June 3, 2003
By Karen Kenworthy
IN THIS ISSUE
I've been diving into the overflowing Power Tools mailbag recently. It's a bit like diving in the coastal regions of South Pacific islands, with a couple of exceptions: When you dive in my mailbag you don't have to hold your breath. And in my mailbag you'll find more pearls. :)
Software Roll Call
One of those gems came from reader Gary, of Gary's Computer Service. In his message he wrote:
"It would be just too cool if you would write a program that would allow the printing of a list of all installed programs such as they appear in Add/Remove in Control Panel. If you already know how to do this or if there is an easy way to do it I would appreciate an email explaining how it is done."
"Of course, if you would write a program it would be compatible with WinNT/95/98/98SE/ME/2K/XP/2003 Server, wouldn't it? :-) Well, don't get upset! I COULD have included Win3.11 in that list."
Sorry Gary, but I can't help with Windows 3.x. But I can help with the other versions of Windows.
That's because all versions of Windows, from Windows 95 to Windows Server 2003, make this job relatively easy. The information displayed by the Control Panel's Add/Remove Programs applet is stored in the Windows Registry. And anyone, and any program, can view it.
For those of you who are comfortable exploring your Registry, the exact location of the information is:
There you'll find one key (similar to a folder on your disk drive) for each installed program. Within that key is important data about the program.
Among the interesting nuggets you may discover are the name of the program, the program's author or publisher, the date the program was installed, and what command line (if any) should be executed to uninstall the application.
If Registry spelunking doesn't sound like a fun way to spend the weekend, don't despair. Displaying this sort of information is a perfect job for the Computer Profiler...
Long-time readers may remember the Computer Profiler. This popular Power Tools examines a computer, and displays hundreds of facts about its hardware and the version of Windows that controls it.
Since its birth, the Profiler has displayed ten facts about your computer's memory (RAM). These include the total amount of memory installed, and the amount of memory currently in use. The program also discloses almost a dozen facts about your computer's CPU, including the CPU's make and model, revision level, and the number of CPU chips your computer has at its disposal.
The Profiler also describes in detail each of your computer's disk drives, network interfaces, printers, serial and parallel ports, and power management features. It also reveals secrets of your mouse, keyboard, time zone, and local language. You can even learn the hiding place of each of Windows' many special folders, including the folder containing your Start menu, your Send To context menu, and more.
All these investigations keep the Profiler pretty busy. But Gary wants more. So now, the Profiler displays a whole new batch of computer secrets.
At the very least, you'll see the name of each program installed on your computer. You may also see these other entries, depending on what the program's setup program recorded during the installation process:
Publisher. The person or company that wrote or publishes the program.
Version. The currently installed version or release level of the program.
System Component. If "Yes", the program is considered to be a part of Windows itself. Many versions of Windows will take special precautions to prevent alterations to this software.
Install Location. You guessed it. This is the drive and folder where the application can now be found. Often this entry is missing, perhaps because many programs consist of files stored in more than one location.
Install Source. This entry reveals where the setup file resided during the installation process. Often, this will be the root folder of your CD drive. If you downloaded the setup files, this will indicate where those downloaded files were saved.
Uninstallable. Once installed, some programs cannot be removed. If this is one of those, this entry will be "Yes".
Uninstall. Here you'll see the command line Windows runs, when uninstalling this program.
Install Date. If available, this is the date the program was installed on your computer.
When you look at the information displayed by the Profiler, you may notice something surprising. In most cases, the Profiler reports more programs than Control Panel's Add/Remove Programs applet! In some cases, you'll see many more.
Apparently, the Control Panel hides entries for programs that cannot be uninstalled. That's reasonable, since the Control Panel is only displaying programs so that they can be removed (uninstalled).
But the Profiler isn't so discreet. It displays information about all installed software, whether it can be uninstalled or not. You're very likely to see more information than Gary asked for, and more than you may have thought was available.
OK. That's all well and good. But Gary asked for a program that can print this information. So far, we've only seen the Profiler display these computer fun facts on our screens. Can those facts be printed too? Well, yes, indirectly.
You see, the Profiler can report its findings in several ways. For example, click the program's "Copy to Clipboard" button, and the currently displayed facts will be placed on the Windows clipboard. From there they can be pasted into another program, such as Notepad or your favorite word processor.
Once those programs receive your computer's vital statistics, they can print them, creating a permanent record of your computer's secret life. They can also save the information to a disk file, making it easy to archive and share the details of your computer's hardware and software.
Or if you prefer, the Computer Profiler can store its information directly to disk. Just click the "Save to Disk" button on the Profiler's main window. You'll be asked where the data should be stored, and the name to be given this new file. Once saved, your Profiler data file can be copied to another disk, sent via e-mail, imported into a database or spreadsheet, or used in any other way you like!
Would you like to know what your computer's been up to? If so, it's easy to give the new Computer Profiler v2.3 a try. Just visit the program's home page at:
As always, the program is free (for personal use). And programmer-types can download the program's free Visual Basic source code too!
Or if you prefer, get the latest version of every Power Tool, including the new Profiler, on CD. The disc also includes three bonus Power Tools, not available anywhere else. You'll find every back issue of my newsletter, and a few articles, in the CD's library. The CD even includes a special license that lets you use your Power Tools at work.
Best of all, buying a CD is the easiest way to support the web site and this newsletter. To find out more about the CD, visit:
There's more to say about the new Profiler. But it'll have to wait until our next get-together. Until then, if you see me on the 'net, or rummaging through my old setup diskettes, be sure to wave and say "Hi!"