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How do I uninstall software that doesn't provide a way to uninstall?

How do I uninstall a program that does not show up in the add and
remove section in Win XP? I have programs in various sections of my
computer which i would like to clean out but they either do not show up
on add/remove or they don’t have an uninstaller included. I’m aware
that just deleting software is not a good idea.

And yet, carefully deleting things turns out to be the only real
option.

Here’s what I would suggest when dealing with this situation.

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To be clear the preferred approach to uninstalling software is to
use Control Panel’s “Add/Remove Programs” list (Windows XP) or
“Programs and Features” list (Windows Vista). If the software you’re
attempting to use is in that list, then you should be able to uninstall
it right there.

Alternately, many software packages actually place an “Uninstall”
option in their Start Menu section. If present, use that to uninstall
the program.

If neither of those are present, then we need to get creative.

Important: the steps below are designed to
uninstall “typical” software and software that is not a system
component. For example, you can’t uninstall Internet Explorer; it’s a
system component and cannot be completely removed – attempts to do so
will cause problems for Windows itself.

“… the preferred approach to uninstalling
software is to use Control Panel’s ‘Add/Remove Programs’ …”

If you’re not sure, consider not uninstalling the software at all,
or looking at alternative solutions to address the reasons you want to
uninstall.

First things first, it’s always safest to backup at this point. A
system restore point may be a good idea, but in all honesty only a
complete backup will give you complete confidence that you’ll be able
to undo any inadvertent damage.

Next, I would use a program like autoruns, or some other program to
manage startup entries
and look for entries related to the program
you’re about to uninstall. If it has auto-run or auto-start entries
simply deleting the program files will result in errors the next time
you start up.

Once those are gone, if there are icons in the system tray related
to this software, right click on them to see if they have an “exit”
option. If you see any other programs currently running that relate to
what you’re about to delete, exit those.

I then would next use process
explorer
and look at processes that are running that may be related to
the software you’re about to remove. Not everything that’s running
appears on screen, so there may still be processes that you need to
terminate or exit in some other way.

Finally, once again having made sure to back everything up,
I would delete the “Program Files” folder of the software you’re
attempting to delete and all the contents therein.

Reboot, and check for problems.

Now, you may be asking what files are “related” when checking the
auto-runs, or the system tray or processes. That’s really why uninstall
programs are typically necessary; it’s often difficult to tell. But
your own familiarity with the program you’re deleting and the contents
of the files in its “Program Files” folder should give you most of what
you can identify on your own.

You’ll note also that, aside from startup entries, I’ve not had you
look in the registry at all. That’s on purpose, because it’s simply too
easy to make errors when deleting things in the registry. The good news
is that while this approach may leave unused entries in the registry,
they’re rarely a problem and don’t impact system performance.

Bottom line: if you can use an uninstall provided by the
manufacturer of the software you’re attempting to get rid of, then by
all means do so. If not, then backup and try deleting things manually.
Manual deletion will typically still leave remnants, but normally
they’re also inconsequential.

Or you could just leave it installed. Smile:-)

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16 comments on “How do I uninstall software that doesn't provide a way to uninstall?”

  1. Hi Leo,
    Does this work for programs that need to be uninstalled then re-installed? Wont the registry and other remnants you refer to cause problems on a re-install?

    There’s no real way to answer that, as it totally depends on the software itself. Some may be affected, some may not. By definition the software is already ill-behaved by not providing an uninstall. Best advice I can give is to try and hope for the best.

    – Leo
    16-Oct-2008
    Reply
  2. 1) I uninstalled Eprompter, but the popup materializes on my screen when I turn my machine on. How do I get rid of it?
    2) How do I delete from Google Chrome, a site/image that I only used once and want to remove from the start page?

    Reply
  3. Hi Leo…re: un-installing programs…a process I’ve found and use on my machine works wonderfully well…after uninstalling, whether it be thru Control Panel A&R, or manual deletion, I will run Search, using the program name in the appropriate area…Search seems to turn up all of the residual garbage still remaining after yoou’ve done your uninstall…now you can just highlight and ‘Delete’ right from the list that shows up in Search…frequently the “can’t delete, etc” message appears, but this can be overcome by altering the sequence of your file deletion process…works for me.

