Whenever you install a program in Windows two things happen. First, the files needed to run the program are copied onto your hard drive, usually found in Program Files. Second, the Windows registry is updated with configuration settings for that specific program.
Because both of these things happen when you install a program, it is vitally important that you do not try to get rid of unwanted programs by deleting them out of the Program Files folder! This only deletes the files associated with the program, but leaves the configuration settings in the registry. Which means that Windows still thinks the program is installed, which can cause a lot of problems down the road? You can run into errors or even crash your computer.
Safely Removing Programs
Windows provides an application Add/Remove Programs to get rid of your unwanted programs. You need to be logged into an administrator account on your computer for this to work. Go into the application by going to your control panel and clicking on Add/Remove Programs. A list of programs on your computer will be displayed. Click on the program that you want to remove and click the remove button.
The next step will depend on the program you are trying to uninstall. Some programs bring up a screen that asks you if you want to repair, modify or remove the program. Click remove and next to finish the uninstallation. Other programs ask if you want to do an automatic or manual uninstall. Always choose automatic in this case.
At this point you are done. As long as you did not get any errors, you have safely removed the program and can now reboot your computer.
When the Program Isn’t On the List
It sometimes happens that when you go to uninstall a program it does not show up on the Add/Remove Programs list. This usually occurs when a program did not install correctly. It can also occur with spyware that deliberately hides from you so that you cannot remove it. When the program is not on the list, you have several options.
- Reinstall the program. This will, hopefully, create a good installation so that the program shows up in the program list. If a program was not installed correctly this will usually fix the problem. You can then access it on the programs list and uninstall it.
- Contact the software technical support. If reinstalling the program does not work, you need to contact technical support of the software’s manufacturer. They should be able to give you uninstallation instructions.
- You can manually uninstall the program. Be very careful in doing this because if you delete the wrong files your computer will be useless. It is best to only attempt this if you completely know what you are doing. Otherwise, you might consider getting someone to do it for you.
- Delete the program’s folder in Program Files.
- Find and delete all references to the program in the start menu, especially in the startup folder. This can be done by going to Start>All Programs>Start Up.
- Clean your registry. This is very tricky and should only be done by a professional. If you are not sure of what you are doing, skip this step. It will need to be completed eventually, but it is better to leave some things in the registry that are not needed than to mess up your computer completely by deleting the wrong files.