How to Force Uninstall a Program That Won't Uninstall - TurboFuture - Technology
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How to Force Uninstall a Program That Won't Uninstall

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It happens all the time: You install a program, decide you don't like it or need it, and you want to uninstall it. So you open up the Windows Add/Remove tool and click to uninstall the program—only to find that you can't. In this article I will explain how to force uninstall a program.

First, however, I will try to explain what happens during installation.

What You Need to Know About Installing and Uninstalling Programs

Several things happen during the installation of a program, which can help explain why you are having difficulties uninstalling it:

  • When you download a program, the files are copied to a specified folder, which is usually somewhere inside the Program Files folder.
  • Some files, such as shared libraries (.dll files), will be copied into a folder inside Program Files called Common Files.
  • Other files, such as drivers or shared libraries (again), are copied into the WINDOWS\System32 and WINDOWS\System32\drivers folders.
  • After that the installer makes some changes inside the Windows Registry. This is a database where all the settings and options for the operating system are stored, as well as for any applications or OS components that are programmed to use it. The installer can make changes inside the Registry if a shared library needs to be registered or if certain types of files need to be associated with the program being installed. For example, if you install Microsoft Word, then you will also be able to open Microsoft Word documents.
  • After this is done, a key is added to the Windows Registry where the Windows Add/Remove tool looks for installed programs.
  • During installation, all these operations for installing are logged in a special log file (for example, setup.log), and the installation program usually puts that file inside the application's folder along with the uninstaller. When a user tries to remove a program through the Add/Remove tool, Windows looks for the registered uninstaller inside the registry and executes it. The uninstaller goes through the log file and undoes all the changes done during installation. That is, it deletes all the files that have been copied, all the Registry keys the installer created, and so forth.
  • If there is no log file, or if there is no record of the changes made to the registry the uninstaller might fail to uninstall the program, and will need to be removed by other means.

In short, normally programs are removed using an uninstaller, reading the documentation written during their installation. If for some reason the file that contains these instructions was never produced in the first place, the program will be impossible to uninstall normally using the Windows Add/Remove tool.

Force Uninstall Using the Windows Registry

If you're comfortable working with the Windows Registry yourself, you can perform a manual force uninstall. Be careful when working in your operating system's database as you don't want to accidentally delete essential files. It goes without saying that this is pretty advanced stuff, and if you're not a power user, then perhaps you should consider downloading an uninstaller.

To manually remove a program you have to find the program key in the Windows Registry. The Registry contains keys and values; keys are containers that perform a similar function to file folders, and may contain values or more keys. However, before manipulating the Registry, it would be wise to back it up in case something goes wrong.

How to Back Up the Windows Registry

For Windows Vista or above:

  1. If operating Windows 8 or above, swipe from the right and bring up Search. In Windows 7 or Vista, click Start.
  2. Type regedit.exe into the search box; provide administrator confirmation if asked.
  3. Click the Registry key you wish to back up.
  4. Select File, then Export. Select the location where you want to save the backup, then Save.

If using Windows XP:

  1. Click Start and then Run.
  2. Type %SystemRoot%\system32\restore\rstrui.exe. Click Enter or OK.
  3. You will be taken to the Welcome to System Restore page. Select Create a Restore Point then Next.
  4. Type a name to be the restore point and Create. Close.

Now, you can carry on with your uninstall, and restore the registry as is if you delete the wrong thing.

Navigating the Windows Registry to the Uninstall Log

Click Start and choose Run in the menu (If you're using Windows Vista then press Win+R on your keyboard). Type "regedit" (without quotation marks) and hit Enter:

Run menu.

Run menu.

The Registry will open with a settings tree is on the left side. To locate the program's uninstall key, navigate to the following sub-folder:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Uninstall

Follow the sequence below to reach the correct key:

Windows Registry.

Windows Registry.

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE folder in Registry.

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE folder in Registry.

Software folder.

Software folder.

Microsoft folder (indicated with blue marker).

Microsoft folder (indicated with blue marker).

Windows folder (indicated with blue marker).

Windows folder (indicated with blue marker).

Current version (first under Windows, indicated by blue marker).

