Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Uninstall anything completely

Uninstall anything completely

Your PC is stuffed with junk – including programs you thought you’d seen the back of. Jane Hoskyn reveals how to remove every trace and reclaim your space

Computers (like people!) slow down when they’re full. If you’ve had your PC for a while, it’s likely to be crammed with programs you no longer use, Windows apps you never used, defunct hardware drivers and all sorts of stuff you can’t budge, even when you right-click and choose Delete.

Windows’ built-in uninstaller isn’t powerful enough to remove programs completely, and it certainly can’t tackle unwanted default apps and old system installations, yet these items could be hogging half your hard drive without you even knowing it.

For this feature, we uninstalled everything we could from our test PCs, moving step by step from installed programs to Microsoft leftovers, and even Windows itself. We got a shock when we found 28GB of obsolete Windows update files on a relatively new laptop, but we can happily report we uninstalled them easily – once we knew how. Read on to find out how to free this much space and more.


Uninstall a program completely

You know how to uninstall software. Open the Control Panel, click ‘Uninstall a program’, choose one and then click Uninstall. But while this auto-pilot strategy may be quick, it’s certainly not complete, and it leaves behind a trail of Registry data, program files and processes that continue to run in the background.

The free version of Revo Uninstaller ( seizes all this litter while removing a program so you can ditch the lot. It takes barely any longer than the old Control Panel method, and it’s easy – simply double-click a program in Revo’s list. This automatically selects Uninstall and displays all the program’s Registry items and other leftover files. You then simply click Select All, then Delete to get rid of them. It always creates a system restore point in case anything goes wrong.

Revo is straightforward to install, but be careful because the download button at the top of the page is the paid-for version, Revo Uninstaller Pro. Instead, scroll down the page and click Free Download next to Revo Uninstaller Freeware. There’s no junk in the installer.

If you’re using Windows XP, Vista or 7, use the portable version instead – just click the Download button under Other Downloads.

Delete unwanted start-up programs

Revo includes a Hunter Mode tool you can drag on to programs to investigate them and force them to stop, then uninstall them completely. It’s especially useful for getting rid of programs that automatically start when Windows launches, and which may not appear in the ‘Uninstall a program’ list.

Startup programs appear in your system tray – the pop-up window hidden next to the clock on your taskbar. Not everything in your system tray is junk – it’s likely to contain your antivirus, the single most important program on your PC – but a lot will be.

To find out what to keep and what to ditch, set Hunter Mode to run when Windows starts. Drag it over each system-tray shortcut to find out what it is. You can then kill and uninstall it completely from the Hunter Mode menu.

Uninstall multiple programs at once

The new version of IObit Uninstaller ( lets you batch-uninstall programs from its default window. Tick everything you want to remove, then click Uninstall. As you tick each program, IObit calculates how much space you’ll save.

IObit uninstalls programs one after the other rather than simultaneously; you have to click to confirm each one, so you can’t simply leave IObit to get on with the job.

Unlike Revo, IObit doesn’t create a restore point automatically. Instead, it asks if you want to create one or not. This is handy if you’re trying to free up space on your PC, because restore points can be large.

Force-remove stubborn software

The programs you most want to get rid of are often hardest to uninstall. They aren’t necessarily malicious, often just badly designed, with files scattered all over your hard drive.

The most powerful tool for removing them is GeekUninstaller ( It’s free and portable, so there’s no installation to worry about. Click the Download Free link and extract the EXE file, then double-click it to open a list of your installed software, including stuff that doesn’t show up in ‘Uninstall a program’.

To dislodge a stubborn program, right-click it and select Force Removal. This gets rid of it completely, along with Registry entries and other leftover files. If you’re not sure what a program is and don’t understand why it won’t delete, select ‘Google for’ from the right-click menu to find out more information.


