How-To

How Do I Completely Uninstall Software On Windows?

A question I often get from Windows users is how to completely uninstall all traces of a program or app. This guide will show you the steps to get rid of everything without wiping your drive.

When you uninstall a program from Windows via Add or Remove Programs, or with the program’s uninstaller, it leaves a lot of remnants behind. Things left behind are folders, temp files, icons, registry entries, and more. If you want to completely uninstall all traces of a program, just follow this guide that I use to remove everything.

Keep in mind this method isn’t for everyone, especially the later part where I manually clean entries from the Registry.

For this example, I’m uninstalling Maxthon web browser – not because it isn’t a good browser but because I need to sacrifice an application to the uninstall gods for this article.

Revo Uninstaller

The “go to” app I use to uninstall software on Windows is Revo Uninstaller Pro. Revo also offers a free version that includes fewer options but still does a good job getting rid of extra entries of unwanted software.

Launch Revo Uninstaller and you’ll see a list of the programs you have installed on your system. It also lists programs that aren’t listed in Add/Remove programs in Windows. Right-click the program you want to remove and click Uninstall.
uninstall

Then Revo will ask if you’re sure that you want to uninstall the program. By default the options to create a System Restore Point and Full Registry Backup before the uninstall. It’s good to allow it to do it automatically every time you uninstall a program. This is important because if something goes wrong with the uninstall, you can easily restore your system and Registry back. Click the Continue button.

verify uninstall

After safely backing up your system and Registry, the native uninstaller for the program you’re uninstalling will kick-off. Simply follow the uninstall wizard.

After you complete the uninstall wizard, go back to Revo and click the Continue button.

Revo scans your system for leftover files and registry settings. You’ll be surprised how many entries native app installers leave behind.

Go through the list and check only the entries it found that are marked as blue. The other folders are system folders your system needs. This is why it’s so nice that Revo creates a restore point and Registry backup. After you select all the leftovers, click Delete.

A verification message will come up asking if you’re sure. Click Yes.

If there are other leftover files or folders you’ll click Next and delete those, too.

Left Over Folders

Voidtools’ Everything

Next, I use another one of my favorite utilities — Everything by Voidtools. Type in the name of the program you just deleted and remove all entries it finds. Another tip is to search for the name of the software company that made the app.

voidtools

Manually Clean Registry

After that, the last thing I do to make sure all traces of the program are removed is to search the Registry and delete all entries of the program.

Important: Deleting items in the Windows Registry isn’t recommended for inexperienced users. If you delete the wrong one you can completely bork your system. Before making any changes make sure to back up the Registry or create a Restore Point before making any changes.

Hit the Windows key and type: regedit and

The Registry Editor comes up. Hit F3 on your keyboard to bring up the Search box. Type in the name of the program and click Find Next.

When an entry is found go ahead and hit Delete. Then hit F3 to Find the next one and continue.

registry entry

Continue deleting entries until the full Registry has been searched. I prefer to clean the Registry myself versus using a Registry cleaner program. A lot of times a Registry cleaner utility can delete important entries you need for a program to work.

Be careful while in the Registry and deleting entries though. I don’t recommend this for a beginner at all. But if you’re a power user and know Windows really well, it’s an effective method.

finished searching

17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Ziggy  

    Hi Brian… Another tool that I use (and somewhat similar to Revo Uninstaller) is Iobit Uninstaller 2.1 which also creates a Restore Point prior to any unistall. These people also have a free program called ToolBox, with some handy features

    http://www.iobit.com/products.html

    To check up on registry remnants I use Auslogics Registry Cleaner Free, which is fairly mild but effective. Ccleaner also comes with a registry cleaner.

    http://www.auslogics.com/en/software/registry-cleaner/

    As always create a System Restore Point and, if uncofortable about playing with the registry, then leave well alone.

