4 Steps To Completely Remove Troublesome Or Bad Software [Windows]

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remove software windows 7We’ve all had that one program that no matter what we’ve tried, it wouldn’t go away. Or perhaps you didn’t even know what to try and thought you were simply stuck with this annoying program (or programs, if you’re really unlucky) for the life of your computer. Well, worry no longer – there’s hope. And it is fairly easy to achieve as well.

That’s not to say parts of the process won’t take a while (scouring thoroughly through your computer isn’t easy, you know?). That said, you can always use that “waiting” time to be productive in other ways. But I don’t want to paint this picture that removing software is going to take ages – sometimes it takes a while, while other times it’s quick and simple.

Test To See If It’s Malware

remove software windows 7

The first step is to see if the program is just annoying or if it is actually harmful to your computer. There are a some great programs available to check for malware on your computer. Two programs I recommend for scanning for Malware, which are also on the MakeUseOf Best Windows Software page, are SpyBot Search & Destroy and Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware (read full review here). Of course the best way is to prevent malware from ever infecting your computer.

For more information on removing malware check out the MakeUseOf Guide, Operation Cleanup: Complete Malware Removal Guide.

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Bypass Default The Windows Uninstaller With A Superior Alternative

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There’s nothing “bad” per se about the Windows uninstaller, but there’s nothing great either, and there are certainly better options available.  On the Best Windows Software page that I linked to earlier, we have several uninstallers that work great.

In case you are curious what might make an uninstaller “superior” over the default uninstaller in Windows, it would be features such as uninstalling programs in bulk and scanning for additional files left behind by the program’s uninstaller (should be included within the uninstallation process).

remove software from windows

Not to sound like a broken record, but one of the most well known uninstallers, and still the best in my book, is Revo Uninstaller.

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Revo Uninstaller certainly isn’t the only one. Geek Uninstaller and PC Decrapifier are both great at what they do. Each have different features that make them  useful in unique ways. For example, Geek Uninstaller has an “Action” menu which allows you to search the find the program in the exact place in the registry and installation folder.

You can also access the programs website and do a Google search from the menu as well. Besides, the interface is simple and gives you all the information you need to know without being cluttered.

remove software from windows 7

PC Decrapifier, has been mentioned a few times throughout articles on MakeUseOf. It, too, is useful for removing programs in bulk. However, it doesn’t offer you the registry cleaning capabilities of Revo Uninstaller and Geek Uninstaller.

Clean Out Any Files Hanging Behind

remove software from windows 7

Whether you used an uninstaller that scanned for temporary files and registry entries leftover by a program’s uninstaller, I recommend you still use an additional program to scan for more temp files. It might seem like overkill, but it really doesn’t take much longer and you should regularly cleanout temporary files anyways.

CCleaner is probably the most popular program for this. But if you want to try something different, there are plenty of alternatives, including Xleaner and DriveTidy, nCleaner, System Ninja, Glary Utilities. There’s also an application called CCEnhancer, which as you might guess, enhances CCleaner.

The choice is yours to determine which one you decide to go with. And sometimes you don’t find anything extra, which might be the case when scanning with programs like Revo Uninstaller or Geek Uninstaller. But double checking never hurts.

remove software from windows 7

Important Notice – Cleaning out the registry can be dangerous!

  1. DON’T pay for a program to do this.
  2. DON’T expect drastic improvements in your computer’s speed or other functionality.
  3. DO Use a reputable program.

Sure removing old program files is helpful, but if your computer has other issues, cleaning out the registry is really not going to improve it that much. And, according to Tina (and I agree), it should not be done very often. That said, programs like CCleaner and System Ninja don’t just clean the registry, but also remove temporary files, help manage the startup and even remove programs, as well as other things.

Manually Search Your Computer For Leftover Traces

You’re almost done. There’s one more step to ensure everything thing is gone. Most of the time, the programs we’ve covered do a good job at removing leftover files, but once in a while one slips through and isn’t removed. This is when “manually” searching for these files comes in handy. There are a couple different locations you want to look.

Once place is generically throughout your computer. There could be files left over in the AppData, Documents or Programs folders. Windows Search doesn’t really do a good job at this, and there are many good alternatives, but I prefer using Everything. It seems to still be the best at what it does and I don’t see any reason to stop using it, but like I said, there are many alternatives.

Lastly, you can use additional programs to search the registry (as Everything doesn’t do this), but I highly recommend you use caution and I’m somewhat even hesitant to mention it. I don’t necessarily think that you need to do this in addition to using an uninstaller that removes registry values. Using a program like CCleaner would be preferred over using a program to scan and delete from the registry.

