Shut Down. When you run this batch file, you'll get an error message telling you that it can't close the DOS window while it's running the batch file; don't worry about it.

The $15 Kill Win Pro makes running other programs before shutdown much easier.

Once you have installed and launched Kill Win Pro, select the Settings tab. On the Various things tab, check Execute another program before the execution of an action. Directly below, select until this app has closed, then execution.

For 'Location of the app', enter the command to launch the app you want to run before shutting down Windows. For the default action, select Shut down Windows.

Finally, click OK.

Now, to run your program and exit Windows, launch Kill Win Pro from the Start menu, then double-click its system tray icon. Or you can simply double-click the Kill Win Pro icon on your desktop. This shortcut, unlike the one in the Start menu, automatically runs Kill Win Pro's default action.

Securely Delete Senseitive Files

I have some sensitive data on a PC I'm donating to a local charity. I can delete the files, but I know there are utilities that can recover such deleted material. Can I destroy the files so they can't be recovered?

C. M. White, Newport News, Virginia

When you delete a file in Windows and empty the Recycle Bin, the physical space that the file occupied becomes available for other files. But until the space is overwritten, it still contains the old data.

You may already have a program that can overwrite data so it can't be recovered. For instance, Norton Utilities comes with a program called WipeInfo, which will securely delete a file, folder, or the free space on your drive. Or with Mijenix PowerDesk Utilities 98, you can render a file irretrievable by highlighting it and selecting File*Destroy.

If you don't have either program, download Jetico's BCWipe from or from FileWorld (it's free for noncommercial users). BCWipe integrates with Windows Explorer. To wipe a file off of your hard drive, simply right-click it in Explorer and select Delete with wiping. To wipe off deleted files, right-click the drive and select Wipe free space. Wipe options include a level of cleaning that meets a Department of Defense security standard.

A quick-and-dirty way to overwrite deleted files is to run Windows' Defrag, which moves files around on your hard disk, thereby overwriting many sectors occupied by "ghost files." The success of this method, however, is not guaranteed, as it does not write over every sector.

Overcome Halted Defrags, Part II

A few months ago, I offered some tips on helping Windows' disk scanner and defragger complete their jobs without freezing or starting over (see "Overcome Halted Defrags," Answer Line, January,

Several readers responded with these additional tips:

Go away and let it run: These programs can't finish their jobs if you keep using your computer. So take a break after you start a scan or defrag. Also, if you have a screen saver or any program that's set to kick in while your system is idle, disable it temporarily.

Defrag in Safe Mode: If you boot into Windows' Safe Mode, you are much less likely to run into some program that causes a conflict with the disk scanner or defragger. To get into Safe Mode, reboot your computer. If you are using Windows 95, wait until the words 'Starting Windows 95' appear, then press .

With Windows 98, as soon as the boot process starts, press and hold down . In either case, you'll eventually get to the Startup menu, where Safe Mode will be one of the options.

Find files from this article at Send questions to We pay $50 for published items. Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector writes and performs computer humor. His column Gigglebytes appears in 13 publications in four countries.


Street price: $50; Wild File; 888/945-3345; www.goback.comProduct Info. No. 601Norton Utilities 2000List price: $50; Symantec; 800/497-6180; Info. No. 602PowerDesk Utilities 98List price: $40; Ontrack/Mijenix; 800/645-3649;www.mijenix.comProduct Info. No. 603SecondChanceList price: $70; PowerQuest; 800/379-2566; www.powerquest.comProduct Info. No. 604Close Multiple ProgramsWant to close several programs at once? Aaron Wille of Denver showed me an easy way to do it. Start by clicking one of the programs on the taskbar. Then hold down while you select other programs you want to terminate. When they are all highlighted, right-click one, select Close, and watch them all go in one fell swoop. Unfortunately, the taskbar doesn't offer a 'select all' option.

So if you have many programs running, this trick doesn't provide you with a really easy way to close every one.