Updated: May 25, 2015; June 9, 2015
Operating systems are like humans. They start pristine and then slowly, inevitable wear and lint creep up. While it is impossible to click the undo button in real life, at least for most people, software comes with this lovely deterministic privilege. Except, by design, Windows is not the friendliest operating system when it comes to cleanup, removal of software and uninstallation of programs. Over time, your disk usage grows up, your registry bloats up.
This is a gross over-generalization, but for most people, this holds true. Which is why a program like Revo Uninstaller has its appeal, as it promises to help keep your system in a tiptop shape across numerous software installs and uninstalls. How? It traces everything programs do during the setup, and then rolls back when you want them purged. Simple. And now, let's see if the village gossip holds true.
I was asked to review the program by the vendor, and I received a free Pro license for this purpose. There's an extra bonus later on, so please stay focused and try not to skip too much. Anyhow, the installation is simple and fuss-free.
Revo Uninstaller comes with a simple if not too pretty interface that can be broken down into three main sections. The top piece is dominated by a system toolbar with quick access to all the common functions. In the middle, you get a list- or icon-view of all installed programs as well as those that have been set up through Revo Uninstaller. These are called traced programs. At the bottom, you get detailed descriptions about each function, step or option. The only thing that can be improved is the use of gradients and colors, which do not match the flat and rather contrasted theme in recent Windows editions, but that's a small issue.
It is quite easy to configure and tweak the Uninstaller. The program is simple and intuitive, which is essential for something like this. It also uses a rather unusual tabbed view arrangement in the middle pane, so when you open new tasks, they will all feature there, and you can easily switch between them.
Now, the fun part. What Revo Uninstaller does is, it lets you install programs through its interface. It will record all the changes to the registry and files into a log, so when you want to uninstall the program, it just goes through the log in the reverse order.
When you start an installation, you shouldn't do anything else. A large banner on the top of your screen will remind you of that. Basically, Revo will record system changes, and cease tracing the particular software installation when you click the stop button.
My first candidate was Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is known for its sizable footprint and tons of registry changes. Not bad in itself, but a useful exercise to see how well Revo can cope with this kind of software. Overall, it worked well, but took 3-4 times longer than a non-traced installation.
After the program has been installed, you can check the log and what it contains. You will get a separate view for the registry versus files and folders. And you will be amazed how much stuff really goes into a single installation. For Adobe Acrobat Reader, we're talking about roughly 3,000 registry changes and 1,500 files and folders created or modified on the disk. That's for a single program.
Uninstall a traced program
More importantly, we want to see how well Revo performs when you remove traced software. The process is quite easy, and much faster than during the installation.
For Adobe Acrobat Reader, Revo completed the task successfully, but there were some files left over from the process. Namely, to avoid any irreparable damage, Revo will assume a more defensive stance rather than delete files that shouldn't be touched. You will have to manually decide whether you can purge the extras. But it's much like any registry cleaner, a big and juicy gamble.
To verify, I ran CCleaner and checked the registry leftovers, and indeed, there were none related to the recent experiment. But that was only after I've manually deleted the remaining cruft.
I tried to trace another program - LibreOffice. Known for its cross-platform, open and even portable nature, LibreOffice should be a simple, obvious candidate for a clean installation. Again, the setup took a long while, and for a moment, I also considered stopping the process, but then it finished with a whooping 16,000 registry changes and 11,000 files, explaining the earlier slowness. Blimey.
Again, the removal was not 100% automated. There were some leftovers this time, too, and I had to use the Advanced Uninstall feature to figure out what might have gone wrong. As it turns out, LibreOffice did go away cleanly, but Revo had recorded a bunch of other changes that had happened during the lengthy installation. The operating system never really rests, and it was doing some silly background processing that added noise to the LibreOffice log. I wonder what would have happened had I deleted these keys and files? This functionality isn't perfect, and it needs to be improved.
To justify its price and usefulness, Revo Uninstaller also offers a bunch of extra tools, mostly for advanced users, allowing them to perform system maintenance from a single, unified interface. To wit, you get a utility to clean up the system startup list, delete junk files and more. Some of these tools demand respect, and you must be fully aware what you're doing, as you can cause harm.
For example, the Junk Files Cleaner is quite tricky in this regard. First, it's rather slow, and at a first glance, it does not seem to offer any great advantage over the built-in Windows cleanup tools. Second, there's no progress bar, so you might just think it's stuck or not doing any good job. Third, do you really know if you can delete those files?
You can also access and use a range of useful Windows maintenance tools and Control Panel items through Revo, and also clean your browser history.
If you don't feel like cleaning temporary files manually, you can run Revo Uninstaller in the Hunter mode, and then it will do the maintenance for you, in the background. Useful but perhaps an overkill.
