Insight from Denmark, Part 2: Use third party uninstallers

During my first days on the computer I only used Windows and the software that came with Windows.  After a few months I discovered the endless possibilities third party software can open up, so I started installing third party software and searching for more, and more software. After few months I had installed many, many programs and most of them I did not use any more, but I kept installing new ones. The problem was my computer was getting slower and my documents folder had extra folders, that were created by software I had installed, that I did not use any more. My registry was also a mess. So I decided to clean my computer by uninstalling the software I did not use. To help me with this task, I started looking for something that could help me get rid of the whole mess. Of course I could just run the Windows/developer-provided uninstaller (the infamous Add/Remove Programs) but I wanted something that removed all traces of the software I am uninstalling from my computer – from the actual software files to all the *extras*, like folders in my documents folder, it put on my computer to any registry changes made. I found several on the Internet and out of them I decided to keep 3 of them for daily use.

Ashampoo Magical Uninstall

1Ashampoo Magical Uninstall is a wonderful tool. It takes a snapshot of your hard drive before an installation occurs and takes a snapshot of your hard drive after an installation occurs. This way, by comparing the differences between the two snap shots, it keeps track of exactly what changes are made to your computer during an install. When you want to uninstall a program, Ashampoo simply “reverts” all the changes it tracked and thus allows a user to completely and safely remove the software.

Ashampoo Magical Uninstall has generated the first image

Ashampoo Magical Uninstall has generated the first image.

However, there is one problem with this method. If you install extra stuff during an installation, or update your antivirus program/other programs, receive an e-mail, or make any changes to any files on your computer while the program installation is running, Ashampoo Magical Uninstall will remove those updates and extra stuff too. It may be, for example, a program has you to install  a library:

Microsoft Visual C++ extra program is being installed

Microsoft Visual C++ extra program is being installed.

If you go back and uninstall the program with Ashampoo, the library will also be removed (which, I guess, is a good or bad thing depending on what the extra change is).

To avoid the problem I just mentioned, just be sure to not do anything else (update a program, change a file, etc.) while installing a program.

On the same note, if any updates to a program have been performed, Ashampoo Magical Uninstall will have trouble/won’t remove the updates if the updates occurred after the initial installation. To avoid this problem, there is a feature in Ashampoo Magical Uninstall where you can “add the updates” to the snapshot taken for a program so Ashampoo Magical Uninstall will remove the updates once you are ready to remove the software.

As with all Ashampoo software, you must register (registration is free) Magical Uninstall and attain the free key. You will be prompted during installation to grab the free key. Ashampoo sends newsletters out on a regular basis (some may call it spam). To avoid this, either you can use one of your spam e-mails, a temporary e-mail account, or login to your Ashampoo account (after you signup) and manually unsubscribe from these newsletters (login via MyAshampoo, go to “Subscribe service letters” and uncheck the ones you don’t want). Since Ashampoo runs many promotions, I suggest you use a permanent e-mail address and just unsubscribe from the newsletters. This way you will be able to reuse your e-mail address for every Ashampoo product and you can login to MyAshampoo to grab all the keys you have registered for in the past incase you ever lose them. On the same topic if you already have an Ashampoo account just enter that e-mail.

Update: Ashampoo UnInstaller 3 is now available for free! UnInstaller 3 is a newer, better version with more features than Magical Uninstall. Get UnInstaller 3 over Magical Uninstaller!

Revo Uninstaller

Revo uninstaller main window

Revo Uninstaller is an uninstaller which takes a different approach to cleanly uninstall software than Ashampoo Magical Uninstall. Instead of taking a snapshot of your hard drive before and after an install, Revo Uninstaller scans your computer for files/folders/registry entries left over from the program you uninstalled. Revo Uninstaller works like this:

  1. Creates a restore point in Windows System Restore, so you can restore your computer if anything goes horribly wrong.
  2. Activates the program built in uninstaller and uses that uninstaller to removes the program (this is the same uninstaller which would be called if you went to Add/Remove Programs).
  3. Scans for survivors files, folders, and registry entries belonging to the program that was just uninstalled and lets you delete them.
Revo Uninstaller : choosen Moderate uninstall Mode (default)

Revo Uninstaller - moderate uninstall mode is default.

6

Revo U. is scanning for leftover files.

Left over files found in the registry

Left over entries found in the registry.

If you wish to keep your computer very clean like me, remove all the registry entries and leftover files/folders found by Revo Uninstaller. Revo Uninstaller tends to be very accurate about the registry entries and leftover files it finds, but giving  the list a quick overview to make sure you are not deleting non-related registry entries and files/folders never hurts.

The advantage of Revo Uninstaller over Ashampoo Magical Uninstall is 1)  Revo Uninstaller won’t remove any *extra* activity which took place during the installation of the program (i.e. you updated your anti-virus) and 2) you don’t have to scan your computer before an installation, which can be tedious sometimes.

Personally, in terms of using Revo Uninstaller, I turn off option to create a system restore point prior to every uninstall and I use the portable version (portable version can be run from a USB stick).