If I were to make a recommendation, however, I would say that RegSeeker or RegScanner are both “good” programs, but please keep in mind the potential harm you can do by editing the registry and that neither I nor MakeUseOf are responsible for any problems you encounter should you proceed with these programs.

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Again, they aren’t “bad”, but there are safer methods to accomplish the same thing and if you aren’t comfortable with it, please don’t do it.

Conclusion

There you have it – 4 simple steps to remove any program (unless it’s malware, then it’s a bit more complicated). In reality, an uninstaller like Revo Uninstaller in combination with a program like CCleaner, should really be all you need. There are alternatives that work well and additional programs, like Everything, to go a little deeper.

Will this help you remove a program that has been “eating” at you to be removed? Do you have any additional thoughts or suggestions that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear them!

Image Credits: Red Lock via Shutterstock, Malware via Shutterstock

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43 Comments - Write a Comment

Reply

Zhong Jiang

Installing softwares in Windows is a pain. Through the ease of happily activating the installation wizard, the program will create logs or other means of excreting its remnant throughout the system. I’m not just referring the possibility of duplicate files or empty folders, the height of the issue is the registry.

Ibrahim the Eritrean

Or you could just install the absolute/necessary programs only – but for others use their portable versions only.

Ibrahim the Eritrean

Aaron after years of Revo (uninstaller) use, I switched to Advanced Uninstaller Pro11 (which is also free). It’s faster than Revo ( – has similar other features) and does seem to do a pretty good job of wiping clean all those leftover bits in the registry. Handling this uninstallation proces in safe mode could also help and doing a defrag would reorganize things and help tune up the computer,

Ibrahim the Eritrean

You may have to download and temporarily run SafeMsi to automatically enable the Windows Installer Service in Safe Mode though. Or if you want to do it manually: type Services in Start Menu->click on “Services” with gears icon->Scroll down till you find Windows Installer->Right click and hit “Start”. This is if you don’t wanna mess with the registry to enable it, which is actually no that difficult.

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syed asghar

Hi,
I have tried unlocker.It is also one of the kind mentioned above.It is good.

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vineed gangadharan

Nice softwares,,,i use IObit uninstaller it has many functionality same as geek unistaller :)

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ha14

making a snapshot before installing a soft and after install help to see which reg files will be left after uninstall. for testing soft Sandboxie can be a good choice.

ion popa

I failed several times to test software in Sandboxie… especially with software which required restart. But I used to make a system backup image monthly; next, I test every new software I found in the past month (and restore the image after that).
Prior to system backup image, I do some “cosmetic” using CCleaner, Auslogics Disk Defrag. And scaning for malware… just in case.

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Dhaval Patel

great many times my torrent download ends with viruses

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Kaashif Haja

Good one.
Few weeks back, i uninstalled Samsung Kies from my computer. I had difficulties logging into my computer, i got errors.
I didn’t know know other way, so i had to reinstall my OS.

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Efi Dreyshner

Great guide- thanks!
Revo is a MUST HAVE(!) software…

Best Uninstaller ever!

Reply

ReadandShare

Re. Revo Uninstaller…

I like it, I use it… but sometimes — I’d say one or two times out of five — apps that I install won’t show up on the list — although they show up on my Win 7’s uninstaller!?!

Anyone here has similar experience?

A&L

if it was a 64 bit program it won’t show in revo, you have to use windows uninstall programs

Aaron Couch

If you’re on Windows 7 64-bit, Revo won’t display the all the 64-bit programs. My advice wouldn’t be to use the default uninstaller in Windows, but to use Geek Uninstaller instead.

Reply

Terafall

To avoid more registry problem,use portable apps

dragonmouth

To avoid registry problems, use an O/S without a registry like Linux or OS/X.

Kathleen Wright

I agree, I was a Vista user but now use OS/X for this very reason.

Reply

Lisa Santika Onggrid

Searching for leftovers manually is very important. I’ve found once or twice that the leftovers are huge and some programs don’t bother removing your user data as well. I fyou value privacy, then dig around and don’t just blindly trust uninstaller to take care of everything. Oh, and they could be hidden in unlikely places.

Important bits: Some softwares like to use shared files and depending on what file it is, you can be screwed if you accidentally delete the file while there is another software still needing it.

dragonmouth

Whoever came up with the idea of Windows Registry should be tarred and feathered then hung by their toes.

Some programs have 4,000 or 5,000 or more Registry entries. AOL used to be one like that. Even after using Revo Uninstaller and CCleaner, most of the Registry entries remained. As a last step of all uninstalls I use Windows Regedit to find whatever entries have been left and then delete them.

Reply

Sam Kar

Nice article.
I would recommend using portable version as much as possible, so that there is no need of uninstallers or registry cleaners.

Aaron Couch

That’s great advice! Thanks for contributing.

