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Sometimes, it's difficult to tell what kind of components are shared by installed programs, so it is wise to be cautious.

I no longer use Winfax. When I try to delete it from Program Files, a message says, "Renaming, moving, or deleting Winfax could make some programs not work." It takes up about 50 MB, but will removing it affect the computer's operation?

In this excerpt from Answercast #12, I look at how programs share files and suggest the safe route to go when un-installing programs.

Will removing this program harm my computer?

The short answer is "maybe." The real answer is probably not.

The reason those programs (or many programs) will give that kind of a warning is that they often install components (or are comprised of components) that could be used by other programs. In a case like Winfax, my assumption is that the components relating to faxing could be used by other programs installed on Windows.

What sort of programs?

Typically, they are other programs by the same manufacturer. The installer really has no way to know if those programs exist or if there is some other dependency on the program.

So, "Probably not." But let's be safe about this.

Be cautious

It's very easy to do this in a safe manner. Before uninstalling the program, take a system image. Take a complete backup of your machine.

That will backup absolutely everything as it is right now. Then uninstall the program.

After you've uninstalled the program, use your system for a little bit, and if everything's working great, you know that you haven't really run into a problem.

If you do run into a problem, if there is some component that suddenly stops working because it relied on a component from Winfax, then you can immediately restore to that system image and be exactly in the same place that you were before you performed the uninstall.

Installation CDs

The other approach, of course, is if you have the Winfax installation CDs.

If you've got the original installation media, you could (perhaps) safely uninstall without doing the image backup first - realizing that if there is something that depends on it, you may simply need to reinstall once you determine that there was a failure.

Article C5250 - April 25, 2012 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

April 26, 2012 3:34 AM

That exact message usually comes up when you try to delete the program files (and/or folders) directly. If you go via Add/Remove programs (Windows XP) or Programs and Features -> Uninstall a Program (Windows Vista & 7) you probably won't get that message. It goes without saying that the same advice given in this article still applies.

(If the program isn't actually listed in Add/Remove Programs list then deleting it's files might be the only way to delete it, but look for a proper installer of some kind first, ideally in Add Remove Programs, failing that there might be one on the start menu or lastly there might actually be an uninstaller alongside the program files that you are trying to delete, though if there was one it would likely have shown up in Add/Remove Programs or on the Start Menu as well).

April 26, 2012 2:50 PM

It is important to point out that you're not uninstalling WinFax, you're deleting the program files from the folder where they were installed. Usually, this is C:\Program Files\Symantec\WinFax (for older versions) and C:\Program Files\WinFax (for version 10.02 or later)

That warning message is a Windows warning, which will be displayed whenever you attempt to delete files from the Program Files folder without attempting an uninstall first. While this will remove the bulk of the WinFax files, along with the program data, it will not remove registry settings, the WinFax printer drivers and some Symantec files that were installed in System folders.

You should first uninstall using the Add/Remove Programs in Control Panel. If that fails, you can follow some uninstall instructions at the WinFax forums:

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