Current version (first under Windows, indicated by blue marker).

Uninstall folder.

Uninstall folder.

Inside the Uninstall folder (image above) you'll find a lot of keys that belong to different programs. Some are named after the program's name, others as a mix of numbers and letters that probably make no sense. When you click on one, the right-side pane will display the key's information, including a category called DisplayName, which is the name of the program as it's displayed to the user.

The image below shows an example of one of the Registry key's contents:

Uninstall folder in Windows Registry.

Uninstall folder in Windows Registry.

In the screenshot below, the DisplayName item has been highlighted. This item will show you the name of the program as you know it, rather than its coded name within the system. Use the DisplayName item to find the correct program:

Windows Registry display name.

Windows Registry display name.

Delete the keys with that show your program’s name under DisplayName by right-clicking on the items and selecting Delete. Now your program won't appear on the Add/Remove programs list.

Deleting an item from the Windows Registry.

Deleting an item from the Windows Registry.

Some programs create new entries in the registry to store their configuration options, so you may need to hunt down these files as well. These entries can usually be found in HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software, HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software, or, occasionally, HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Services. Look for the program name or the name of the company that made the software and delete the relevant folder.

Delete Program Files From Uninstalled Program

Finally, you need to find all the files that were copied onto your computer during installation. Open the folder where the uninstalled program should be, and look for files which are named uninstall.log or setup.log or something similar. Inside this file is a list of files that have been installed with the corresponding program. Open the file on Notepad and read through to find all of the files that have been copied onto your system during installation. Delete the files and you'll get rid of the program almost fully.

Manually Uninstall a Program From the Windows Registry

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Comments

fady on June 04, 2020:

very helpful thank you

Judah on March 23, 2020:

thank you sooooooooooooooooooo much for this article.

life saver!

varma on January 15, 2020:

Thank you, this article is a life saver.

An on August 22, 2019:

Thanks. it has helped me as well.

Harry on July 12, 2019:

with mine it doesnt show up i dont know if im looking in the right place do u look in line with display name and down from data?

pooja on May 04, 2019:

This blog is very nice and very useful How to Force Uninstall a Program That Won't Uninstall thanks for this information thanks for sharing us...

Hiry Armpit on March 07, 2019:

Nice work

jordan khan on March 05, 2019:

thank u so much.It helped.It saved money as i was recommended a paid software which does the same.

mehrad on February 09, 2019:

so amazing

really helpful

tnx

Sandy on November 02, 2018:

awesome.... it works for me.. superbbbbb... thank u so muchhh

hello on October 09, 2018:

ummm it says a dll is missing to install when ever i try to uninstall sony vegas i am much confused help is needed

srij on May 01, 2018:

hi can u please tell that what to do if setup don't even work in windows 8

the setup says "unable to create a temporary file" and the setup then aborts. please tell what to do

riff on April 16, 2018:

thanks it work

Enihs on April 16, 2018:

thanks man,appreciate it :)))

Katalina on April 04, 2018:

I am thankful

very useful

and very understandable

Thank you again, this great job :)

Samuel Ogunfuye on March 12, 2018:

Thanks so much. It was really Helpful.. Great work

JAXK on March 05, 2018:

GREAT IT WORKS.. HAIL FOR THIS MAN

Galla on December 06, 2017:

The guide is good actually, but it's not the easiest way to force uninstall programs. If anyone is looking for a 'several clicks' solution, then you may try 3d party tools, like CleanMyPC. It gives you a complete list of apps you have currently installed and it allows to remove any of them by clicking a button. Same with registry - has a module to clean it. and it automatically removes any leftovers.

Pete The Mouse on November 26, 2017:

"Error while deleting key" This guide doesn't work don't even try to use it...

Deepak on November 12, 2017:

very easy and quick way to get rid of a troubling program. great!!

Jennifer on November 09, 2017:

This was an awesome article. Thanks

king on October 24, 2017:

hello sir , first i update windown 10 and then install autocad 2013 and then i re-install the window update and now i want to uninstall the autocad but it give error during uninstall ....plz tell me solution

Mathew on October 18, 2017:

so i have McCafee force installed on here and I need to get rid of it. however following your steps here. McCafee is no where on the list. how would I get rid of it in this case?

