How to Force Uninstall a Program That Won't Uninstall

Updated on May 2, 2017

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

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    • profile image

      Sandy 

      6 weeks ago

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

    • profile image

      hello 

      2 months ago

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

    • profile image

      srij 

      7 months ago

      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

    • profile image

      riff 

      8 months ago

      thanks it work

    • profile image

      Enihs 

      8 months ago

      thanks man,appreciate it :)))

    • profile image

      Katalina 

      8 months ago

      I am thankful

      very useful

      and very understandable

      Thank you again, this great job :)

    • profile image

      Samuel Ogunfuye 

      9 months ago

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

    • profile image

      JAXK 

      9 months ago

      GREAT IT WORKS.. HAIL FOR THIS MAN

    • profile image

      Galla 

      12 months ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Pete The Mouse 

      12 months ago

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

    • profile image

      Deepak 

      13 months ago

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

    • profile image

      Jennifer 

      13 months ago

      This was an awesome article. Thanks

    • profile image

      king 

      14 months ago

      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

    • profile image

      Mathew 

      14 months ago

      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?

    • profile image

      Manraj Singh 

      15 months ago

      thanks alot bro....

    • profile image

      ShepardVasNormandy 

      15 months ago

      Thank you bro ;)

    • profile image

      Jay 

      16 months ago

      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.

    • profile image

      shuxxx 

      17 months ago

      nice! thank you

    • profile image

      Nur 

      17 months ago

      Thanks. It worked good.

    • profile image

      Severodvinsk Masterskaya 

      18 months ago

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

    • profile image

      Jenn 

      23 months ago

      Thank you for the video

    • profile image

      John Doe 

      23 months ago

      You're a life saver.

    • profile image

      jigar iglesias 

      2 years ago

      omg thank u so much...

    • profile image

      zepp 

      2 years ago

      Rest in peace eugene2k

    • profile image

      venkat 

      2 years ago

      Thanks I will try ...

    • profile image

      steamboat 

      2 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Neb 

      2 years ago

      Why does the registry uninstall not display all my programs?

    • profile image

      JohnP 

      2 years ago

      You can use Microsoft FixIT for this purposes

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

    • profile image

      brainlanded.com 

      3 years ago

    • profile image

      SarahK 

      3 years ago

      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!

    • profile image

      juliaop 

      3 years ago

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

    • profile image

      avs 

      3 years ago

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

    • profile image

      ek 

      4 years ago

      it work well thanks

    • profile image

      NicMadden 

      4 years ago

      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! :)

    • profile image

      Logik 

      4 years ago

      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?

    • profile image

      ioana 

      4 years ago

      Thak you so much, you are a genious!

    • profile image

      Mira 

      4 years ago

      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!

    • profile image

      Matty 

      4 years ago

      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

    • profile image

      Samuel Ranta 

      4 years ago

      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...

    • profile image

      Uday 

      5 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Lilia 

      5 years ago

      Thank you so much!!

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

    • profile image

      jegon 

      5 years ago

      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??

    • profile image

      jegon 

      5 years ago

      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??

    • profile image

      windows user 

      5 years ago

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

    • profile image

      sam88 

      5 years ago

    • receivetipstricks profile image

      Mrinal Saha 

      5 years ago from Jaipur,India

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

    • profile image

      computer putz 

      5 years ago

      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............

    • profile image

      Jonathan 

      5 years ago

      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!!!

    • profile image

      kaushal 

      5 years ago

      thank you very much

    • profile image

      Renz 

      5 years ago

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

    • profile image

      lalit 

      5 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Sergio 

      5 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      christopher 

      5 years ago

      reason is that the program does work right

    • profile image

      keegan 

      5 years ago

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

    • profile image

      ASh 

      5 years ago

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

    • profile image

      stefan 

      5 years ago

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

      All the best!

    • profile image

      hentai 

      5 years ago

      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

    • profile image

      rashadujjaman 

      5 years ago

      tanks for help me.

    • harshree profile image

      Harshree 

      6 years ago from India

      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.

    • profile image

      ABA 

      6 years ago

      thanks a lot!!!

      according this tip i found this one

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

    • profile image

      Gwen 

      6 years ago

      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!

    • profile image

      poop 

      6 years ago

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

    • profile image

      jipsysoul35 

      6 years ago

      You rock!

    • profile image

      anil 

      6 years ago

      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

    • profile image

      rohit 

      6 years ago

      thank u buddy

    • profile image

      Skylobos 

      6 years ago

      Thanks man, this was really helpful.

    • profile image

      abhishek bhat.k 

      6 years ago

      thanks man you are the best

    • profile image

      MaryDL 

      6 years ago

      Thank you soooo much!!

      you are my hero

    • profile image

      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 

      6 years ago

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

    • profile image

      shubham 

      6 years ago

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

    • profile image

      mouni 

      6 years ago

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

    • howtoguides2learn profile image

      Vidhya L 

      6 years ago from Chennai, India

      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.

    • profile image

      Roy A. Briant 

      6 years ago

      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-...

    • profile image

      twinmomplus1amy 

      6 years ago

      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!

    • profile image

      Kar3n4u 

      6 years ago

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

    • profile image

      sic 

      6 years ago

      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?

    • profile image

      Ronny Francis 

      6 years ago

      It was excellent. I was totally to remove programme.

      Now everything is smooth. Thanx very much.

    • profile image

      Ankit 

      6 years ago

      Awesome buddy !! :D

      thnx a lot !!

    • profile image

      Jeremy Tschudy 

      6 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      jryan 

      6 years ago

      Run CCleaner its faster and easier.

    • profile image

      joy 

      6 years ago

      Thanks a lot. MAY YOUR GOOD TRIBE MULTIPLY.

      Thank you once again.

    • profile image

      me 

      6 years ago

      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??????????

    • profile image

      Aman 

      6 years ago

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

    • profile image

      edna crandall 

      6 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      pw 

      6 years ago

      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

    • profile image

      JK 

      6 years ago

      worked well

      thanks a lot guys

    • profile image

      Romeo 

      6 years ago

      saved my life Thank you a millon times

    • profile image

      Ramel 

      6 years ago

      Thanks a lot!!!

    • profile image

      William 

      6 years ago

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

    • profile image

      hello 

      7 years ago

      thanks..great article. :)

    • profile image

      wtf 

      7 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Thank you 

      7 years ago

      OMG thank you soo much, you are a life saver

    • profile image

      Thank YOU :-) 

      7 years ago

      Thank you sooooooooooo much :D :D :D

    • profile image

      TCR 

      7 years ago

      I can't uninstall a game. It's not in the add/remove tool and i couldn't find in h_key ... But when i want to install it again only the uninstall appears. When i click on uninstall the installer closes and nothing happens.

      (Sorry for bad English)

    • profile image

      rudy q 

      7 years ago

      nice tank u so much please keep up the good work all in your office 100%%%%%%%%%%%%

    • profile image

      Basim 

      7 years ago

      Totally solve my problem

    • profile image

      Daniel 

      7 years ago

      Hi, I would recommend using a software that will force delete ANY unwanted program even if Windows Add/Remove feature can't delete. I am using this software www.registrywisecleaner.com/uninstall-any-software.php

    • profile image

      Griffin 

      7 years ago

      can this get rid of a program i uninstalled then reinstalled by setting my computer to an earlier version?

      cause im trying to use my disc to reinstall but it says its already installed.

    • profile image

      Sukant 

      7 years ago

      Thanx a lot....

    • profile image

      Ryan 

      7 years ago

      man thank you so much for this tutorial!

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