How to Completely Remove Programs from Windows


Removing a program is something that most of us have done – just go to your programs list through the Control Panel, right-click what you want to get rid of, and hit Uninstall, right? Well, you’re on the right track, but there’s often more to it than that, and if you don’t uninstall a program properly, it’s not only using up unnecessary disk space but can interfere with other programs or cause trouble when you try to reinstall it.

Here’s a guide on how to completely remove programs from your PC without using any third-party software.

First, uninstall the program like you normally would

The first step to this process is the one you’re most familiar with, and that’s using the standard Windows Explorer method to uninstall the program. Just to recap:

Go to Control Panel, “Programs and Features,” then right-click what you want to uninstall in the list and click Uninstall.


Then get rid of the leftovers

Next, in Windows Explorer go to your AppData folder (C:/Users/Your User Name by default) and have a look in the Local and Roaming folders to see if there are any files or folders relating to the program you just uninstalled (you may need to unhide the AppData folder by going to View in Windows Explorer and ticking the “Hidden items” box). Delete all files and folders relating to the program while making sure not to delete anything else.

Once you’ve done this, go to Program Files, Program Files(x86) and ProgramData and do the same thing as above, deleting all files and folders relating to the program you want to remove.

Finally, go to C:/Windows/Temp and delete any signs of the program.


Delete the program from your registry

Now for the tricky bit – deleting the program from your registry. It’s crucial here that you don’t delete the wrong thing, as this could cause serious errors in Windows. Follow our instructions, though, and you’ll be fine. Also, before you delete anything, be sure to right-click and “Export” it first so you have a backup of it in case things go wrong.

1. Press “Windows Key + R” and type regedit into the Run box.

2. Once you’re in the registry editor, go to HKEY_USERS/.DEFAULT/Software, then look for any folders or file names relating to the program you want to remove, and delete them by right-clicking them and clicking Delete. Don’t just delete the parent directory of the program. For example, I want to delete InDesign, but I shouldn’t delete the entire Adobe folder as that would also delete registries for Adobe Acrobat, Photoshop, and other programs I want to keep. Be precise!

3. Once you’ve done that, in the Registry Editor go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software, HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE and HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node and do the same, deleting all folders and files associated with the program you’re axing.


(Optional) Use CCleaner to finish the job

By this point, all traces of the culprit program should be gone from your computer, but if you don’t mind installing third-party software and want to quickly give your PC another once-over for any traces of it, then you can use CCleaner. This great program does a whole load of stuff, like clearing cookies and getting rid of junk files, and should find isolated traces of files that are no longer attached to a working program.

CCleaner also has the option to patch up your registry which is handy if you make a mistake when deleting registry files.



So there you have it – a totally manual way to 100% wipe your PC clean of any remnants of unwanted programs. It may look complicated, but once you go through it several times, the things you need to do should get encoded into your long-term memory (the HDD of your brain as opposed to your RAM, if I am to make a terribly nerdy analogy). Give it a go!

Image credit: Clean Up!

Robert Zak Robert Zak

Content Manager at Make Tech Easier. Enjoys Android, Windows, and tinkering with retro console emulation to breaking point.


  1. @Nobruca @John How does what you recommended compare to Revo uninstaller? Is yours more thorough then Revo is?

  2. I have been using Revo uninstaller for all our computers for years and this is a lot simpler than trying to go through all the steps listed here. It does a excellent job of completely removing programs or apps.

  3. Knowing how delicate the Registry can be, I think it’s a mistake to haphazardly start deleting items from it based on name.

  4. I already know these steps. I know if Revo, but only recently started using it. I’ve been curious if Revo truly does a “CleanWipe” sort of uninstall, and haven’t gone to the trouble to verify.

    I think it was a DHL, UPS, or FedEx shipping software (I forget which) that was a really difficult install. The vendor sent a tech, and I watched him do one of the computers, but for some reason, he left the jobsite with work incomplete. I had to fix the installs on a couple of the computers. Part of the process involved some of these manual uninstall steps, to cleanly uninstall the software, otherwise the install simply wouldn’t work. Going through the registry and removing every single entry, then having the install fail, only to have to remove every registry entry again, until the install finally worked, was a brutally meticulous process.

    The correct action to take would have been to write a script, but my scripting skills are very basic, and my responsibility, as a Desktop Support team member, was to get the shipping department’s computer working. I worked in a hostile environment, in which it would have been extremely difficult to try to find someone with the scripting skills I needed. I had all the skills necessary to manually remove all the registry keys, or close to all. I was a brutal frigging process, and it would be nice to live in a world in which software uninstalls were always clean, and thorough.

    It would be interesting to do some personal tests of tools like Revo. I don’t know if I ever will, because it might be a better idea to spend every bit of spare time learning more about more important technologies, of which there are many.

  5. This doesn’t address a very important point. What happens while you’re doing an uninstall and it errors out before finishing? do the instructions listed here take that into account?

    My example is that I tried to uninstall AVAST and it failed on me. So do i go ahead and follow the instructions here?

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