Monitor changes made during software installation and cleanly uninstall programs with Comodo Programs Manager

Almost three years back I wrote about Zsoft Uninstaller, a program that allows users to track changes made to their computers during software installation so when it comes to uninstall, the software in question can be cleanly uninstalled. Comodo Programs Manager is another program that allows users to monitor changes to their computers during software installation and to perform clean uninstalls. Comodo Programs Manager just does it in a bigger, better, and faster way.

What Is It And What Does It Do

Comodo Programs Manager is a program by Comodo CA, the company popularly known for its freeware Comodo Firewall/Comodo Internet Security. As the name may suggest, Comodo Programs Manager is a program manager; it tracks the changes made by software during installation and thus allows users to cleanly uninstall software by undoing the changes programs made during installation. However, to describe CPM (Comodo Programs Manager) in one sentence doesn’t do it justice because it is more complex than just a changes-tracker.

CPM allows users to:

  • Track software installations and record the changes made by programs during install.
  • Cleanly uninstall software.
  • Uninstall multiple programs at a time. (In succession, one after another.)
  • Undo uninstalls by restoring from backups. In other words, re-installing a program after you have uninstalled it, restoring all files and settings as before. [Works for Monitored and DB Monitored programs only.]
  • Create self-extracting installers for installed programs. In other words, creating an installer for a installed program that allows you to install that program, with all files and settings, on any computer at any time. [Works for Monitored programs only.]
  • Uninstall drivers and services.
  • Enable/disable “Windows features”.
  • Uninstall Windows updates.

Clean Uninstalls

Where most changes-tracker programs fail is uninstalling programs that were not tracked. CPM does not fail. You see for CPM, software fall into three categories – Not Monitored, DB Monitored, or Monitored:

Monitored programs are programs who’s installation was tracked by CPM. Not Monitored programs are programs who’s installation was not tracked by CPM (typically these are the programs you installed before installing CPM). DB Monitored programs are programs not tracked by CPM but are present in Comodo’s software database; data stored in this database tells CPM the changes DB Monitored programs make.

Monitored and DB Monitored programs can be cleanly uninstalled. Not Monitored programs cannot be cleanly uninstalled, since they were not monitored and Comodo’s database has no information on them. For Not Monitored programs, the standard program uninstaller is used.

Using Comodo Programs Manager

CPM has little to no learning curve; it is easy to use as can be.

Tracking Installations

There is absolutely nothing you have to do to make CPM track software installations. After you install CPM, it automatically starts monitoring installations. (No CPM program is “always on” but there is a CPM service that is always running.) It will automatically detect when you are installing something and automatically track the changes. You don’t even have to wait for any scanning or any such action; just install programs like normal. You know CPM has monitored an install when you see a popup message, in the bottom-right corner of your screen, similar to the following:

If – by chance and for whatever reason – CPM does not track an installation, you can force it to track an install by right-clicking on an installer EXE and clicking Install and monitor setup using CPM.

Uninstalling Software

To uninstall a program, simply launch CPM, go to Programs, and click on the program you want to uninstall. If you pick a Monitored or DB Monitored program you will be able to perform a Complete Uninstall (i.e. clean uninstall):

Complete Uninstall consists of using the program’s standard uninstaller and then deleting leftover files, folders, and registry entries:

If you are uninstalling a Not Monitored program, you do a Standard Uninstall, i.e. you run just the program’s normal uninstaller:

If you want to uninstall multiple programs at a time, simply hold Shift on your keyboard and select the programs you want to uninstall. After that, click on the Complete Uninstall/Standard Uninstall button (depending on which one appears) and each program will be uninstalled, one after another. Take note if you select Not Monitored and Monitored/DB Monitored programs together, the button will say Complete Uninstall but the Not Monitored program(s) will only do a standard uninstall.

