Hack 17 Remove 'Uninstallable' XP Utilities


Think you can't uninstall Windows Messenger, WordPad and similar components? Think again. This hack shows you how.

Windows has always had a problem with uninstalling software, and it's particularly poor at uninstalling its own utilities, such as WordPad or Windows Messenger. Uninstalling these utilities can free up hard disk space if your hard disk is starting to fill up. And if you never use Windows Messenger, you most likely will want to uninstall it, because the program frequently launches itself automatically even after you've shut it down repeatedly, kind of like Dracula returning from the dead. It won't bother you any longer if you uninstall it.

To remove XP utilities and components, you normally choose Control Panel Add or Remove Programs Add/Remove Windows Components to get to the Windows Component Wizard, shown in Figure 2-18. To uninstall a utility or component, just follow the wizard's instructions.

Figure 2-18. The Windows Component Wizard

Ah, but there's a catch. A number of Windows utilities and components?notably Windows Messenger and WordPad?don't show in the Windows Component Wizard, so there's no apparent way to uninstall them. But you can, in fact, remove these components. XP has a Setup Information file that controls what appears in the Windows Component Wizard. If you edit this file, you can force these components to appear in the Wizard, and you can then remove them as you would any others.

To start, use Notepad or another text editor to open the Setup Information file, sysoc.inf, which is generally found in the C:\WINDOWS\INF folder. For safety's sake, make a backup of the file before editing it, so you can revert to it if you need to. You should also set up a System Restore point before making the changes. To set up a System Restore point, choose Control Panel Performance and Maintenance System Restore and then follow the instructions.

C:\WINDOWS\INF is a hidden folder, so if you want to view its contents, you will have to enable hidden folders by going into Windows Explorer and choosing Tools Folder Options View and choosing Show Hidden Files and Folders.

When you open the file, look for the line describing the program you want to uninstall. Lines in the file have the format:


Programs that are uninstallable all have the word hide (or HIDE) embedded in the string. When this word is included in the string, the program won't show up in the Windows Component Wizard. The Pinball game entry, which doesn't show up in the wizard, looks like this:


To force it to show up in the wizard, remove the word hide from the entry that refers to the component that you want to remove. For example, if you want to remove Pinball, edit its entry to this:


Save the sysoc.inf file, then run the Windows Component Wizard. The component will now show up in the wizard. Remove it as you would any other component.

Keep in mind that not all of the entries in sysoc.inf are as easy to understand as Pinball and WordPad. For example, if you want to remove Windows Messenger, look for the entry that starts with the text msmsgs. If you want to remove the Accessibility Wizard, look for the entry for AccessOpt. Table 2-4 lists the "uninstallable" programs their entries in the sysoc.inf file.

Table 2-4. "Uninstallable" programs and their sysoc.inf entries


What entry refers to


Accessibility Wizard


Multimedia components, including Media Player, Volume Control, and Sound Recorder


Communications components, including Chat, Hyperterminal, and Phone Dialer


Windows Automatic Update


Terminal Server


Distributed Transaction Coordinator




Windows Management Instrumentation


Pinball game




Windows Messenger

You may run into a few gotchas when trying to remove "uninstallable" components. On some systems, you simply won't be able to remove Windows Messenger, because Windows Messenger won't show up on the Windows Component Wizard even after you edit the sysoc.inf file. And some components, such as Terminal Server, will show up in the wizard if you edit the sysoc.inf file, but the wizard still won't let you uninstall them.

2.11.1 Hide Components You Don't Want to Be Uninstalled

You can use this same technique in reverse to hide components you don't want to be uninstalled accidentally. Simply put the word HIDE in the proper place in the entry that you don't want to show up in the Windows Component Wizard. For example, if you want to hide the uninstall entry for the fax utility, edit its entry by changing: