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Running Programs in MS Windows XP

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If an operating system is doing its job, you can take advantage of it and then forget it's even there. Michael Miller explains how to use Windows XP to launch, install, and remove programs, and then sweep the thought of it under the carpet.
  • Adding and Removing Software

  • Installing Programs from the Internet

  • Launching Programs

  • Launching Programs When Windows Starts

  • Switching Between Programs

  • Arranging Windows on Your Desktop

  • Closing Stuck Programs

  • The Bottom Line

  • TechTV Tip #4: Remove Ads from XP's Messenger

What use is an operating system if you don't have any software to run on it?

In many ways, the operating system exists as the infrastructure that enables you to run various software programs on your PC. If the operating system is doing its job, you almost forget that it's there. You use the OS to launch your programs, but after they're launched, it stays out of your way.

In this chapter I show you how to use Windows XP to launch your programs. I also show you how to use Windows XP to install and remove programs from your computer system. I even give you a few tips on what to do if a program freezes on you.

When you get your programs up and running, however, you're on your own!

Adding and Removing Software

Even though most new computers come with a decent selection of software installed, at some point in time you're going to want to add something new. When you need to add a new program—or remove an old one—you'll find that Windows XP works pretty much the same way Windows 9X/Me did. Which means, of course, that if you already know how to add and remove software, you don't have much to learn.

Installing New Programs

Almost all software programs have their own built-in installation utilities. Installing the software is as easy as running this built-in program.

If the program you're installing comes on a CD-ROM, all you have to do is insert the program's main or installation CD in your computer's CD-ROM drive. The program's installation program should then start automatically, and all you have to do is follow the onscreen instructions.

If the installation program doesn't start automatically, you have to launch it manually. To do this, click the Start button, click the Run icon, and then type x:\setup into the Run dialog box. (Replace x with the letter of your CD-ROM drive.) Click OK to run the installation program. (If this doesn't work, know that some older programs name their installation programs "install" instead of "setup," so change the filename if necessary.)


If you're installing from floppy disks, you launch a program's setup program by inserting the first floppy disk into your PC's disk drive, selecting Start, Run, typing a:\setup into the Run dialog box, and then clicking OK.

If the program you're installing doesn't have an automated setup program, or if you prefer to install a new program manually, you can run Windows XP's Add or Remove Programs utility.

Follow these steps:

  1. From the Control Panel, click the Add or Remove Programs icon.

  2. When the Add or Remove Programs utility opens, click the Add New Programs button (shown in Figure 4.1), and then click the CD or Floppy button.

Figure 4.1Figure 4.1 Manually installing a new program.

  1. When the Install Program from Floppy Disk or CD-ROM dialog box appears, insert the program's installation disk or CD in the appropriate drive and click the Next button.

  2. Windows now searches for the installation program and displays the command line in the Run Installation Program dialog box. If the Wizard did not find the installation program, click the Browse button to locate the program manually.

  3. Click the Finish button to run the program's installation program and be sure you follow all the onscreen instructions to complete the installation.

Removing Old Programs

Removing a software program from your system can be easy—or it can be complicated.

Most newer Windows programs include their own utilities to uninstall the program automatically. If you want to uninstall a program, you should use this publisher-supplied utility when it exists. You can generally find the program's uninstall utility in the folder where the program's other files reside.

If you want to remove a Windows application that doesn't include its own uninstall utility, you should use Windows' Add or Remove Programs located in the Control Panel. This utility identifies every component of the application you want to remove, and automatically deletes them from your hard disk.

To remove a software program from your PC, follow these steps:

  1. From the Control Panel, click the Add or Remove Programs icon.


A well-behaved uninstall program should not remove your personal files, even if they are stored in the application's folders. Just to be safe, however, you should move any personal files you want to keep to a new folder before removing the application.

  1. When the Add or Remove Programs utility opens, click the Change or Remove Programs button (shown in Figure 4.2). This part of the dialog box looks a bit different from the one in Windows 9X, in that it provides more detail about the programs listed. It works the same way as the old Windows 9X version, however.

Figure 4.2Figure 4.2 Choose a program to remove from your system.

  1. Select the program's name from the Currently Installed Programs list, and then click the Change/Remove button. (For some applications, this is a single Remove button.) If prompted, confirm that you want to continue to uninstall the application.

  2. Answer any other prompts the uninstall utility presents for removing the program. Some programs, such as Microsoft Word, may require you to insert the original installation disks or CD to perform the uninstall.

  3. After the uninstall routine is completed, click the Close button to close the Add or Remove Programs utility.


If you've manually created any Start menu or desktop shortcut icons for the deleted program, the uninstall program might not know they exist—and thus might not delete them. If this is the case, you have to delete these icons manually.

If the program you want to remove does not have an automatic uninstall utility, you have to delete the program's files manually, using My Computer. The problem with trying to delete a program in this way is that miscellaneous files associated with the program are often scattered throughout various folders on your hard disk. You may want to purchase a third-party uninstall program (such as Norton Systemworks, which includes the Norton CleanSweep utility; learn more at to find and remove all program remnants from your system.

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