Grr

Welcome

Reply

slobodan zekic

Revo Uninstaller not good for uinstall software….only the name has file changed

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Carlos Olivera

Why dont you guys check this site fabianas.com its a good site it should be able to be on this list!

Reply

Debra Beshears

Great tips on getting rid of software you don’t want anymore.

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Sc Ling

I like Spybot Search and Destroy. It is a bit slow but that is because it is thorough in weeding out the bad malware especially spyware which are not detected by antivirus program. CCleaner is good in cleaning junk accumulated from activities performed on your computer. I also like Slim Cleaner which I find to be very fast in getting rid of the computer junk. Revo Uninstaller is excellent in uninstalling stubborn programs or leftovers of any programs in the computer.

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Collin Hoffman

The only program I ever had much trouble uninstalling was Norton Internet Security 2005 on a Windows XP machine a few years ago. I tried all sorts of things and NOTHING would get rid of it. It kept saying only a supervisor could uninstall the program, so I eventually decided to try something creative. I created a admin account called “Supervisor”, and wouldn’t you know it, I was able to uninstall it.

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Piet Deje

I use Iobit Unisntaller and CCleaner.

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Gull Faraz

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Gull Faraz

Searching for leftovers manually is very important. I’ve found once or twice that the leftovers are huge and some programs don’t bother removing your user data as well. I fyou value privacy, then dig around and don’t just blindly trust uninstaller to take care of everything. Oh, and they could be hidden in unlikely places.

Important bits: Some softwares like to use shared files and depending on what file it is, you can be screwed if you accidentally delete the file while there is another software still needing it.

Reply

Anonymous

best part in this article is “DON’T pay for a program to do this.”

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James

The easy solution to any windows problem no mater how trivial is format and start over. do it every other year or so.

Ibrahim the Eritrean

That’s only half the story, James. The best way is once you buy a computer get rid of all those trialware and crapware, popup demonware, etc. that come bundled at the factory by using PC Decrapifier and Geek or other good uninstaller. {Even if you really need some of them, be sure to see that they don’t auto-start with Windows and hog the system resources. Disable them by going to msconfig->Startup tab}

Then clean the registry with ccleaner or IObit Toolbox (- a debatable issue), defrag the OS and create a “system restore-point”. When done, take a snapshot of the OS by using the built-in Windows 7 disk-Imaging utility or Macrium Reflect to back it all up to an external hd drive, thumb-drive,etc (- don’t forget to create the system recovery utility disk as well). Create 2 separate partitions: one for your personal data and one for the OS system (where you will be doing your future fresh installs).

As an added measure, create another Limited level (Standard User) account and log/keep yourself there, rather than the Administrator Account. When and if you must install a program, do watch out for those pesky toolbars, spyware, etc. Finito!

James

Even better do a low level format of the hard drive and install your favorite distro of Linux. then when you must run a winblows app use wine or install windows to a virtual box or other virtualization tool. or you could duel boot but duel booting is such a pain. I hate having to shutdown to switch os’s

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Austen Gause

Finally something that works.

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Jorge Yort Rosal

Nice tips. CCleaner works great for me. ajjah

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Md Nur-Un-Nabi Tutul

An informative article….tough sometime i use ccleaner uninstaller or iobit uninstaller. Most of the time I have seen if I fail to uninstall a program using default uninstaller then either Iobit or ccleaner uninstaller had done the work for me. It better not to modify the registry file unless someone doesn’t know what he is dealing with….else his pc might crash if something goes wrong..

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Lionel Hutz

I’d advise people to avoid Iobit products altogether. I’ve recently found that when installing their uninstaller, you also get some malware. At a minimum, it puts in no-script exceptions for itself, but also asks you to install a Firefox add-on with a very misleading name (Firefox Security Component, I think it was).

I went to Iobit’s website to try to get some info and was pushed toward their forums because they won’t directly answer questions about free products. I was unable to register for the forums, for no good reason that I could tell. Not surprisingly, there are no posts about this issue on there.

In short, I’m going to do everything I can to remove all traces of their products from my system and I’d advise others to do the same. I switched to them because I thought their application worked better than Revo, but I might have to give Revo a try again.

Aaron Couch

I’ve heard things like that about IObit and I’m personally sitting on the fence of what to think.

On a different note, I recommend giving Geek Uninstaller a try. Revo is great – yes. But Geek Uninstaller might surprise you as well.

Thanks for reading!

Reply

harley

I like Revo but it doesn’t work well with 64bit Windows 7, so I use Iobit Uninstaller which works well. I also use CCleaner and Everything to get rid of leftovers.

Aaron Couch

Harley,

That’s true and definitely unfortunate about Revo. I would recommend trying out Geek Uninstaller.

harley

Thanks, will try that.

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