Find pre-installed junk on your new PC

A new PC is an empty PC, right? Wrong. Very wrong. Most computers are stuffed with software by the time they reach the shops. This ‘bloatware’ commonly includes media suites, cloud-storage programs and trial versions of antivirus products. Sometimes, as when Lenovo pre-installed Superfish adware on laptops, this junk can be downright dangerous (

To find out what’s already installed on a new PC, run the free, portable program PC Decrapifier ( It reveals which of your installed programs should get the boot, using scores gathered from other users.

You can uninstall multiple programs at once using PC Decrapifier. However, the removal process is less thorough than in the other tools we’ve mentioned, so use one of those as well to sweep up leftover files.

Remove all built-in Windows 10 apps at once

Windows 10 apps have certain advantages over traditional programs: they’re fast, easy to update and relatively small, which is great if you’ve chosen to install them. But what about the dozens you didn’t? Open your Start menu and you’ll find oodles of default Microsoft apps, uninvited and pre-installed.

You can get rid of some by rightclicking their entries in the Start menu and clicking Uninstall. This works for several pre-installed Microsoft apps including Feedback Hub, Microsoft WiFi and Microsoft Solitaire Collection (though we rather like that one). Until Microsoft adds its app-removal option to the full vesion of Windows 10, others – such as Cortana, Edge and Store – need a firmer hand.

To uninstall these persistent apps in one go, use the free, portable tool 10AppsManager ( Its new version (2.0) lets you uninstall all Windows apps in one go, then reinstall any you decide you want back. To get it, scroll down the page and click Download File, then extract the contents of the Zip file. Click an app’s thumbnail in the program window to uninstall only that app, or click Remove All to blitz the lot.


Uninstall pointless plugins and extensions

Plugins and extensions are tiny programs that add features to your browser. Some are useful, such as the advert-blocking extension Adblock Plus, and some are notorious security blackspots, such as the media plugin Java. They all take up space and many slow down your browser. By and large, they’re dispensable.

All the major browsers let you disable plugins manually. In Chrome, type chrome://plugins into the address bar and press Enter, then click the Disable links (though this doesn’t remove them). In Firefox, open the menu, click Add-ons and select Plugins, then click Disable next to any plugin. Extensions are usually listed separately and you can easily remove them one at a time.

For a quicker and more thorough clear-out, use Wise Plugin Manager ( This free program automatically detects extensions and plugins in Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer (IE) and Opera, then lets you remove each item with one click. Unlike some other Wise programs, Plugin Manager doesn’t currently bundle junk in its installer.

To uninstall multiple plugins and extensions in one go, use the latest version 6 of IObit Uninstaller. Click ‘Toolbars & Plug-ins’ to see all plugins installed by and for Chrome, Firefox, IE and – going one better than Wise Plugin Manager – Edge.

Remove dodgy search engines and toolbars

Unwanted search engines and toolbars are the unsavoury side of browser extras. These hijackers trick their way on to your PC by hiding in software installers – often with the full cooperation of the software maker. The Bing toolbar has long been bundled in the installer for Skype, and nasty adware such as Conduit Search Protect and Binkiland commonly stow away in installers for MP3 downloaders, torrent tools and other free media software. Adware can be hard to uninstall, especially if you use browser-syncing tools that pass the offending intruder between your PC and other devices. Less offensive search junk, including Bing and Avast’s ‘Safe shopping’ extension, can be removed via ‘Toolbars & Plug-ins’ in IObit Uninstaller.

The nasty stuff – adware and PUPs (potentially unwanted programs) – often secrete themselves in deliberately obscure locations in your hard drive and Registry. To find and remove them, stop any browser-syncing services and then use the free, portable adware-removing tool AdwCleaner ( Run AdwCleaner as an administrator to find PUPs embedded on your PC, then click Clean to remove every trace.


Remove obsolete drivers

Drivers, like plugins, are tiny programs that make something work – in this case, hardware. Your printer, graphics card, PC card and DVD drive all install drivers on your computer. As time goes by and you replace your printer, external hard drive and so on, your PC gets clogged up with old drivers that waste space and memory. Old drivers may also prevent you from installing new ones.

