Out of my depth?
July 26, 2007 8:09 AM   Subscribe

Should I attempt to clean up a "demo model" laptop running Windows Vista for a friend?

I have never used Vista before and I'm not entirely sure of what programs, etc. may have been put on the computer that can safely be removed. I am of average intelligence and have mid-level computer knowlege -- i.e., not enough intelligence to fix things that are wrong by myself, but enough knowledge that I can do internet searches for help.

Is the knowledge base about Vista sufficient that I could find help if I needed to? Should I even attempt this? (Secondary question: Any reason to convince my friend to let me install XP install on it?)
posted by parilous to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
No. Don't mess around with your friends' computers. If you do, you will forever be on the hook for fixing them.
posted by grouse at 8:21 AM on July 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Is there more junk on there than what came from the OEM disks? It's pretty easy to wipe and reinstall. And from what I hear, that's what the big companies do instead of taking time to troubleshoot. Be sure to backup any/all data first!

I'll disagree with grouse and say go for it. Information about programs shouldn't be too hard to find, that's not esoteric information. Be sure to get paid (case of beer, dinner, whatever) for your troubles though.

What's the problem with the computer? Is there a problem? I'm sure that if you were to disclose the problem, there would be someone who could give some specific advice.
posted by philomathoholic at 9:13 AM on July 26, 2007

It might not be so bad. The vista interface is a lot like XP. Go to control panel and click on Add/Remove programs. Remove everything he doesnt want. Create a new user for him. Google is your friend.

If that doesnt pan out try getting the install discs.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:46 AM on July 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

No. Certainly not.

Not unless your friend is a member of the opposite sex, really attractive to you, and likely to put out in exchange. Otherwise, see what grouse said.

If you do end up doing it, get Process Explorer from (free download from Microsoft). It will tell you what each program is, who made it, has quick Right-Click->Google This access. It's a great tool for figureing out what is running and where it came from.

Don't kill winlogon.exe or dwm.exe (they're part of the Windows OS) and don't kill ieuser.exe (it's part of IE7 on Vista).
posted by jeffamaphone at 10:11 AM on July 26, 2007

It might not be too bad. Back in college, I bought a floor unit it's setup was identical to what restore disk's setup.
posted by jmd82 at 10:34 AM on July 26, 2007

If you're going to do it, make sure you have a plan B. Find someone you can go to if you screw it all up. And remember, computers can sense fear.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:18 AM on July 26, 2007

Maybe you ought to point your friend to PC Decrapifier?

(disclaimer: I've never used it--or Vista--myself, but I've heard good things about it.)

Alternately, the add/remove programs route seems like it'd be mostly harmless--MS would never let you uninstall anything from them that is an essential part of the OS, so just avoid uninstalling anything that looks like driver software and you should be OK.
posted by arto at 1:15 PM on July 26, 2007

Update: philomathoholic, the reason I was needed was because the computer contained all of the programs from the OEM disks as well as everything else a bored CompUSA sales tech installs on the floor models -- everything from Bejeweled to Toshiba's Network Meeting program to Yahoo!'s toolbar and about 10 unnecessary programs loading on startup.

Everything went fine, except the stupid AOL installation (I know, I know -- she's switching to DSL). I used the Process Explorer program recommended by Jeffamaphone to make sure all the running processes were needed and was able to uninstall the resident Norton utilities for free anti-virus, firewall, ad blockers, and spyware protection. Sweet. I also installed Firefox, along with their new eBay plugin.

I didn't use PC Decrapifier recommended by arto because (a) I was working in VISTA and wasn't sure how'd it work and (b) I wanted to keep control over what was removed.

p.s.: Regarding the motivation/payment for helping, while she's attractive, she's in her 60s and I'm (not and) married. ;-)
posted by parilous at 8:35 AM on July 30, 2007

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