Undoing Uninstalls

To undo uninstalls, you need to first enable the automatic backup feature. This is done by going to Settings and checking Make backup when uninstalling a monitored application:

Once you enable that option, backups will automatically be made whenever you uninstall a Monitored or DB Monitored program. You cannot undo uninstalls/make backups for Not Monitored programs. (Note: You can customize where the backups are stored, how much they are compressed, and to encrypt/password protect from Backup Settings.)

After you uninstall a Monitored or DB Monitored program, you can undo the uninstall by going to Programs -> Restore Backup, selecting the program you want to restore, and clicking Restore:

(You have the ability to not restore specific files and registry entries, if you wish.)

When restoring you may be asked if you want to overwrite existing files and registry entries:

(Click Yes or the undo won’t happen.)

Once the restore has finished, you will be asked to restart your computer so the changes can take place:

Creating Self-Extracting Installers

To create a self-extracting installers for Monitored programs (Not Monitored and DB Monitored programs cannot create self-extractors), simply go to Programs, select the program you want to create the self-extractor for and click Make Installer:

After that, select where you want to store the installer and let CPM do its thing. When done, CPM will show you a message similar to the following:

Managing Drivers, Services, Window Features, and Windows Updates

Uninstalling drivers/services, enabling/disabling Windows features, and uninstalling Windows update is as easy as uninstalling programs. Simply run CPM, go to the respective tabs…

…and select the driver/service and uninstall…

…or select the Windows feature and enable/disable…

…or select the Windows update and uninstall:

Note: In the above screenshot you see no “Uninstall” button because I cannot uninstall Windows updates on my specific computer. If your computer supports uninstallation of Windows updates, you will be (should be) able to uninstall them from CPM.

Other Benefits

Aside from what is mentioned above, CPM

  • Has the ability to detect and remove failed/partial uninstalled programs (enable “Force Uninstall” from Settings).
  • Removes locked leftover files from an uninstall automatically after a reboot.
  • Adds entries in Windows Explorer’s right-click context menu to manually monitor/install software with CPM or uninstall software with CPM.
  • Has a built-in search box making it very easy to find the specific program/service/driver/feature/Windows update you are looking for.

Comodo also claims:

  • Every time you run an installer for a program, CPM checks the installer for malware using Comodo’s cloud technology.
  • CPM has the the ability to keep your applications up-to-date using Comodo’s “constantly updated” database.

I say “claims” because there are no options or settings found in CPM’s program interface to enable, disable, or tweak these two features. There isn’t even the slightest indication in the program interface that these features exist. I can confirm, as per what my firewall is telling me, CPM does make an outbound connection when an installer is run so presumably that connection is it checking for malware. I cannot confirm or deny if the software update feature really exists nor, if it exists, how it works.

It is highly disappointing Comodo decided to include these two features in CPM but gave users absolute no control over them. For example, I don’t want CPM checking all installers for malware using Comodo’s cloud database nor do I want CPM to try to update my software but, unfortunately, there appears to be no way to turn these two features off. (The “Update Settings” found under Settings is for Comodo Programs Manager updates — not for updates for your software.)

One Major Annoyance

When uninstalling software, CPM lists the files/folders and registry entries that will be deleted. Because the paths to these files and registry entries are typically long, CPM shortens them. The issue is there is no way to view the full paths without increasing the width of CPM’s program window. For example, you cannot see the full path by hovering your mouse of a shortened path or by double-clicking on it.

This is majorly annoying because some people (like myself) want to double-check and make sure CPM is modifying the right files/folders/registry entries. We cannot double-check if we can’t see full paths.

Comodo Programs Manager vs RevoUninstaller Free

CPM is a changes-tracker. RevoUninstaller Free is a leftover-scanner. The difference is CPM knows exactly what changes a program makes, thus makes it easy to identify exactly the leftover files/folders/registry entries. RevoUninstaller Free, on the other hand, scans your computer for leftover files/folders/registry entries after uninstalling a program; it doesn’t know exactly what is leftover, rather using advanced scanning algorithms to identify files/folders/registry entries that weren’t deleted.