Some old drivers can be uninstalled manually. Open Device Manager in the Control Panel, click View, select ‘Show hidden devices’, then look for greyedout (obsolete) drivers under each device. To uninstall one, right-click it and select Uninstall.

Not all drivers can be removed this way, though. For a more thorough search, use the free version of Driver Talent ( It quickly scans for old drivers and lets you remove them completely. It warns you if uninstalling certain drivers will damage your system, and lets you create driver backups in case things go wrong.

Uninstall Windows and Office updates

Microsoft constantly rolls out minor updates to Windows and its Office programs, and it’s not very diligent about removing old updates from your PC. You can uninstall minor updates in Windows 10 via the Settings app. Click Start, then click the cog, ‘Update & security’ and then ‘Update history’. This opens a list of updates Windows has installed recently. They may include updates for Word, Outlook and certain plugins that you may recognise from Step 3’s browser plugin clear-out on page 41. Click an update to see a description.

If you find an update you’re sure you want to uninstall, click ‘Uninstall updates’ to open the Control Panel in a new window. Double-click an update in this window to uninstall it completely. We don’t recommend uninstalling security updates.

Remove Windows 10 installation junk

Windows 10’s enthusiasm for updating regularly creates vast folders of temporary data and redundant installation files. And we mean vast. On our Windows 10 laptop, this amounted to a shocking 28GB.

This data is left behind in case you want to roll back to Windows 10’s previous build. It’s designed to delete automatically after 10 days but in our experience, this doesn’t always happen.

You can clear this vast stockpile of system files in a few minutes using your PC’s built-in Disk Cleanup tool. Type ‘disk’ into Start, then right-click Disk Cleanup in the results and click ‘Run as administrator’. The tool will then scan for any system files you no longer need.

In the window that opens, scroll through the list and tick ‘Previous Windows installation(s)’ and ‘Temporary Windows installation files’, along with any other categories you want to clean. (If there are no old Windows installations on your PC, these options won’t appear in the list.) Click OK to remove the files completely.


Completely remove part-installed programs

If you abandoned an installation halfway through, that half-installed program will be cluttering your PC. You may also be hosting programs you thought you’d removed (say, by deleting their shortcuts).

The superb free tool BCUninstaller – short for the less delicate-sounding Bulk Crap Uninstaller ( – scans your PC for half-installations and ‘orphan’ program files, then lets you remove them completely.

When you first launch the program, a pop-up wizard offers advanced options including ‘Show system components’ and ‘Show orphaned applications’. Tick these, then click Continue to open the main uninstaller list, which includes Windows apps and part-uninstalled programs. Right-click any item to see its uninstall options.

To scan your hard drive for orphans, click Tools and select ‘Clean up Program Files folder’. Items that BCUninstaller thinks are safe to remove are pre-ticked in the list that appears; others are left for you to decide. Double-click any item in the list to open it in File Explorer and see more information. Tick the items you want to remove completely from your PC, then click ‘Delete selected’.

Remove junk left behind by old programs

What could possibly be left on your computer after you’ve got rid of unwanted programs, plugins, updates and half-installed software? Plenty, as you’ll see if you run the latest free version of CCleaner ( and discover the many thumbnail caches and temporary files that have been left behind by programs you removed months ago.

For an even deeper clean, use the Junk Files Cleaner tool in Revo Uninstaller. Click Tools, then Junk Files Cleaner, and then click Scan. Revo’s tool isn’t quite as easy to use as CCleaner’s but, when we used it, we discovered lots more junk left behind by uninstalled programs, including font caches, message logs and bug reports. All files are ticked by default, so click Delete to get rid of them in one go.

To go a step further and make old and uninstalled data impossible to recover, use Revo’s Evidence Remover and Unrecoverable Delete options, both of which can also be found on the Tools screen.