    Reply
  4. Hi Leo,

    Re: Uninstalling Programs – In some cases people have had success in simply reinstalling the offending program. I did this once, just installed over the existing program. A check of the Control Panel’s Add/Remove Programs then showed the offending program and I was able to uninstall it.

    Reply
  5. Leo and everyone,

    Here’s something to watch out for if you have installed an old program on Vista and that program does not have an uninstall option.

    Some old programs used to store user data along with the executable files in C:\Program Files\my_program. Vista will not allow that, but creates a virtual folder to fool the program into where it is storing files. Browsing file locations using the program showed folders and files that were invisible in Explorer. I finally found them, but only with an advanced search of non-indexed locations.

    The files were in C:\Users\my account\AppData\Local\VirtualStore\Program Files\my_program There are over 30MB of files there that would have not been deleted.

    So, if you are on Vista and manually delete a program, check that VirtualStore location. In fact, I have now found many orphans from programs that did have uninstall options, but didn’t properly clean up after themselves.

    Reply
  6. Even if the program is not listed in the Control Panel, and does not offer a menu option to uninstall, look in the program folder and you may find a file called “unwise.exe” or perhaps even “uninstall.exe”. Double-click on it to initiate the uninstall routine.

    Reply
  7. This is what i do and works every time.
    Works in both XP & Vista.

    Delete registry keys…
    Star-Run-type in regedit-go to edit-find-next-
    type in-*program*-find next-right click-delete any key that
    says-*Program*-keep clicking find next and deleting.
    When all is gone you will get a popup
    That says finished searching.
    I have used this time and time again
    with great success.

    Reply
  8. Leo,

    I am in full agreement with Dennis, who posted 10/21/08. Revo Uninstaller is just about the best that I have found, after 11 years working with computers. Now, I have Windows XP Pro and it works just fine with that version. Revo’s website states the following:

    System requirements:

    Minimum system requirements:
    Microsoft Windows 2000
    64 megabytes (MB) of RAM
    5 MB of free Hard Disk space
    133 MHz or higher
    Pentium – compatible CPU

    Please note: Revo Uninstaller will only work with the Vista 32-bit version, at this point in time. They are working on ‘upgrading’ to the 64-bit version of Vista.

    What I like about Revo is that you have control over how much or how little you want to uninstall. In other words, there are 4 different Modes, “Basic”, “Safe”, “Moderate” and “Advanced”. The first 2 modes Basic and Safe are the ‘safest’ modes and even beginners should feel ‘safe’ using them. The Moderate mode is a little more advanced, but still pretty ‘safe’. The Advanced mode is the one that really goes deep into the registry and the files, looking for left-over entries and files. I tend to use the Advanced uninstaller, most of the time. I know, from experience, that left-over registry entries and files can create havoc.

    Reply
  9. hi leo i ve got avast antivirus which is not working properly. i ve tried to delete it by add remove prog but it didnt work i tried to delete it manually but it also didnt work. i dont know how i ll b able do delete it. now niether ican use this antivirus nor can i install a new one. please help

    Reply
  10. ERROR HP 1606 COULD NOT ACCESS NETWORK LOCATION O 8 16 2010
    I AM NEEDING TO COMPLETELY REMOVE THE ABOVE HOW DO I DO IT HAVE ATTEMPTED SEVERAL TIMES IGNORING IT & REINSTALLING HP PRINTER & NOT COMPLETING

    Reply
  11. but in all honesty only a complete backup will give you complete confidence that you’ll be able to undo any inadvertent damage.
    HOW DO I DO THE ABOVE

    Reply
  12. Thank you for these information, i have installed a program and it didn’t allow me to delete it, when i am trying to delete it,there is a sound look like that i have a virus in my computer

    Reply

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