Fast Forward

Rob Pegoraro's Fast Forward's Help File

By Rob Pegoraro
Sunday, January 4, 2009

QI got a USB drive with U3 software that I don't use, but I can't figure out how to remove it.

AU3 "smart" drives, which debuted in 2005 from SanDisk and other vendors, can store not just data but Windows programs. That can be handy for users who want to run one program on many PCs, or for those who can't install extra software on a computer at work.

But if you don't run Windows or otherwise didn't ask for that feature -- say when companies hand out U3 drives as promotional goodies -- this proprietary U3 setup can get in the way. Plus, you don't need U3 to take programs with you; see for applications that run on any flash drive.

The usual disk-management tools in Windows or Mac OS X can't convert a U3 drive to normal flash storage, but that drive should include an uninstall option. Click the U3 button at the right end of the taskbar to open the U3 Launchpad program, click its Settings link, choose U3 Launchpad Settings and select the Uninstall heading. Then click the Uninstall U3 Launchpad button to remove U3 and reformat the drive.

If that doesn't work, you can download U3-removal programs for Windows and Mac OS X from (go to the third topic there, "How do I uninstall U3 from my flash drive?").

Adobe Reader has started acting up on my PC. Do I have any other options for viewing PDFs on the Web?

Try the free Foxit Reader 3 ( Unlike older releases, this version, which shipped in November, can run as a plug-in inside Mozilla Firefox. But its installer can be awfully pushy: Choose a custom install to stop it from putting Foxit shortcuts all over Windows, then decline its options to add a Foxit browser toolbar and eBay links.

Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or Turn to Thursday's Business section or visit anytime for his Fast Forward column.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company