AppRemover

App Remover main window

One of the most pesky and annoying software to uninstall are security software (security suites, antivirus, antispyware, etc.) AppRemover is a program similar to Revo Uninstaller with one difference: AppRemover focuses specifically on cleanly, safely, and successfully uninstalling security software. The program is a single, standalone, and portable file; it can be run from a USB stick. The security software it is designed to remove are:

2009-10-31_125930

Using AppRemover is very easy. It lets you select from a list of security software you want to remove, and then AppRemover uninstalls them.

App Remover (removing security software)>

App Remover removing security software.

App Remover searching for antivirus to uninstall

App Remover searching for security software to uninstall.

In my crusade to keep my computer clean, I use these uninstallers together. My first line of offense is Ashampoo Magical Uninstall. If I forgot to scan before installing, or if any extra programs were installed/extra activity took place during installation, I obviously can’t use Ashampoo Magical Uninstall. At that point, I fall back to Revo Uninstaller or AppRemover if I am uninstalling a security software. However, many users just prefer to stick to one of the other (i.e. Ashraf only uses Revo Uninstaller… what a punk =P) and that is just fine.

Hope you enjoyed my article and see you for part 3 very soon (free free to read part 1 if you missed it earlier).

You can get the 3 uninstallers from the following links:

Ashampoo Magical Uninstall

Version reviewed: v2.82

Supported OS: Windows 2000, XP, Vista 32-bit

Ashampoo Magical Uninstall homepage

[Download link]

[Free registration key link]

Revo Uninstaller

Version reviewed: v1.83

Supported OS: Windows 2000 or higher

Revo Uninstaller homepage

[Download link]

[Portable version direct download]

AppRemover

Version reviewed: v2.1.0.0

Supported OS: Windows 2000, XP, Vista, Win7

AppRemover homepage

[Direct download]

[Ashraf made minor edits to this article.]

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26 comments

  1. Peter
    Author/

    @mmybois:

    I just leave the default settings, that means when it uninstall it choose the “moderate” way, you can choose a higher level (but here you have to be sure on what you delete). I recommend you to choose the “moderate” in the start.

    Good luck :O)

  2. Peter
    Author/

    @Tortuga:
    I also did have this problem with a app twice and I did simply delete the folder and after cleaned the registry. Here it is also a good thing to use Ashampoo Uninstaller, but unfurtunality it does not seems to understand how to delete a running file, BUT if you running the uninstallation log once, reboot the computer, and then running the uninstallation log again it delete the leftover running files. Unlocker can delete running files right away : http://ccollomb.free.fr/unlocker/

    Have a nice day :O)

  3. Josh

    @Tortuga: Sorry, left out something … yes, you can run Revo first, but the prog will probably come back again if you reboot without removing the null entry or the ini/inf file, so do all of this before rebooting. Also install Unlocker first, then you can use that to delete any “undeletable” files you find.

  4. Josh

    @Tortuga: Hope you got rid of the persistent prog. If not, search Google to ensure you use Regdelnull correctly. If the previous version of the problem prog created a null reg entry, then that could be the cause. Null entries are not visible with “normal” registry cleaners or Windows Regedit. Make a backup of the registry first. I suggest ERUNT (free) for reg backups. It’s easy, good and fast.

    You should also scan for text in files that contain keywords, like the program’s name. Some progs create .ini or .inf files that cause this problem. The file itself might have a different name, but the name of the program might be inside the file. These files can be opened with notepad to see if it refers to your prog. Copy the file elsewhere and rename it (so you can put it back if it’s not the culprit). The free prog Agent Ransack can help here. You can also do it via Windows “Search”, but I trust Agent Ransack more. Enable “show hidden files”before you do this.

  5. Tortuga

    Hello Josh :D
    Many thanks for answering back. Sorry to get back to you so late, been a bit sick.
    And «NO!», you don’t sound pedantic at all, on the contrary, its very kind of you to give so many details!
    I should’ve said I’m on XP, not Vista.

    You say Registry Detective costs $7.99USD, but everywhere it says its free, thats why I was looking for it. Went back to PCMag and understand now – in fact its “free” for subscribers only … Darn! :(

    Been trying to uninstall a particular program for sometime (several months), nothing works, so not sure that one would do it either.
    After Revo I even edited the Registry by hand and that pesky thing seems to be totally gone yet the new version still finds “something” somewhere, cause it refuses to install.
    On a MS forum, someone suggested Windows Install Clean Up, which I tried too, but didn’t resolve the problem.
    Even moved folders, older setup.exe, plugins, bookmarks to an external, to make sure there was nothing left!! Arghhhh
    That’s why I’m guessing it has to be Registry entries hidden deep, otherwise it makes no sense!!!!!

    I’ll go try your other progs see if any does the trick. Hope I understand how they work as I don’t know any of them. I get very very stressed whenever I need to go into the Registry, as I dunno much about this tech stuff.
    I’ll let you know how it goes.

    For Regdelnull, do you mean I need to first uninstall w Revo, then use it to see if it finds anything left, right?

