How to Uninstall a Program That Won't Uninstall

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Microsoft knows it's frustrating when a program can't be uninstalled, so they added multiple workarounds.
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Uninstalling programs is a natural part of owning a computer. Occasionally computer programs have to be removed. Unfortunately, uninstalling programs doesn't always go as planned. Some programs resist the usual method through the Control Panel. In these situations, you'll have to use alternative methods. Each of these methods are geared towards Windows 8, however, many of them will work on previous versions.


Search for the Uninstaller

Only programs that were specifically written for Windows will appear in the Control Panel's Programs and Features. This means that some programs won't appear. If a program isn't appearing here, search for the uninstaller.

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Move the mouse to the top right corner of the screen to open the Charms bar. Then, click on "Search" and type the name of the program you'd like to uninstall. Once it shows up, right click on it and select "Uninstall" from the menu that appears. Also, there may be a separate program labeled as the uninstaller for that program.


Windows introduced another way to uninstall a program with Windows 8. On the new tile-based Start screen (not to be confused with the Start menu in previous incarnations of Windows), users can right-click on the tile of a specific program to bring up a new toolbar on the bottom of the screen. One of the options here will be "Uninstall." Of course, not every program installed on your PC will necessarily have a tile on the Start screen.

Make Use of System Restore

System Restore is a Windows utility that reverts the entire system to a previous date. You can access this utility by typing "restore" into the search tool located on the Window 8 Start Screen.


Make a habit of creating a restore point using this utility prior to installing any new programs. Should the program cause problems and be difficult to uninstall, use System Restore to revert to the restore point. This resets the entire operating system to before the program was even installed.

Before enacting this step, understand that some programs are intended by Windows not to be uninstalled. These include various system utilities that are built into the operating system. As a famous example, Internet Explorer cannot be uninstalled. Microsoft Office can be uninstalled, but has its own utility for removing all of its various components.


Try to Reinstall the Program Again

Attempt to reinstall a program. Use the original disk or setup file to run the installer again. Many installers include the ability to repair or modify the program on one of the initial screens. Running the repair option might fix the problem you were experiencing.

Otherwise, many installers will also present the option to completely remove the program. If there isn't an obvious option for this when running the installer, check support forums or the developer's website to see if there are specific instructions for using the installer to uninstall the program.


Alternatively, simply running the uninstaller a second time has been known to fix the issue. Sometimes it doesn't work the first time, but will succeed the second time.

Enlist the Help of Additional Programs

Some programs resist uninstall for nefarious reasons -- such as adware or malware -- or for security reasons -- such as McAffee and Norton. In these situations, enlist additional programs designed to fix registry issues and remove programs that resist other methods.


*To uninstall a security suite, such as Norton or McAffee, download the specific removal program. For instance, McAffee supplies the McAffee Consumer Product Removal Tool for free.

*For all other issues, first try Microsoft's Fix It, which specializes in problems caused by registry keys corrupted by malware. This utility works on all Windows versions dating back to XP.

*If all else fails, download Revo Uninstaller, which is free and specializes in stubborn-to-remove programs. There is a paid version of this product, but the free version is sufficient for personal use.