NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, June 2010
Free Utilities to Uninstall Unwanted Software
By Ira Wilsker, APCUG Director;
Columnist, The Examiner, Beaumont, TX; Radio & TV Show Host
(click to email author)


Recently, in one of the computer classes I was teaching, a student volunteered that he got rid of unwanted programs by simply deleting the files and directories using Windows Explorer (file manager). He asked if that was ok. I politely explained that the method that he used was not ok, because improperly deleting files can leave errors in the registry, damaged file associations, and a host of other problems. I showed him on my desktop computer that Windows has an integral function commonly called "Add or Remove Programs" that could do a credible job of properly deleting unwanted programs. I also showed him if he clicked on START - PROGRAMS and went to the menu for his now unwanted program, there may be an entry to uninstall the program, directly from the menu. Additionally, if he used his Windows Explorer file manager to look at the directory containing the unwanted program, there would sometimes be an executable file with the name "uninstall.exe" or "unwise.exe" in the program directory, which will start the proper uninstall process. While these methods are at least minimally adequate, and generally safe, they do tend to leave some now useless "garbage" on the hard drive and in the registry. After time, as more programs are installed and deleted, this buildup of obsolete and useless files and registry entries can amount to substantial wasted hard drive space, and degraded performance due to a bloated registry.

A cottage industry has developed where programmers have developed software to more thoroughly uninstall unwanted software, better and more completely than Windows' integral Add or Remove program, and the uninstallers sometimes included with the now unwanted programs. Many of the commercial and freeware utilities that can perform computer maintenance and cleanup tasks now include some form of uninstaller, and these are generally pretty good. For those PC users who may like a freestanding utility that can effectively and completely uninstall an unwanted or obsolete program, there are two that I am currently using, both of which have proven themselves as capable utilities. Both of these utilities not just delete the unwanted programs, but also scan the hard drive and registry for now useless files and entries, and allow the user to selectively and safely remove them. The two programs that I am currently using are the freeware version of Revo Uninstaller (version 1.88), and the recently updated freeware IObit Uninstaller (version 1.1).

The freeware version of Revo Uninstaller, available by download link at the bottom of the page at http://www.revouninstaller.com/revo_uninstaller_free_download.html is one of the most popular and highly rated uninstallers available. While not as feature rich as its commercial big brother, it does have the ability to totally remove any unwanted programs from the computer. The default display of Revo Uninstaller shows the icons of the programs installed on the computer. Clicking on the icon of the unwanted program opens a "Select an Uninstall Mode" window where the user has four choices. The first choice only executes the target program's own uninstaller, and does not do any additional scanning. While fast, this is typically not a very complete removal of the unwanted software. The second selection, the one that I use almost universally, is the "Safe" mode, which first runs the unwanted program's own uninstaller, and then scans the registry and hard drive to find leftover items that are safe to delete. The "Moderate" and "Advanced" modes are slower as they perform more comprehensive scans, but sometimes find a few more items to delete. Once a mode is selected, Revo does as instructed, creates a restore point, and uninstalls the program, followed by a registry scan and hard drive scan. After the registry scan is completed, now obsolete entries are displayed in a bold font, with a checkbox to the left of the entry; it is generally safe to check the box adjacent to the bold entries, which will delete them from the registry. The user generally should not check any boxes that are not adjacent to a bold entry. After removing selected registry items, Revo scans the hard drive for now orphaned files and directories, which are displayed along with adjacent check boxes. The user can "select all" or choose which files to delete. Once Revo Uninstaller has completed its tasks, the unwanted program is no longer present anywhere on the computer. Revo Uninstaller has a well-earned reputation for effectiveness and safety, and is a most viable alternative to Microsoft's anemic Add or Remove Programs utility.

Always on the lookout for new products to try, I recently read some very positive reviews of IObit's recently released Uninstaller software, available as a free download from http://www.iobit.com/advanceduninstaller.html. The interface on IObit Uninstaller is clean, and displays all of the programs installed on the computer. A checkbox on the left of each program is used to select the program to be removed. There are only two choices available under the "Uninstall" icon on the program toolbar, "Standard" and "Advanced". The "Standard" selection only runs the unwanted program's own uninstall function. The "Advanced" choice performs the more thorough uninstall, complete with registry and hard drive scans to locate and remove now obsolete entries. Before any files are removed, IObit creates a system restore point so the system can be quickly and easily recovered if an error is made during the uninstall process. One interesting feature on the left side of the IObit Uninstall window is the "Toolbars" icon, which displays the toolbars installed in the browsers. Many users have too many toolbars installed on their browsers, which robs the user of valuable desktop real estate. Many browser toolbars are redundant and offer no additional functionality, and some are actually security and privacy risks, or slow down the browser. By checking the box adjacent to the unwanted toolbars, this software will do a fast and credible job of removing the unwanted toolbars from the browser.

The IObit Uninstaller allows the user to "batch uninstall" where checking more than one box (selecting more than one program to uninstall) will uninstall several programs with a single click. Another interesting feature is that the program is run as downloaded, and requires no installation. In addition to having IObit Uninstaller on my hard drive, I now have a copy on the USB flash drive that I carry on my keychain, along with my security software.

Either or both of these programs would be worthwhile to have on any computer, and can assure the user that any unwanted programs are safely and properly deleted from the computer.

Click here to return to top