There is no comparison between the two. At least not in theory. In theory, CPM is the better uninstaller hands-down because it tracks installations and undoes all changes made; it knows exactly what changes programs make. RevoUninstalle Freer, on the other hand, has an element of guessing, although it makes educated guesses. I say “in theory” because no program is perfect. While in theory CPM should never delete the wrong files/folders/registry entries and should always completely and cleanly uninstall monitored programs (whereas RevoUninstaller Free can sometimes mess up, although it has a good track record of not messing up), there is always the chance that CPM bugs out. Now, as per my tests, CPM works really well so don’t let my theorycraft scare you. However, CPM has not withstood the same test of time that RevoUninstaller Free has. So while on paper CPM is better, in reality only time will decide that.

Bluescreen of Death

I don’t know what it is with Comodo software but they seem to cause more bluescreens of death than any other products I know. Reading some user feedback on Comodo Programs Manager, it seems like some people are having issues with CPM and getting the bluescreen of death. For me, CPM works perfectly (no bluescreen of death) but I myself have had bluescreens of death using other Comodo products in the past. So be careful if you decide to get CPM. You may have to enter Safe Mode to uninstall CPM if it causes your computer to crash.

UPDATE: After using Comodo Programs Manager for over a year, I’ve never had a bluescreen of death.

Privacy Concerns

Two years ago I called Comodo out on potential privacy concerns. So it goes without saying I took a close look at Comodo Programs Manager’s EULA and Comodo’s privacy policy.

Now I am not a legal mind in the least, so I may be wrong; but I found nothing of major concern in the EULA. There is one section (section 3.5 Usage Statistics) that talks about Comodo being able to collect various usage statistics; however that section is in regards to a Limited Guarantee that doesn’t apply to Comodo’s freeware products.

Comodo’s privacy policy is a bit more gray. It has, of course, been updated since I last posted about Comodo’s questionable data collection policies; the privacy policy was last updated in February of 2011. The privacy policy states:

Personal information is collected from customers only after obtaining consent, which is obtained when customers are… downloading a product…

Reading on further it appears the personal information Comodo is referring to is information we explicitly give Comdo ourselves:

Downloading a product will often require the input of personal information. This information will be used by Comodo or its affiliates to contact the customer about Comodo’s products and services, including product updates and associated promotional material. This information may also be used as collated general demographic information to improve Comodo’s products and services.

Since downloading Comodo Programs Manager requires no input of personal information – you are asked to give your e-amil address but that is optional – concerns about this particular point is more or less nullified. What is a bit more concerning is Comodo’s willingness to share “aggregated demographic and other information” with its affiliates and business partners who “have established similar privacy policies”:

Comodo will share aggregated demographic and other information with our partners and affiliates. Information provided to Comodo will be protected by Comodo and not sold or rented to any unrelated third parties without the express consent of the information provider, except that Comodo may disclose data to its affiliates and business partners who have established similar privacy standards, when legally obligated to do so, or if disclosure is required to protect the rights over Comodo, Comodo’s customers, or the users of Comodo’s services. Comodo may also share aggregate demographic data that does not contain any personally identifiable information.

Validation is an essential step in receiving a Certificate from Comodo CA. This validation may require verifying your information with a third party as described in the Comodo CPS. Comodo CA may disclose the information provided to the extent necessary to verify the certificate application.

As a non-legal mind what concerns me the most isn’t the sharing of aggregated demographic information. Rather, I would like to know exactly what “other information” is being shared with partners and affiliates and how Comodo determines what constitutes “similar privacy policies”.

Overall, after looking over the EULA there doesn’t appear to be any points of major concern about privacy with Comodo Programs Manager. Comodo’s privacy policy is a bit more gray but it is workable — there is are no obvious reasons to “avoid it” or “embrace it”. Combine that with the fact that Comodo made Comodo Program Manager’s Application Contribute Program (where you send back program data to Comodo to build the database used to uninstall DB Monitored programs) out-in instead of opt-out (i.e. you aren’t participating in the program by default — it is disabled upon install and you must enable it if you want to participate), and I come up with the conclusion that I see no major privacy issues with Comodo Programs Manager.