Manraj Singh on September 09, 2017:

thanks alot bro....

ShepardVasNormandy on August 28, 2017:

Thank you bro ;)

Jay on August 16, 2017:

Can you post a similar video for uninstalling the program, in brute force way? for ex: my org has forced websense s/w and is not allowing us to uninstall through group policy. I have admin rights, but some s/w i can't do much.

shuxxx on July 25, 2017:

nice! thank you

Nur on July 20, 2017:

Thanks. It worked good.

Severodvinsk Masterskaya on June 25, 2017:

BRAVOOO ! tnx .... !!! You are KING !

Jenn on January 18, 2017:

Thank you for the video

John Doe on January 08, 2017:

You're a life saver.

jigar iglesias on August 19, 2016:

omg thank u so much...

zepp on July 24, 2016:

Rest in peace eugene2k

venkat on July 07, 2016:

Thanks I will try ...

steamboat on June 29, 2016:

Just got around to doing this...I first checked the avira free site and found its instruction to be useless...it doesn't work. So then I tried its "help" assist. Bingo, ZIP there, too. I take it the avira people don't want their users to leave. I guess that's why they have misleading update pop-ups which are really plugs for their not free versions. I used to recommend the avira anti-vi program. But, because of these failures, no more.

On the other hand, unwittingly, the producers have been quite successful in producing at least one anti-avira user however. Give credit when credit is due, I say.

Neb on June 20, 2016:

Why does the registry uninstall not display all my programs?

JohnP on January 19, 2016:

You can use Microsoft FixIT for this purposes

http://hitech-us.com/articles/entry/89/How-to-clea...

brainlanded.com on May 27, 2015:

Thats Cool. But also Try this too

http://brainlanded.com/tech-how-to-un-install-stub...

SarahK on March 16, 2015:

This really helps!! Although, when I go to uninstall programs through the registry editor, some of the programs don't have a display name. There are weird advertisement apps that keep randomly installing themselves and it won't let me uninstall them through the control panel. They might be the unnamed programs, but I don't want to accidentally delete something important... How do I work around this?

Again, thank you so much for this article, it truly helped!

juliaop on February 12, 2015:

Long Path Tool is very simple and easy solution for this.

avs on February 06, 2015:

thanks for the help....Excellent .....

ek on December 15, 2014:

it work well thanks

NicMadden on November 27, 2014:

Hey! I had a problem like that trying to uninstall a program that there was no way to get rid of it. Finally looking through internet found this program: http://perfectuninstaller.co.nf and at least I could uninstall it.

Take a look at it probably is what you're looking for! :)

Logik on May 20, 2014:

So, I used to use this website called "listentoyoutube" to get sound files off of YouTube because I am starting to make animations and intros for my YouTube channel. Well, I went on this site, like any other day, but this time when I was downloading the sound file of a Gaming YouTuber's video, it told me to download this thing, and I figured, "Oh ok, maybe the site updated and this is for easier converting or something." Well, when I downloaded it, I got ads all over the place, and things have attempted to download by themselves that Chrome has blocked due to malicious reasons. I at first tried uninstaling via Add/Remove Programs because the thing is called YouTubeAdblocker and was downloaded the same exact time the download for the sound file was made. That didn't work. Then, I stumbled upon this, and I thought, "My savior!" only to find out that it didn't show up. It had every other thing under my software except for that. Is there anyway to remove this without restoring my computer to factory settings? Or do I absolutely HAVE to restore my computer to factory settings?

ioana on April 27, 2014:

Thak you so much, you are a genious!

Mira on April 01, 2014:

Thank you for the clear instructions for removing the key from the Registry. I was able to remove the bundled software uninstall programe!

Have a good day!

Matty on February 28, 2014:

im on windows 7, tried to follow these steps an i couldn't find the games that were refusing the be removed, however once in the regedit simply use the top bar, view and Find.. search for ur game or program to find it, and delete the stubborn thing lol.. works a treat

Samuel Ranta on January 29, 2014:

It seems these instructions won't fully apply on windows 7.. Deleted all registryentries related to a stubborn program and even more and program can still be seen in Add/Remove -panel...