Evidence Cleaner is another program that shows up in the list of available utilities, and it is definitely not something you want to use if you're not 100% certain you know what you're doing. It will only wipe the free space, but what if there's a bug or a problem of some sort. Are you willing to risk it? Besides, what's the purpose of scrubbing your disk if you're still using the operating system?
Problems and suggestions
Overall, Revo Uninstaller worked quite well, but there are some problems and niggles. As we've seen, it can be sometimes slow and installed programs have a much bigger footprint as reported through its interface than what the Windows Add/Remove utility reports.
Junk files, cleanup and associated woes are another thing to consider. But most importantly, leftovers after uninstalls are probably the most important piece. If you're not an expert, you will not really know what to do with Revo's logs. But if you are, then you probably do not need the program, as you will be using system imaging, snapshots, clean programs, and such. It's a sort of double-edged sword of nerddom.
But I think this can be vastly improved. Revo tells you not to do any activities while installing, which means it's monitoring the system as a whole rather than just the specific application. My suggestion would be to just trace the program and its children, much like strace, and then log the library and system calls and such. Then, Revo Uninstaller could also create an overlay filesystem, just to capture the program changes, and then commit them to the real system afterwards. It could make for a cleaner, more robust operation. Last but not the least, speed.
Now, the Revo folks have also kindly agreed to provide ten Pro version 3.1.2 single-PC licenses to Dedoimedo readers as a part of this review. I will be handing these out. To win them, you will need to exercise a bit of hard work. Ha ha, there's no such thing as free. What you need to do is write me an email, and in it, use a quote from one of Monty Python's movies, replacing a single word with Revo. As an example:
You mother was a Revo and your father smelled of elderberries.
The top 10 entries I deem the most funny will be added as an update to this review, and you will get your serial numbers in an email. This silly but practical and quite handy giveaway will run till June 8. There.
And so here we are. The funny part. This was a rather popular little contest, because quite a few readers chimed in with their Revo replacement Monty Python quotes. Of course, inevitably, we had TWO Spanish inquisition references, but I'm going to award only the first one, plus a bunch of other cool ones. In no particular order, the winners are: Emir, Barrow, Ivan, chachazz1, Steve, Patrick, Ted, Doral, Jose, and Mads, and these are their little jokes. Enjoy most profoundly.
That Revo is definitely deceased, and when I purchased it not 'alf an hour ago, you assured me that its total lack of movement was due to it bein' tired and shagged out following a prolonged squawk.
You don't frighten us, English pig dogs! Go and boil your Revo, you sons of a silly person!
Nobody expects a Revo Inquisition!
Let me tell you something, Revo. When you're walking home tonight and some great homicidal maniac comes after you with a bunch of loganberries, don't come crying to me!
He was not in the least bit scared to be mashed into a pulp
Or to have his eyes gouged out and his elbows broken
To have his kneecaps split and his body burned away
And his limbs all hacked and mangled, brave Sir Robin
His head smashed in and his heart cut out
And his liver removed and his bowels unplugged
And his nostrils raped and his bottom burnt off
And his penis ...
That's enough Revo for now, lads.
Weally Centurian I'm surprised to hear a man like you is wattled by a wable of wowdie wevos.
Does anyone else feel like having a leetle giggle ... when I mention my friend ... Revo Revicus?
... but apart from better sanitation and medicine and education and
irrigation and public health and roads and fresh water systems and baths
and public order... what has Revo ever done for us?
Every sperm is sacred, Every sperm is great. If a sperm is wasted, Revo gets quite irate.
Er, well, um, if you're dropping by again, do pop in. Heh. And thanks a lot for the gold and frankincense, er, but don't worry too much about the Revo next time. All right? Heh. Thank you. Good-bye.
Revo Uninstaller Pro is a decent, colorful program with a bunch of useful extras. It's first and foremost a handy tool for advanced users who want some extra control over their Windows installations, in an attempt to maintain a more pristine base line. Less skilled users can also utilize its virtues, but they will struggle with any situation that requires manual intervention.
The software works well, but it is a little slow, and it does not always differentiate between legitimate keys and files used by traced programs and system background noise. Those should definitely be improved. The tabbed interface is cool, but some of the tools should really be hidden away from newbies. As a perk, the theme should match the system defaults.
However, the biggest downside is the price. A single license costs a rather high USD69.25, and goes up to USD196.25 for a 5-PC license, so you should have a significant business need for this. True, it's cheaper than running a virtual machine with a separate Windows guest operating system, but still, it's not an impulse purchase. All in all, for those with good computer skills and such, it could be a mighty tool in their arsenal. Worth starting with the free version and growing from there. Overall grade, 8/10. And we're done.