    Thanks Again

  6. Josh

    @Tortuga: Registry Detective is only available from pcmag.com at $7.97. They also have a long description of it. Though Win XP is not mentioned, it works fine on it. I don’t think it will work for Vista. Regseeker also has a powerful Find function that deeps very deeply. I use v1.55 (also works for Vista) but is much slower than Reg Detective. jv16 Power Tools also has a powerful find function – the last free version is available here on dottech, but it is not specified for Vista. Newer versions are commercial. If your problem is registry bound, you could also try Regdelnull, which is freeware. This only finds and deletes null entries in the registry and can be tricky, but effective if your problem is indeed a null entry, which is rare, as these mostly contain program registration information. You could also try Unlocker – search for all instances of the file/program and delete it with Unlocker, then do a registry search. Sorry if this sounds pedantic, just trying to help :-)

  7. Tortuga

    @Josh: Hi

    Many Thanks for the Hunter Mode info, I had forgotten about that!

    Also, been trying to find the «Registry Detective» you referred to, but every link is a dead end :(
    Do you per chance know were I could download it?

    I think (I hope!!) it could help get rid of that problem app I’ve been trying to delete.
    I already tried doing it manually, but there must be stuff hidden quite deep, cause the new version still refuses to install. If I could find *everything* in the Registry, I think that would do it.

    TIA

  8. Tortuga

    Hello Peter
    Many Thanks for the article series. Learned something new on each of them :D

    Been using Revo for quite awhile, its consistent and does the job well cleaning up junk & leftovers.

    I recently discovered Windows Installer CleanUp Utility on a forum, as I’ve been trying to get rid of a pesky app that refuses to be deleted!
    But it didn’t work either :(

    I’ll try AppRemover next, see how it goes.

    Ciao

  9. Josh

    Follow up to request about “Hunter Mode” in Revo Uninstaller:

    After reading the help file online, it seems that this feature basically adds the ability to select and remove software not listed in Revo’s normal uninstall list. I have tested “Hunter Mode” and found that it is useful, but not very effective – presumably because there is less system information available about these “unlisted” programs.

    I have also found that Revo Uninstaller, although more effective than other apps, rarely cleans up everything. I used Registry Detective to search the registry and it found “leftovers” after programs had been uninstalled with Revo. A “date created” search also, occasionally, found a stray folder or file left behind in an obscure place. This is probably not of any concern, except in rare cases where a leftover file could affect the installation or functionality of another program or for perfectionists who habitually use level indicators to check if their monitors are, indeed, positioned 100% upright :-)

  10. Josh

    I agree with Jumbi and would appreciate a more in depth discussion of the “Hunter” mode in Revo Uninstaller. Though Revo has a help feature, we know that there is usually more to a topic than what is revealed in a help file.

    It’s a pity that programmers often neglect the help section, after putting much effort into the program itself (this statement is not aimed at Revo, but at programmers in general).

  11. jumbi

    # aSimpleHappyMan
    Well said.
    I totally agree on Magical Uninstall comment.

    I did not see in the review of Revo anything about the “Hunter Mode”. Is this useful ?
    (I ask because I use another utility and did not test it)

  12. Samuel

    Interesting article. In general I install an applications that I might uninstall on my VMs, so I don’t have this problem (that and I do clean installs when service packs come out).

    One application thats simular but not the same idea is Windows Installer Remover. It removes the application from the installed applications list (what you see in Add and Remove Programs). While it doesn’t get ride of files, I find it handy when I want to repair an app that doesnt have a repair function. I “uninstall” it using this, which takes a second or two at most, and then the applications install thinks its doing a clean install. it can be downloaded from http://download.microsoft.com/download/e/9/d/e9d80355-7ab4-45b8-80e8-983a48d5e1bd/msicuu2.exe

  13. aSimpleHappyMan

    Hi Peter, Ashraf and everyone

    Revo is excellent because it actually reads the information it needs to uninstall the program from the program itself, but sometimes it scans and finds extras that belong to another similar program

    I was uninstalling Adobe Reader 8.2 which had somehow reappeared on my pc after I had uninstalled it via add/remove programs and in the meantime I had installed Adobe Reader 9.2 I think it was.

    Anyway when I used Revo to scan after it had activated the programs uninstall it came up with the whole of 9.2s install strings and files and folders too!

    So it is wise to double check always because when I was uninstalling a Codec pack Revo also put up for removal all the codecs in Quicktime, and other programs that use their own codecs too!

    Thanks though Peter I have never heard of AppRemover and will try it out! But Magic Uninstall frustrates me with having to wait for so long whilst it creates a Restore Point
    (Please Lord grant me more patience, but hurry!!!)

  14. Ron

    Way back when, I used Total Uninstall to monitor programs I was testing/uninstalling. It had a similar problem as Ashampoo seems to, so I gave it up. I’ve worked with a couple of others since then, but settled on Revo a year or so ago. I really like it. Creating Restore Points doesn’t bother me; I routinely disable RP every so often and reboot to clear them out. I re-enable after the boot.

    Seems like I’ve heard of AppRemover, but haven’t tried it. Thanks to your recommendation, I’ll give it a run on a new netbook I just bought for a friend.