The best free software uninstaller 2016

Remove every trace of unwanted software, including the bits their own uninstallers miss

The best free software uninstaller

When you use a program's built-in uninstaller, it rarely does a thorough job. Sometimes you'll be informed that "some elements could not be removed" as the uninstaller effectively shrugs its shoulders and leaves the mess behind - whether it's temporary files, old shortcuts or broken registry entries.

All this detritus builds up over time, and can slow down your system or cause conflicts further down the line - particularly in the case of security software, which won't run properly if it detects files associated with another tool.

Third-party uninstallers can clear up the mess in moments. If you're already having trouble with a program you thought you'd removed, the tool can scan your drives for files and broken links left over. If you want to uninstall a program thoroughly, the tool will run the program's own uninstaller, then perform a cleanup scan immediately afterwards. More advanced tools will monitor what happens when you install a new program - what files are created and changed - so it can rapidly reverse those changes when you want to remove it.

Divider

IObit Uninstaller the best software uninstaller

IObit Uninstaller does an excellent job of scanning for junk left over by uninstalled programs, and ensuring they're removed properly in the first place

1. IObit Uninstaller

Download IObit Uninstaller

Thorough and thoughtfully designed - IObit is the best free software uninstaller around

IObit Uninstaller gets right down to business, scanning your system for installed software the moment it starts. Its smart, clear interface displays a list of all your installed software, with extra tabs if you're only interested in the newest programs (if you've tried something new and don't like it), and the biggest ones (which will have the greatest impact on system performance). There's a batch processing option for removing multiple programs at once.

If you've already uninstalled a program but suspect it's left mucky footprints across your drive, IObit's deep scanner can hunt down junk including broken shortcuts and caches created when installing software updates.

IObit Uninstaller also takes a look at your web browsers to identify any plugins that could be uninstalled to speed up your surfing. It currently supports Firefox and Internet Explorer, but not Chrome or Edge. Each extension is accompanied by a user rating to help you decide whether to keep it.

There's a file shredder thrown in too, which doesn't really fit with the premise of an uninstaller, but all the other tools are relevant and useful. IObit Uninstaller is the best free uninstaller you can download, and its thorough scanning makes it the equal of many premium programs.

Download here: IObit Uninstaller

Divider

Download Wise Program Uninstaller free

Wise Program Uninstaller doesn't have tools like install logging, but it's easy to use and incredibly small

2. Wise Program Uninstaller

Download Wise Program Uninstaller free

Wise Program Uninstaller is light as a feather, though a little less thorough than IObit

Wise Program Uninstaller is a portable app, so you don't have to worry about it leaving mess of its own, though it offers you a free trial of a product called Spyhunter that you might prefer to decline.

It's a very quick and lean little uninstaller that scans your system for already installed programs and displays ratings to show you how other users feel about them. You probably already know what you want to erase, but it's a thoughtful touch.

Your choices for each program are Safe and Forced uninstall (some also have a Repair option, but only if it's part of the software in the first place).

Safe uninstall is simply a way to access the program's own uninstaller, whereas Forced performs a deep scan to track down scrap files and broken registry entries. It shows you everything it's identified before deleting them, but this doesn't serve much purpose; you're unlikely to be able to pick out an individual Registry entry and say "Hang on, I need that!"

The main downside of its small size is that it can't log new programs as you install them, but as a program uninstaller it's well designed and not bulked out with unnecessary system tools.

Download here: Wise Program Uninstaller

Divider

Download GeekUninstaller free

GeekUninstaller is a portable app, which means it doesn't even need to be installed itself before it begins cleaning up other programs

3. GeekUninstaller

Download GeekUninstaller free

GeekUninstaller is streamlined portable app that's ideal for mopping up after messy software

GeekUninstaller is another free portable uninstaller, weighing in at just 2.5MB. Although a 'Pro' version is advertised on developer's site, this is actually a completely different program called Uninstall Tool - GeekUninstaller is completely free,

It performs a speedy system scan and provides the usual options: regular or forced uninstall. If you don't recognize something, GeekUninstaller will Google it for you - a simple but welcome addition that saves you loading up a browser.

That's pretty much it - there's no deep scan for remnants of previously uninstalled programs, and no monitoring for new installations, but if you're simply after something to clean up as you go, uninstallers don't come smaller and simpler than this. It comes in over 30 languages too, which is undoubtedly a bonus.

Download here: GeekUninstaller

Divider

Download Ashampoo Uninstaller free

The free trial of Ashampoo is excellent if you want to give your PC a deep cleaning, or take the premium tool for a test-run before opening your wallet

4. Ashampoo Uninstaller (trial)

Download Ashampoo Uninstaller free

A premium trial to scour your system. Great for getting rid of a single particularly stubborn program

This is a time-limited trial of Ashampoo Uninstaller rather than the full program, but is well worth considering if you need to purge your PC of one particularly stubborn piece of software, or want to give it a thorough spring clean. The basic trial lasts 10 days, but you can extend for an extra month by signing up for an account (a standard requirement with Ashampoo's free software).

The uninstaller itself is impressive, as you'd expect from a premium product - it can remove existing applications, and log new ones as you add them. You can set it to start automatically at the same time as Windows, though your startup time might take a knock as a result.

There are also system optimization tools like a file shredder, file restorer, disk defragmenter and even a font manager, but Ashampoo Uninstaller is an excellent tool without these - they're just padding.

Download here: Ashampoo Uninstaller

Divider

Download Revo Uninstaller Free

Revo Uninstaller Free is a competent tool, but cluttered with unnecessary extra utilities and links to Windows' own system tools

5. Revo Uninstaller Free

Download Revo Uninstaller free

An effective uninstaller, but we could live without Revo's additional optimization tools

Revo Uninstaller Free's icon-strewn interface is colorful but cluttered, and includes tools like a startup program manager, plus links to Windows' own system tools (including defrag and on-screen keyboard). These really aren't necessary, and just distract from an otherwise solid free uninstaller.

There are four uninstall options: built-in, safe (built-in with additional registry scanning), moderate (with extra scanning of common locations for leftover files) and advanced (moderate mode, followed by a thorough scanning of your whole system). There's also a strange 'Hunter Mode', which lets you uninstall programs by dragging their icons onto a crosshair on your desktop. It's much more work than selecting the program from a list - a metaphor gone rogue.

Unlike some uninstallers, Revo begins by creating a system restore point, which is reassuring. It can't log new installations, though - if you want that, you might like to give Revo's Pro version a whirl for 30 days. It's worlds away from the free edition's late-90s styling, and will give your drives a good scrubbing.

Download here: Revo Uninstaller Free

See all the free software uninstallers available to download on TechRadar

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cat is TechRadar's downloads editor. She's been a tech journalist for six years on magazines including PC Plus, Official Windows, PC Format and Windows: Help & Advice (with a brief stint in PR for the nuclear industry in between). If you have a question about software, drop her a line!