Uday on October 22, 2013:

I am unable to uninstall a program which is named as bundled software uninstaller...it is displaying a message some problem with internet connection try later...except the name of that program in control panel nothing is displayed about that, how can i uninstall this...plz let me know...i feel it is a virus in my pc.

Lilia on October 07, 2013:

Thank you so much!!

You are the best!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

jegon on September 14, 2013:

im trying to delete my lockbox because i forgot my password. im hoping when i delete it, i could reinstall it to make a new password. but when i tried to remove it in control panel it asks me for password. then i ended the process from task manager so i could delete the lockbox folder. then i went to regedit and got rid of everything that had to do with my lockbox. i got happy, until i went to reinstall it. when it finished, i went to open it and it still asked me for the password...wth!! how do i get thru this? where is it storing the password? now what??

jegon on September 14, 2013:

im trying to delete my lockbox because i forgot my password. im hoping when i delete it, i could reinstall it to make a new password. but when i tried to remove it in control panel it asks me for password. then i ended the process from task manager so i could delete the lockbox folder. then i went to regedit and got rid of everything that had to do with my lockbox. i got happy, until i went to reinstall it. when it finished, i went to open it and it still asked me for the password... what the hell! how do i get thru this? where is it storing the password? now what??

windows user on August 14, 2013:

why does it have to be so difficult!v I hatehaTEhate bill gates!

sam88 on July 27, 2013:

microsoft fixit is the best...http://support.microsoft.com/mats/Program_Install_...

Mrinal Saha from Jaipur,India on July 10, 2013:

Just use revo uninstaller ,, it's best,,

computer putz on May 08, 2013:

didn't do a thing for me, I had to do a syste mrestore to an earlier version.

it wouldn't allow me to change anything in the registry, giving me the same meaase that I do't have sufficient permssion to access i t.

what idiot wrote this into windows, and thought he was being cute.

sombody ought to bitch slap him to hell and back again.

It is MY computer and "I" have al lthe permission I need to do ANYTHING on MY computer and who does microsoft thjink they are by even THINKING of permissions?

blooming idiots.

Like I said "It is MY f'ing' comuoter and I control all who is and what is on it, not you , microsoft idoits.

I am going to linux, like everyone else.

Take that microsoft jackasses. Think I need your "permission" t odo it?

THINK AGAIN....................MR. GATES............

Jonathan on March 15, 2013:

Perfect Uninstaller did the exact same thing I did when trying to uninstall an old version of Java, FAIL. I also can't find the key for Java in the registry editor. HELP!!!

kaushal on March 09, 2013:

thank you very much

Renz on March 09, 2013:

Thank u ..................u help me a lot

lalit on March 04, 2013:

thanks a man ...u save my lots of time......thanks a lot

Sergio on February 25, 2013:

Thanks for this! :) I had a game I couldn't uninstall and ended up deleting the folder (like an idiot done this a million times sometimes works), but couldn't install again and this helped.

christopher on February 12, 2013:

reason is that the program does work right

keegan on January 28, 2013:

That's not uninstalling its still in there. I want the whole thing gone.

ASh on January 09, 2013:

Thanks a lot....for it....

stefan on January 05, 2013:

thank you so much ! great work using the second method and i am not a "power user".

All the best!

hentai on December 27, 2012:

even if you remove it on registry it can not uninstall delete it on program file data not in registry if will back again if you delete registry

rashadujjaman on December 25, 2012:

tanks for help me.

Harshree from India on December 14, 2012:

In my opinion, the add/remove programs option in windows is not good at all. Even if the programs gets uninstalled there will still be many leftovers that will remain forever on your hard drive. I agree with the use of an uninstaller program. They provide you with several options to uninstall the program as well as related files.

ABA on December 04, 2012:

thanks a lot!!!

according this tip i found this one

http://www.allbestapp.com/system-utility-apps/wins...

