10 tips for removing a program that won't uninstall

How to remove unwanted apps from your PC

There are many reasons why you may need to remove programs from your PC from time to time. Some programs may not work properly, or you may simply want to remove some old programs in order to free up some extra space on your hard disk.

Windows includes a number of straightforward options for removing programs, and we'll look at those here. However, some programs can be a bit tricky to fully remove properly, so we've also chosen some useful tools that you can download to help you out as well.

1. Use System Restore

All versions of Windows going right back to XP include an option called System Restore that allows your PC to revert back to an earlier state. Windows XP hides this deep inside the Start menu – All Programs/Accessories/System Tools – but in later versions of Windows you can quickly locate it just by typing 'restore' into the Search tool in the Start Menu or the Windows 8 Start Screen.

Use System Restore

System Restore can remove any programs you have installed recently.

Before you install any new piece of software you can use System Restore to create a new 'restore point'. If anything subsequently goes wrong with your PC you can use System Restore to turn back time and return your PC to the state it was in before you installed that new program.

2. Check Your Control Panel

When you install any new piece of software onto your PC, that program is added to a list that is stored in the Windows Control Panel. It's called Add or Remove Programs in Windows XP. In Windows Vista and Windows 7 and 8, you have to open Control Panel and then select View: Category. You will then see Uninstall A Program listed under the Programs heading.

Check your Control Panel

You can uninstall programs using the Windows Control Panel.

You can then just double-click any program in that list to remove it from your PC. Most programs will be deleted automatically, although some may also provide options to repair or modify the program if it isn't working properly. If your first attempt to uninstall a program doesn't work, Microsoft suggests trying again for a second time.

Another option is to restart your PC using its special Safe Mode, which is often used for diagnosing and troubleshooting various problems with Windows. You can normally do this by holding down the F8 key while you restart your PC, and then selecting 'Safe Mode' from the screen that appears. You can then try removing the program using the Control Panel again while still in Safe Mode.

3. Searching For Files

Some programs may not show up in that list in Control Panel, but they may have a separate uninstaller program tucked away somewhere else. In Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 you can click on All Programs in the Start menu, and then look inside the program folder (if it has one – some programs may just show as a single file on their own).

Searching for files

The Windows search tool can help you to locate files.

Windows 8 does things slightly differently. Open the Charms bar by moving your mouse to the top-right corner of the screen. Click on the Search button and then type in the name of the program you want to remove. If the program shows up in the search list you can right-click on it and you'll see a menu with an Uninstall command that you can use.

4. Windows 8 Uninstall

Windows 8 also introduced another option that allows you to quickly uninstall programs that are listed on the new Start screen. Windows 8 displays programs as a series of rectangular 'tiles' on the Start screen, and you can just right-click on a program's tile to display a special toolbar at the bottom of the screen.

Windows 8 uninstall

Windows 8 has its own options for removing programs.

This toolbar includes an option for uninstalling the program, as well as showing the location of the file on your hard disk so that you can see if it has its own uninstaller program or help files.