Conclusion

Comodo Programs Manager is an excellent, excellent program. I dare say it puts RevoUninstaller Free to shame. Bye, bye RevoUninstaller Free and hello Comodo Programs Manager. The only real concern I have with Comodo Programs Manager is the inability to disable the malware check and applications update features mentioned above. Hopefully Comodo will add the ability to disable these two features in future updates.

You can grab Comodo Programs Manager from the links below:

Version reviewed: v1.3dotTech Favorite

Supported OS: Windows XP or higher

Download size: 10.8 MB

Malware status: VirusTotal malware scan (0/43)

Comodo Programs Manager homepage [direct download]

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30 comments

  1. Janetb

    @Ashraf:

    #2 I never do anything else on the computer while installing. I always close all windows as well. I am referring to the things it does automatically–like programs that check for updates, or Avira updating its viruses, or things Windows does in the bckground that I don’t know about–there are always an awful lot of processes and services running….

    #3 How does it handle shared files when uninstalling?

  2. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @giovanni: No idea. Have you tried it?

    @Janetb: 1) Now I’ve been using Comodo Programs Manager for a few months and haven’t had a BSOD of yet. It appears BSOD-free.

    2) From what I can tell, yes it does but intelligently. This could be a problem if you are doing other things in the background. My best suggestion to stay safe is to not do anything else while installing.

    3) I’m not sure what you are referring to.

    4) No, if I am understanding your question correctly.

    You are welcome!

  3. Janetb

    @Ashraf:

    1. I’ve been looking for a program like this ever since I found that the oldies (Installwatch Pro, Universal Extractor) don’t seem to work on Win7 64-bit—have you found that, or is it just me? So this seemed great—but you scared the heck out of me with the BSOD bit!!! I’ve never had one and don’t relish the possibility of the experience….Is there a history of this with this particular program? Just how much of a risk is this??

    2. Does it track whatever else is going on in the background during installation?? Wouldn’t this be a real problem?

    3. When it tells you an uninstall will break another program, does it let you uninstall simply without deleting the shared files–or does it just tell you that you can’t do the uninstall?

    4. Does this let you see what is in an installation file before installing? I’d like to have an idea how much a new app will be playing around with my registry, system files, and shared files.

    Thanks for your help!

  4. giovanni

    Hey Ashraf!!

    In your article you wrote that this software can create self-extracting installers for installed programs, meaning users can install that program, with all files and settings, on any computer at any time.

    So the question is: does this apply for GAOTD software too??

  5. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @WobblyWombat: You are welcome! LMAO at the three thumbs comment — thanks tejas for that, he made it for me.

    @Jeanjean: You are welcome!

    @Jeanjean: Interesting. Never really noticed that issue myself but I appreciate you bringing it to our attention.

    @ebony: You are kindly welcome! :-)

    @Giovanni: Not sure. Try it and let us know.

    @alain: You are welcome! Happy ’12!

    @Mr.Dave: You are welcome!

    @giovanni: I’ve heard of RegShot, can’t remember if I ever tried it. I may have.

    @ebony: Hmmm, not sure why you are having that issue but I’m glad you got it solved!

    @giovanni: Thanks for the tip — I’ll look into it later when I have time.

    @Haakon Aas: Happy New Year! I hope dotTech prospers and lives almost forever :-)

    @throkr: That’s true. Love it or hate it but Microsoft has made improvements in some areas for Vista/Win7.

    @Stickler: Hmmm, which installs did it not track? All the ones I tried it tracked just fine.

  6. Stickler

    I’ve been using this for awhile and it *mostly* works very well EXCEPT that it fails to track some installs; making it less reliable than others. Still, the automatic tracking is quite nice…when it works.

  7. ebony

    @ebony:

    UPDATE PROBLEM SOLVED FOR NOW.
    I had deleted the program that I wanted to get rid of using another sw.
    I dl and installed it again and used Comodo to uninstall and guess what? It worked without a hitch.
    I don’t know if this is called troubleshooting or not because I am not sure what I did EXACTLY.
    However all is well and just thought I would share in case anyone else encounters the same problem.