    I can live with some scraggly leftover entries, but I wouldn’t do too well with a broken down PC. Better safe than sorry…

    • Brian Burgess  

      Hey Ziggy! I’ve heard of iOBit but haven’t used it. I will check it out. I started using the free version of Revo Uninstaller 6 years ago then decided to upgrade.

      It’s hard for me sometimes though, I get stuck in my ways…I mean, I still use Outlook in my home office and haven’t worked in a corporate environment for 8 years!

      I am hesitant to recommend any type of registry cleaner though. I know some people swear by them, but if I do it myself I know what is happening more.

      This method also works perfect for removing all remnants of malicious software as well.

  2. Mike  

    When I saw the headline to this article from the newsletter, Revo Uninstaller immediately came to mind. I’ve been using it for years and it’s excellent for doing complete uninstalls. I’m still surprised how much is left behind from using Windows’ conventional uninstaller.

    I use CCleaner to clean the registry after doing an uninstall. Its registry cleaner is safe and will prompt you to do a backup before it removes those obsolete entries.

    Great article! I’m looking forward to many more.

  3. Guy  

    Here in the UK, I have been using the free version of Revo for years too! It is a good solid product that has never let me down. I have balked at paying $39 to upgrade – the free version may be commercially too good perhaps!

    PS. Love GroovyPost.

  4. VOXPOP  

    hi Brian
    i use revo uninstaller, free version. i have uninstalled a couple of programs that when i got to the ‘left over’ section had 680 files that needed to be checked in the little boxes!! i would have been there for a month..is there any way of avoiding checking each little box 680 times??? btw that is not an exageration. (680)
    thanks

    • @VOXPOP: Not that I know of. I know some programs leave a TON of leftovers. The Pro version makes it easier by grouping them all together.

    • Tony  

      I use the free version here in the UK, and when I get to the ‘left over’ section, there is a ‘Delete All’ check box. Not sue which version it is, but I update it regularly.

      • Yup. There’s nothing wrong with the free version. It removes everything it finds … the same as Pro. There’s just more features in the Pro version.

        But for the bottom line — finding a lot of the extra crap left behind, the free version get’s it done!

  5. VOXPOP  

    thanks brian for the reply

  6. GP  

    Wonderful article! Thank you Brian! I am the computer geek in our house, but this will make it easy to share and explain to my husband who will tell you he is “a bonafide techtard!” Thank you again for the easy to understand instructions and screenshots! :)

  7. Dave  

    Revo is good but sometimes misses a few vestigial items in the registry that can be disposed of manually on a search.

  8. I have been using Your Uninstaller, but it missed a lot of keys in the registery, can this be done manually ?

    • Start with using VoidTools Everything: http://www.voidtools.com/download.php

      That will allows you to find and delete left over files and folders.

      After that start with the section in my article above — Manually Clean Registry, it shows you step by step how to clean it up.

      Always make sure to back it up first!

  9. Tai  

    I took your advice on the voidtools and after downloading and right be for install i noticed what seemed strange to me is that the port 15485 TCP was already listed in the option box which when I Googled that port number, it was a [trojan] Kilo.Remote Access. It made me suspicious. Why would this software need to be listening in on this particular port number ?

    • EVERYTHING is a search engine tool for your computer. Should not have a port open…. Did you just download it from the site?

  10. holdum333  

    Hi @Brian! kudos to you my friend! That is one of the most complete tutorials on removing programs that I have ever seen any where, on any help forum. Nicely done @Brian
    I use those exact procedures. See you on http://windows10forum.com/
    Thank you!

  11. Michael Burks  

    I would like to know how Revo responds to a program that has been upgraded. I fell into what could have been a serious trap with another uninstaller. I did an iTunes update and at the end the uninstaller popped up a box asking me if I wanted to do a clean up. Well sure. NO. It removed every trace of the newly updated iTunes. Fortunately it was restorable. An uninstaller should NOT confuse an update with a deletion.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 

To Top