How to uninstall software properly and completely is a very important computer skill to know. Here’s why: I recently downloaded and installed a video streaming application, so that I don’t have to watch movies and other forms of video in my browser. During the install process, I was asked if I wanted to install a browser add-on, a toolbar. Since I didn’t recognize the author of the toolbar and it didn’t have a security certificate allocated to its website, I said no. But it was installed anyway. I know I’m not alone in having this happen, so I’m going to tell you how to uninstall software properly and completely remove it from your Windows computer.
Why Uninstall Software?
I remember one of my first help desk calls. A friend had been installing software left and right, and then just deleting the folders (actually back then they were called directories) where they were installed. And then one day, his computer failed to boot into Windows and he called me. He told me that it had been running slower and slower over time and then had just failed to boot up.
So, I attempted to boot it up. It went through the standard power-on self-test that all computers perform and then hung up. So, I did the “three-fingered salute [control-alt-delete] and rebooted it, this time going into the boot menu and selecting “Last Known Good Menu,” which just uses the last version of the registry that allowed the computer to boot up. And then I started asking questions. The first was “Have you installed any new software lately?” which he answered yes to. And then I asked if he had uninstalled it. “Yes, I deleted the directory,” he said.
When I opened up the Control Panel applet titled “Add/Remove Programs,” he started yelling about how he’d deleted that and that and that. But he didn’t say that he uninstalled them. I told him that by just deleting the directories (folders), these pieces of software were installed in, he was clogging the registry because he wasn’t removing the registry keys that refer to these “removed” software installations. And his computer’s failure to boot was the end result. He was lucky — he had me as a friend!
How to Uninstall Software Properly
Microsoft would have you think that all you have to do is open up the Control Panel and select either Add/Remove Programs (Windows XP and earlier) or “Uninstall a Program” (Windows Vista and 7). Yes, that does MOST of the work. However, it doesn’t do everything.
Once you’ve gone through the uninstall process, you need to remove the file associations, keys, and other “gunk” that clogs up your registry over time. To do this, you need a registry scanner and cleaner. I recommend CCleaner. It’s free, and it’s easy to use.
After you download and install the CCleaner tool, run it. This will also have the added benefit of cleaning all of the Temp files and memory dumps from your computer. As you can see, when I ran the cleaner on my computer, I regained over 2 GB of hard drive space! You’re almost done now, but there’s probably still a couple of registry keys from the uninstalled software installation that haven’t been removed.
That’s where the Wise Registry Cleaner comes in. I use the portable version, since it doesn’t get installed to my system, but to a thumb drive, which I can take with me when I go on house calls. This tool looks for registry keys that point to non-existent directories or folders and removes them. It also looks for keys pertaining to nonexistent software installations and removes them. It also allows you to backup your registry before making changes, which is always a good thing if you’re new at this.
Software Installations That Make Browser Changes
But wait! I did all of this and my browser still wasn’t right! I use Waterfox, the 64-bit version of Firefox, and yes, I removed the add-on (Waterfox/Firefox button->Add-Ons-> Remove Add-On). But, when I clicked on the new tab button, the home search page of the toolbar that I removed was still showing up, instead of the search page I wanted showing the last nine pages I had visited. Here’s where it gets tricky, so don’t do anything until you’ve read this a couple of times.
- In the Firefox/Waterfox address bar, type about:config. This opens the Firefox configuration file.
- Scroll down to browser.search.defaultenginename. Right-click the option and set it to your preference. (Mine’s Google)
- Next find browser.search.defaulturl. Right-click the option and choose none or blank.
- Close and restart Firefox and your changes are saved.
Voila! Now you know how to uninstall software that makes unwanted changes to your system completely and properly. And if you’re wondering if there are ways to make your Internet faster, we know how to do that too! By following these steps, your computer will love you and should run faster.