How to uninstall a program on Windows: remove unwanted apps from your PC

The best place to start when uninstalling a program on Windows is the “Add or remove programs” window, which is found in Control Panel. We suggest you make this your first port of call, as it’s the standard and safest method of removing unwanted software. See also: how to format a USB drive on a Mac or Windows.

If, for whatever reason, a program fails to uninstall cleanly, we’d suggest using a third-party clean-up utility such as Piriform’s CCleaner.

If you really can’t get rid of a program – yet can see it still running in the Processes tab of Task Manager – then it may be malware, in which case you will need to use security/antivirus software to remove it.

How to uninstall a program using “Add or remove programs”

  1. Go to Control Panel and open “Uninstall a Program”. Alternatively, press the Windows key and type “remove programs” then hit Enter.
  2. Locate the program you wish to remove: if you can’t find it, try clicking the label at the top of the “Installed on” column to bring the most recently installed programs to the top of the list.
  3. Click on the “Uninstall” button. You will then see a message asking you to confirm that you want to uninstall the selected program. Click “OK” and Windows will begin uninstalling the program from your PC.

How to clean up after a failed uninstallation using CCleaner

If the Windows uninstall method doesn’t seem to completely get rid of the unwanted software, we suggest using a third-party app such as CCleaner. Go to the Piriform website, download and install CCleaner, and follow the steps below.

Step one

Open CCleaner, select Tools and click on the Uninstall tab on the left hand side.

Step two

Find the program you wish to remove in the listings and click on it once so it’s highlighted. Next, click on the Uninstall button on the right hand side and the task will begin.

How to uninstall a program on Windows using CCleaner

If you previously uninstalled a program, yet an error has led to it still being listed in CCleaners uninstall list, you can highlight the program and press the Delete button on the right hand side of the Window. CCleaner with then delete any associated files it can find.

Step three (optional)

To really make sure you’ve completely removed every trace of a program, you can use CCleaner to scan your Windows Registry for references to missing files and other invalid entries. Any leftovers from a partial uninstallation will be picked up and listed here – as well as other any Registry issues Windows may have picked up. To remove these, click Scan and then the “Fix selected issues…” button.

How to delete a program on Windows using CCleaner

What to do if a program won’t uninstall

If the above methods fail or present an error, it’s possible that a part of the software may be missing, preventing a clean uninstallation.

A good way to solve this problem is to re-install the program, or upgrade it to the latest version available. Once you’ve done this, simply retry uninstalling using one of the methods detailed above.

How to uninstall/remove a program that isn’t listed in “Add or remove programs”

If you can’t see the program listed in either of the uninstallers mentioned above, but can still see the process running in Task Manager, it may be some type of malware (e.g. spyware, adware or a virus) that’s intended to resist being removed from your PC.

To combat this, we recommend installing a reputable antivirus tool – such as the free Avast! – and carrying out a full system scan.

What to do if a program won’t uninstall

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