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§ Software that leaves a mess

The other day, my WinXP machine kept bringing up the "let's clean up your hard drive" wizard, which I kept closing.  I finally realized that Explorer claimed that I had 0 bytes available on my system drive!  "Impossible," I thought, "what's wrong now?!  A virus?"  Not quite...

I never use this machine for anything but development; no videos, mp3s, automatic downloaders, etc.  That's what OSX is for.  grin

Recently, my Firefox (version 3.5.x, was it?) had become unusable.  I did everything I could think of:  hard drive testing, virus scans in Safe Mode, a real defrag, uninstalling anything I didn't really use, turning off Firefox extensions, a new Firefox profile...  Nothing helped.  Somewhere, though, I read that AVG and/or Zone Alarm might interfere with Firefox 3.x.  To keep it short, I uninstalled AVG and Zone Alarm, downloaded the latest versions, installed them, and let them update.  Zonino!  Firefox worked again.

So - I thought I had just cleaned things up quite a bit.  Unfortunately, I haven't kept a log of everything I've done about this...

Now I used Folder Size to try to figure out where all the hard drive space had gone.  I found all sorts of stuff from lots of programs in places like C:\Documents and Settings\<my logon name>\Application Data and C:\Documents and Settings\<my logon name>\Local Settings\Application Data.  I think it was in C:\Documents and Settings\<my logon name>\Local Settings\Application Data\AVG that I found every update downloaded in the last, what, two years?  Anyway, around a gigabyte.  Now, I certainly understand backups, restore points, etc., but this is a bit overboard, don't you think?

Now I had a few gigabytes free, but something still smelled fishy:  no videos or music, remember?

I noted that the C:\WINDOWS folder still seemed awfully large.  I did a bit of research and decided I could delete all sorts of $NTUninstall folders (no harm noticed, so far).  Another gigabyte or two.  Still, C:\WINDOWS seemed huge.

Finally, I discovered C:\WINDOWS\Internet Logs.  It looks like Zone Alarm stores logs here.  I don't think that's reasonable; software should leave the C:\WINDOWS tree alone (unless it's actually a Windows component, i.e., from Microsoft).  Anyway, what do I find in here?  tvDebug.log.  Wanna know how big it was?  23Gb.  TWENTY-THREE GIGABYTES.  TWENTY.  THREE.  GIGABYTES.  This is on a 40 gigabyte hard drive!  Are you... Uh, I don't want to publish foul language on my website...  Are you... uh... CRAZY!  TWENTY-THREE GIGABYTES?

It turns out that tvDebug.log can be hard to get rid of... but (good ol' DOS) a command prompt's COPY command can overwrite it.  I opened a cmd box in this folder, typed COPY CON tvDegub.log<enter>F6<enter> and suddenly had an additional 23Gb of free space.  I then used the properties of tvDebug.log in Explorer to change it to Read-only.  Guess what?  When I restarted Zone Alarm, it wrote to it and it wasn't Read-only anymore!  I changed it to Read-only again and Zone Alarm hasn't written to it since.  I haven't had to restart my machine since then, though...  I may have to add a startup script to change its attributes to Read-only.

Ok, I'll stop in just a minute, but both Microsoft and AVG need to change their ways about keeping every update, for years and years, stored on a user's hard drive; it's just not reasonable, nor is it useful.  Do you really expect you could uninstall something that has had a dozen newer updates installed on top of it?

As for Zone Alarm...  well.  A log file that takes up almost 60% of the entire hard drive?  Are you... uh... CRAZY?

Update April 17, 2010:  tvDebug.log is once again not Read-only, but it's tiny...  I'll just keep an eye on it.

Update January 7, 2011:  tvDebug.log has remained tiny (731 bytes today), but there is a log file for every day the computer has been used (209 at the moment) with names like ZALog2010.09.30.txt for September 30, 2010.  The largest of these is around 5Kb, so no big deal, but I again say that it seems irresponsible to just keep making files forever and never cleaning up after yourself.

last edited on January 8th, 2011 at 12:04 AM


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I don’t hold myself out as a role model generally, but I think the world might be better off if more people accepted responsibility and dealt with consequences.
David Drake, Author's Note to In the Stormy Red Sky