It's always a curious enterprise when a company elects to deliver a fully-functional, nag-free version of a piece of software alongside a paid-for, "professional" or "super-bonus" edition of the same program. And it's not always easy to separate the freeware from an app's costly "real" version. Companies tend to do all they can to promote the latter-and with good reason-instead of delivering as much face-time and promotional effort for the freeware versions of their products. You might find an errant link to the inexpensive app on a download page... and that's it.
Such is the case with VS Revo Group's popular Revo Uninstaller application. I had been meaning to check out the professional version of this wicked uninstallation application for some time now, as curiosity was killing me. What's the big difference between the $40 edition and the freeware version?
Revo Uninstaller is no stranger to Maximum PC, after all-both my colleagues and I frequently cite it as a must-have download for anyone, be you a power-downloader with pages and pages of third-party applications on your system or a novice user who simply wants a junk-free PC. Given the strength of Revo Uninstaller's free version, it's hard to believe that its developers would be able to go above and beyond the program's critical feature-the seamless and complete removal of any file or registry entry associated with any program you install on your PC.
Simply put, Revo Uninstaller puts the default Windows add/remove utility to shame.
It's a little funny that many of the features built into the professional version of Revo Uninstaller are consequently ones that you can find... in other freeware applications. But I'll get to that in a second. The core of Revo Uninstaller Professional and Revo Uninstaller is identical regardless of whether you've made a monetary contribution to VS Revo Group or not.
Two new program uninstallation features found in the pro version of the software are handy, just not deal-breaking. A "new programs" list makes it easy to target a recently installed application or game for quick removal. Revo's tracing functionality is a unique addition-if you activate it when first installing a program, Revo will capture exactly what the installer mechanism dumps on your system. This consequently speeds up the Revo-based removal process later down the line and can offer a slightly more comprehensive deletion of leftover files versus the program's default scanning technique.
To be honest, I didn't make much use of Revo's "Forced Uninstall" option-to be found in the professional version only-for the program's included Hunter mode already accomplished everything I needed. Forced Uninstall allows you to target a folder or file and send Revo on a grand journey to find an associated uninstallation application already on your PC. If one doesn't exist, the app will run its usual bevy of scanning techniques to remove all files and folders associated with your target. Hunter, found on both Revo's professional and free versions, allows you to target applications currently running on your system. I don't foresee an average user looking to delete random folders on their system, but I can see a case for trimming down a ton of icons in one's system tray.
Of course, that's assuming that you'll even need to switch to these extra options to nuke programs on your system. The free Revo's program list and Hunter mode will likely satisfy 99-percent of all uninstallation-related desires.
Beyond that, VS Revo Group goes the kitchen sink route in an attempt to bolster Revo Uninstaller Pro's presence. But these add-ons are nothing you haven't seen before: an Autorun manager for getting more information and editing the apps that start with your system (try msconfig and Google), a junk files cleaner for removing unnecessary files from your system (try CCleaner or SuperAntiSpyware), a "Windows Tools" option for accessing... parts of the operating system (try Control Panel or Start Menu), a browser cleaner for trashing your history and cache (um, try the browser itself?), et cetera.
It's nice to have all these options in a single place. But unless you're supremely lazy or really have no idea how to empty things like various apps' recent documents listings, your clipboard, your recycle bin, and your Windows temporary files, these are pretty paltry add-ons that replicate the most common actions one can do in the Windows operating system.
There's no reason why you shouldn't have Revo Uninstaller on your system. Not many freeware applications deserve that kind of a pass, but Revo Uninstaller's comprehensive approach to program removal goes miles beyond what's normally offered through any version of Windows. That said, you don't need to pony up for the professional version of the program. The uninstallation-based features it adds are already replicated quite well in the free version of the app. The additional removal tools for various parts of your operating system, while helpful, are in no way worth the Revo's $40 asking price.
David Murphy (@ Acererak) is a technology journalist and former Maximum PC editor. He writes weekly columns about the wide world of open-source as well as weekly roundups of awesome, freebie software. Befriend him on Twitter, especially if you have an awesome app or game you're dying to recommend!