Microsoft

Don't let Win2K push you around: Remove those unwanted components

You'd like to have some control over what's running on your users' machines, but Win2K insists on installing a ton of unnecessary apps. Find out how you can jettison all those extras—even ones that don't appear in the Windows Components Wizard.


I know a lot of administrators who want to have everything under their control. They want a perfect network setup, tuned machines, and a clean environment. They also want to decide which applications users are allowed to use on their machines and which are off limits. Well, I admire this quality and would like to help by providing instructions on how to control what’s installed on your users’ machines.

Most administrators are dismayed that Windows 2000 wants to make installation decisions. For instance, when you install Windows 2000 Professional on client machines, Setup will not prompt you to specify which system components to install and which to leave out. Windows 2000 Setup will install almost all of them. Examples of these components are games, such as Freecell, Minesweeper, and Solitaire; accessories, such as Calculator, Paint, and WordPad; and system tools, such as Disk Cleanup.

After you install Windows 2000, these components just scream to be removed. If you have administrative privileges, you can go to Control Panel, open Add/Remove Programs, and click on Add/Remove Windows Components. This will run the Windows Components Wizard, shown on Figure A. But as you become familiar with this window, you’ll discover that you cannot remove all components. You can remove some items, such as Indexing Service, but removing games and other accessories is not an option.

Figure A
Windows 2000 Components Wizard


Fortunately, there’s a back door. You can remove these components, but you must edit a file before the Windows Components Wizard will show them. This file, called sysoc.inf, is located in the \winnt\inf directory. Of course, the inf directory is hidden, so make sure you’ve enabled the option to show hidden files and directories.
Not sure how to enable the option for showing hidden files and directories? Just open Windows Explorer, pull down the Tools menu, and select Folder Options. Click the View tab and choose Show Hidden Files And Folders. Also, make sure that Hide File Extensions For Known File Types is unchecked.
When you open sysoc.inf in Notepad or another text editor, the file will appear similar to Figure B. Every line in the Components section identifies a module you can add or remove in Windows 2000. You’ll see familiar names like Fax, IIS, and Games.

Figure B
The Components section of sysoc.inf


Also notice that some lines include the word hide. Remove every occurrence of hide from the Component section of the text, and save the file. Then, go back to Control Panel, open Add/Remove Programs, and click on Add/Remove Windows Components. As Figure C shows, the list of components has changed.

Figure C
Additional components available for removal


You can now remove all accessories, games, multimedia applications, Fax Service, COM+, and many other components that were previously unavailable. If you change your mind, you can reinstall the components just as easily using the Wizard.

For the super control freak
Unfortunately, this is not the end of the story. Notice that not all components are listed in the sysoc.inf file. Specifically, NetMeeting and Outlook Express are not among components you can add and remove. Internet Explorer is obviously not going away with a few clicks of the mouse, either. I hate to disappoint you, but there is no supported way to remove or reinstall these components. You’re out of luck, unless you want to engage in risky hack techniques that could do more harm than good.

However, Windows 2000 includes other components that most administrators could do without, such as the OS/2 and POSIX subsystems. I’m not aware of anybody running text mode OS/2 1.2 or POSIX applications, but these subsystems are installed on every Windows 2000 computer. With a little effort, you can remove them. I remembered that in order to satisfy C2 security ratings, users must remove these components. And indeed, I found Microsoft’s instructions on how to do it: Just delete the \winnt\system32\os2 directory, along with the applicable registry keys. This won’t completely remove the OS/2 and POSIX subsystems, because they use special executables that are not in the removable directory. For example, POSIX also uses posix.exe and psxss.exe. These files are located under \winnt\system32 and are not removed by following the instructions provided by Microsoft. However, you can manually delete Posix and OS/2 files from \winnt\system32. These files are not protected by Windows File Protection and will not reappear after you delete them.
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