When you want to remove a program, you probably reach for Windows' built-in 'Add or remove programs' option. It's okay for removing the odd program here and there, but all too often you'll be presented with a message telling you that some components couldn't be removed, or the uninstall has failed.
That's why you need a dedicated third-party uninstaller – and some of the best tools around are available completely free. These uninstallers will quickly scan your system for all installed programs, and let you select several at once for removal. Once they've been purged, the software will then perform another scan to track down and wipe out temporary files and old registry entries, freeing up valuable space and ensuring you don't run into problems when installing a newer version of the same software later on.
The best free uninstallers also provide a handy way to manage browser extensions and plugins, and remove any that you don't use. You'll also be able to empty your recycle bin with a single click, and delete your browser history.
If you like to experiment with new software, or just want to keep your PC tidy, a free uninstaller is essential. Here's our pick of the best.
1. IObit Uninstaller
Thorough and thoughtfully designed - IObit is the best uninstaller for Windows
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).
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.
All in all, IObit is the best uninstaller you can download, and its thorough scanning makes it the equal of many premium programs.
Review and where to download: IObit Uninstaller
2. Wise Program Uninstaller
Wise Program Uninstaller is light as a feather, though 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
Portable app GeekUninstaller is 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 GeekUninstaller. It comes in over 30 languages too, which is undoubtedly a bonus.
4. Revo Uninstaller Free
An effective uninstaller, but we could live without its 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.
Revo Uninstaller Free offers 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 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.
Review and where to download: Revo Uninstaller Free