  8. ebony

    I tried using this program to delete a file and it stated that my “zip” program would also be deleted since it was dependent on that file.

    That made no sense to me how a zip file was dependent on a program. I did use the zip program to open the file but what does that have to do with anything.

  9. giovanni

    To monitor changes in the registry of your system during or after installation and the uninstall any software you want to, you can also combine these 2 little but extremely powerful unknown FREE tools:

    http://www.softpedia.com/get/Tweak/Registry-Tweak/Reg-Shot.shtml

    http://www.softpedia.com/get/Tweak/Registry-Tweak/Registry-Key-Remover.shtml

    The first one mentioned above (RegShot) takes a snapshot of your Registry comparing it afterwards with a second one taken after installing a program in your PC.

    Then, you can use the second app above (REGISTRY KEY REMOVER) to remove ALL the registry keys and files based on the compare log provided by the first tool mentioned above (RegShot).

    Both work great for me!!

    Ever tried them, Ashraf??

  10. Mr.Dave

    I just checked out Comodo’s web site. Ashraf, they need to hire you to write descriptions!

    Looking at their web page alone, I would have no idea what the program is for. It seems to be based on patented technology, it tracks changes to the system, and as a benefit they designed it so anyone can use it. Oh yes, it has a user interface.

    In big letters off to the right, it also says:
    “Active monitor” – it can turn my monitor on? Or does my monitor need to be on when this runs?
    “Clean Partial Uninstall” – it does partial uninstalls, but it does them cleanly?
    “Remove Drivers and Services” – don’t need those things anyways?

    Your review told me so much more about the product than Comodo could. I would never consider downloading it based only on what their marketing experts think I should know. I’ll still give it a try. If it ranks as a Favorite on your site, I expect it will be pretty good :-)

  11. Mr.Dave

    From your review it sounds like Comodo is using a good approach. I’ve tried uninstallers from Ashampoo and Magix that take a snapshot before an install, then install, then take another snapshot after. By comparing the snapshots they determine what changed.

    Two problems: the snapshots take 5-10 minutes each, and the comparison many more minutes, on my system (and I’m also impatient on such things). Second issue just scares me: these programs don’t know WHAT changed the system. Windows and many other programs & services are always updating and changing things in the background, with no way to stop them during an install. Installing something later could easily remove parts of these other programs that just happened to change at the same time.

    So I’ve been quite happy with Revo’s free uninstaller… until now. It sounds like Comodo’s Program Manager tracks changes made by the installation process. This would be much faster and safer than any other approach. I’m looking forward to trying it out. Thanks once again, Ashraf!

  12. alain

    I wish you all a good 2012 year !
    Another great app and for free to well begin to new year , it’s promising .
    Thank you Ashraf for your work fo the community , it’s always a pleasure to read you .
    Best regards from France .

  13. jayesstee

    @Ashraf: You said: “I was getting annoyed by the extra time I have to wait during an uninstall while Revo scans the computer (I am impatient), especially if I was going to purchase it.”
    I recently (6 weeks ago) bought and installed Revo Uninstaller Pro. I can confirm that even with the ‘Deep Scan’ option (the most severe), waiting time is only a fraction of that with Revo Uninstaller Free. Also it seems to remove more of the file/folder and registry entries. I previously used Ashampoo Uninstaller and Revo Free, but Revo Uninstaller Pro seems much quicker and more efficient. Of course $40 is a deterrent, but currently Revo are offering a 50% discount at: http://www.revouninstallerpro.com/
    It is a ‘Holidays Special Offer’, so at $19.62, it won’t last long.

  14. tejas

    @throkr: I purchased Revo Pro for the same reason, and have never regretted it.
    I’ve never tested the installation monitor feature either………… haven’t felt the need.

    But, even if I wasn’t happy with Revo, after 2 fiascoes with Comodo Firewall, on 2 different machines, I’d never use anything Comodo makes again.

