Cry How To...
Manually uninstall an application
The simplest, safest and recommended way to uninstall an application is via 'Add/Remove Programs' (in Control Panel).
Some applications (particularly older ones) do not create an entry in the 'Add/Remove Programs' list, but instead create an "uninstall" or "remove" shortcut in the Start > Program Groups menu.
The remainder of these notes are intended only if you have tried the above, and the application will not uninstall.
Has it already been uninstalled?
It is worth noting that sometime the 'Add/Remove Programs' fails because the application has already been removed, but the displayed list of applications just does not reflect this.
If the program to be uninstalled is listed under 'Add/Remove Programs' but the uninstall fails then consult these notes: "Remove (uninstall) program fails".
Notes for manual uninstall
It should be stressed that these notes are for guidance only. Trying to manually uninstall an application is not recommended and should only be attempted as a last resort.
If you need to try to manually uninstall an application the consider each of the following:
Before manually uninstalling anything you are strongly urged to take a backup of your system, so that you can restore should things go wrong.
Remove the application's program group directory.
Assuming that the program has a shortcut in the start menu, examine the shortcut to get the directory containing the application. (For more recent versions of Windows you can simply right click the item in the Start menu to get its properties.)
The program group is likely to be something like:
C:\Program Files\Some Company\Application.exe
C:\Program Files\Some Company\Some Product\Application.exe
Where typically "
Whilst it is tempting to simply delete the directory ('
Most applications store information in the registry. If you feel confident then you can also attempt to remove this data from the registry.
Data for an application is typically held in the registry key:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\ SOFTWARE\ Some Company
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\ SOFTWARE\ Some Company\ Some Application
As with program folders, it is advised that you initially rename the
If the application is listed under Control Panel > Add/Remove Programs, then to remove it from the listing see the notes for "Remove (uninstall) program files"
Delete any shortcut folders to the application.
If the application ran at start-up (or login) then this will need to be disabled. For details refer to the article "Unwanted Application runs at Logon".
Many applications put dlls and other files in the Windows directory. This is typically either "C:\WinNT" or "C:\Windows" depending on the version of Windows.
There is no easy way to identify which files in the Windows directory are unique to your application.
My advice is simply to leave alone anything in the Windows directory. This does mean that the Windows directory is likely to contain some unnecessary files, but since it is extremely difficult to identify which of those files are unnecessary and since it may not immediately be apparent if you delete a file that is required by something else (or even Windows), leave the Windows directory well alone.
These notes have been tested with Windows Vista, XP, W2K and NT4.
About the author: Brian Cryer is a dedicated software developer and webmaster. For his day job he develops websites and desktop applications as well as providing IT services. He moonlights as a technical author and consultant.