Gwen on November 30, 2012:

Thanks a lot, helped me, and if u wanna find something in the registry, then you can just use Ctrl+F once you have opened the registry. But thanks for this!

poop on November 20, 2012:

why would you suggest perfect uninstaller? i'm a student I can't afford that right now. this didn't help at all.

jipsysoul35 on September 16, 2012:

You rock!

anil on August 24, 2012:

we can use recommended uninstaller to uninstall applications on Windows. It can help solve problems that are caused when a program does not uninstall properly.

http://www.mirekusoft.com

rohit on August 10, 2012:

thank u buddy

Skylobos on August 09, 2012:

Thanks man, this was really helpful.

abhishek bhat.k on July 23, 2012:

thanks man you are the best

MaryDL on July 20, 2012:

Thank you soooo much!!

you are my hero

i installed avg2012 thinking it was avast virus protection.when i realized my error i tried to unistall but it says not installed request ignored but yet its running and is in my control panel on July 19, 2012:

Program says its not installed how ever its running and it's in my control panel

shubham on July 07, 2012:

thxs a lot for urs great comment. This makes me able to remove a waste program.thxs again

mouni on July 06, 2012:

thanks...................

Vidhya L from Chennai, India on June 21, 2012:

Thanks for the tip, will try it when needed. I also use Revo uninstaller (free version) and it has always force uninstalled for me without any problems.

Roy A. Briant on June 13, 2012:

Before you re-install Windows, it might be something more simple like running out of disk space. Find 'My Computer' from the start button menu and right click on 'local disk C:' then 'properties' to check on available disk space. If its more than 80-90% full there might be a problem. At least a couple gig should be available.

Read More at: http://www.techyv.com/questions/i-can-not-install-...

twinmomplus1amy on April 21, 2012:

I had Microsoft Office 2010 student and teacher edition. I uninstalled it to download another version of Microsoft Office 2010 that has Publisher and Outlook which my previous version did not. When I try to install the new version, it says it cannot be installed because I still have Update for Microsoft Word 2007 kB974631 installed. When I highlight the update in the control panel, uninstall is not an option. How do I uninstall it and why won't it uninstall? Thanks!

Kar3n4u on April 21, 2012:

For some reason, my program is installed... but its not appearing on the registry. o-o

sic on April 21, 2012:

I get a "Error deleting key" when I tried to delete this horrible, horrible program I so want to rid my computer of in all aspects. Which is "Avast" , by the way. My computer hasn't been running right sense I downloaded "Avast"-did not pay anything, either it was free or trial version. Any suggestions?

Ronny Francis on April 13, 2012:

It was excellent. I was totally to remove programme.

Now everything is smooth. Thanx very much.

Ankit on April 12, 2012:

Awesome buddy !! :D

thnx a lot !!

Jeremy Tschudy on April 02, 2012:

Shogoll

Judging by your typing, I suggest you take your machine in to a tech...I can only expect you to do more harm than good to your machine.

jryan on March 31, 2012:

Run CCleaner its faster and easier.

joy on March 21, 2012:

Thanks a lot. MAY YOUR GOOD TRIBE MULTIPLY.

Thank you once again.

me on March 17, 2012:

What am i supposed to do if every time i try to uninstall the program my computer freezes. i've run a virus scan on it and it comes up with nothing. what am i supposed to do??????????

Aman on February 29, 2012:

Thanks a ton... great trick to uninstall the useless/spam programs..

edna crandall on February 17, 2012:

why is it that a program that has 10 Google pages dedicated to its uninstall is allowed to get away with their

intrusion? I myself will be writing the Better Business and the company itself to express my frustration.

pw on February 07, 2012:

glad im not the only person having trouble getting rid of avast, the thing is preventing me from shutting down my computer and freezes up everytime i try to get rid of it or even just access the program in general, I will try some of this stuff and hopefully something will work

JK on January 20, 2012:

worked well

thanks a lot guys

Romeo on January 12, 2012:

saved my life Thank you a millon times

Ramel on January 06, 2012:

Thanks a lot!!!

William on January 03, 2012:

Incredible advice, thanks so much, you saved my day. God Bless.

hello on December 03, 2011:

thanks..great article. :)

wtf on November 15, 2011:

Maybe explain wich one of those "keys" to look in???