  15. Bruce Fraser

    @WobblyWombat:

    Re: “it will tell you when uninstalling a program may break other installations”

    I’ve often wondered about this. I don’t know what Comodo says about this, but the thing I’ve thought about is a file which is used by both programs. This may be an .DLL tool placed in the Windows folder. When one program uninstalls it, the other can’t find it and fails.

    I think Windows 7 is much tighter on disallowing changes to its own folders.

    Anyhow, my ignorance about the inner workings of Windows is painfully obvious here. I won’t mind at all if one or more jump on this to correct what I’ve said.

  16. ebony

    Ashraf

    I needed this review. I install and uninstall a lot.
    Why? Uh hmmmm because I can. rofl
    I like “playing with sw”
    I had seen this program on another site and the review left me wondering, now what does this program do?
    After reading your review, now I see how I can benefit from it.
    It may not be much of a learning curve for YOU, (hehehe) but there are some of use that need to use it and reread your review several time before the light bulb comes on.
    I tried on uninstall and liked how it showed me what was left over, I am sure there are other good features, and I will discover them with repeated use, suffice it to say. I am happy for now.

    Thank you kindly

  17. Jeanjean

    I would even add a small comment about all of these programs : it’s unfortunate that when they are unable to delete something, you are not notified.
    Revo, for example, sometimes indicates that files will be deleted at the reboot, but you see after that they are still there!
    I discovered thus by chance a Muvee Technologies registry key specified for deletion but which remained without the slightest warning. Moreover, I am unable to remove it (in Dos or safe mode).
    I hope this one will be more talkative.

  18. Jeanjean

    At the moment I use an old version of Total Uninstall (same kind of program but you must pay for it now) in combination with Revo free with success.
    I will certainly try this one. Thanks for the review.

  19. WobblyWombat

    Good article Ashraf, thanks for bringing everyone’s attention to this fine program :)

    I’ve been using it for over a year now, and have been very impressed with it on the whole. One feature which I’ve found both very helpful and very frustrating is that it will tell you when uninstalling a program may break other installations… unfortunately I wasn’t able to see exactly why it would break, or what the shared resources were. This happened to me a couple of times with some seemingly unrelated typed of program. I wish I could remember details but they may have all been GotD installers or something, I didn’t investigate very thoroughly at the time.

    Many programs now have that annoying installer where you download a small .exe that downloads and installs the bulk of the program. CPM struggles to deal with those IIRC and you can’t force-install once the 1st installer is doing it’s thing.

    It also takes ages on my machine to bring up the list of installed programs, but that may be because I have an old glorified-abacus running XP and an obsession with installing software – usually because there’s a limited giveaway and I may need it one day… ;)

    But three thumbs up from me too FWIW, if only to reassure you that you’re not the only person in the world with three thumbs! 8)

    *Edit – no BSoD problems here ;)

  20. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @throkr: I was thinking about doing that myself when I upgraded to 64-bit. However, I was getting annoyed by the extra time I have to wait during an uninstall while Revo scans the computer (I am impatient), especially if I was going to purchase it. After discovering Comodo Programs Manager, I have no regrets on not buying RevoUninstaller Pro.

  21. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @throkr: Ah, yes. VS Revo Group has mostly abandoned development of RevoUninstaller Free (aside from few updates here and there), which is unfortunate for those of us that don’t want to drop $40 on RevoUninstaller Pro. My comments in the article were referencing the free version of RevoUninstaller.

  22. throkr

    I’m using RevoUninstaller (Pro version) and never had the slightest problem with it … ;-)
    This program too has also a special option (“Install & Uninstall with RevoUninstaller) which, if enabled, tracks & keeps in mind all the changes made when a new program is installed; so, if you uninstall this program afterwoods, with Revo’s option enabled, every trace from this program on your computer should have disappeared … (I’m saying “should” just because, up to now, I never “tested” this option ;-))

    From my point of vue, RevoUninstaller is certainly, if not “the” best, one of the best uninstallers you can find out there … :-)