Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Most software installed on your machine should provide a mechanism for uninstalling. If not, there are ways but they require caution and a good backup.

How do I uninstall a program that does not show up in the add and remove section in Win XP? I have programs in various sections of my computer which i would like to clean out but they either do not show up on add/remove or they don't have an uninstaller included. I'm aware that just deleting software is not a good idea.

And yet, carefully deleting things turns out to be the only real option.

Here's what I would suggest when dealing with this situation.

To be clear the preferred approach to uninstalling software is to use Control Panel's "Add/Remove Programs" list (Windows XP) or "Programs and Features" list (Windows Vista). If the software you're attempting to use is in that list, then you should be able to uninstall it right there.

Alternately, many software packages actually place an "Uninstall" option in their Start Menu section. If present, use that to uninstall the program.

If neither of those are present, then we need to get creative.

Important: the steps below are designed to uninstall "typical" software and software that is not a system component. For example, you can't uninstall Internet Explorer; it's a system component and cannot be completely removed - attempts to do so will cause problems for Windows itself.

"... the preferred approach to uninstalling software is to use Control Panel's 'Add/Remove Programs' ..."

If you're not sure, consider not uninstalling the software at all, or looking at alternative solutions to address the reasons you want to uninstall.

First things first, it's always safest to backup at this point. A system restore point may be a good idea, but in all honesty only a complete backup will give you complete confidence that you'll be able to undo any inadvertent damage.

Next, I would use a program like autoruns, or some other program to manage startup entries and look for entries related to the program you're about to uninstall. If it has auto-run or auto-start entries simply deleting the program files will result in errors the next time you start up.

Once those are gone, if there are icons in the system tray related to this software, right click on them to see if they have an "exit" option. If you see any other programs currently running that relate to what you're about to delete, exit those.

I then would next use process explorer and look at processes that are running that may be related to the software you're about to remove. Not everything that's running appears on screen, so there may still be processes that you need to terminate or exit in some other way.

Finally, once again having made sure to back everything up, I would delete the "Program Files" folder of the software you're attempting to delete and all the contents therein.

Reboot, and check for problems.

Now, you may be asking what files are "related" when checking the auto-runs, or the system tray or processes. That's really why uninstall programs are typically necessary; it's often difficult to tell. But your own familiarity with the program you're deleting and the contents of the files in its "Program Files" folder should give you most of what you can identify on your own.

You'll note also that, aside from startup entries, I've not had you look in the registry at all. That's on purpose, because it's simply too easy to make errors when deleting things in the registry. The good news is that while this approach may leave unused entries in the registry, they're rarely a problem and don't impact system performance.

Bottom line: if you can use an uninstall provided by the manufacturer of the software you're attempting to get rid of, then by all means do so. If not, then backup and try deleting things manually. Manual deletion will typically still leave remnants, but normally they're also inconsequential.

Or you could just leave it installed. Smile:-)

Article C3533 - October 15, 2008 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

Roger Williams
October 16, 2008 2:42 AM

Hi Leo,
Does this work for programs that need to be uninstalled then re-installed? Wont the registry and other remnants you refer to cause problems on a re-install?

There's no real way to answer that, as it totally depends on the software itself. Some may be affected, some may not. By definition the software is already ill-behaved by not providing an uninstall. Best advice I can give is to try and hope for the best.
- Leo

Dr. J.
October 18, 2008 9:51 AM

1) I uninstalled Eprompter, but the popup materializes on my screen when I turn my machine on. How do I get rid of it?
2) How do I delete from Google Chrome, a site/image that I only used once and want to remove from the start page?

Richard Berman
October 21, 2008 1:57 PM

Hi un-installing programs...a process I've found and use on my machine works wonderfully well...after uninstalling, whether it be thru Control Panel A&R, or manual deletion, I will run Search, using the program name in the appropriate area...Search seems to turn up all of the residual garbage still remaining after yoou've done your you can just highlight and 'Delete' right from the list that shows up in Search...frequently the "can't delete, etc" message appears, but this can be overcome by altering the sequence of your file deletion for me.

October 21, 2008 3:56 PM

RE: "I uninstalled Eprompter, but the popup materializes...." Go here->

Ian Mack
October 21, 2008 4:54 PM

I have used Revo Uninstaller with great success

October 21, 2008 9:23 PM

Hi Leo,

Re: Uninstalling Programs - In some cases people have had success in simply reinstalling the offending program. I did this once, just installed over the existing program. A check of the Control Panel's Add/Remove Programs then showed the offending program and I was able to uninstall it.

Bosque Bill
October 22, 2008 10:40 AM

Leo and everyone,

Here's something to watch out for if you have installed an old program on Vista and that program does not have an uninstall option.

Some old programs used to store user data along with the executable files in C:\Program Files\my_program. Vista will not allow that, but creates a virtual folder to fool the program into where it is storing files. Browsing file locations using the program showed folders and files that were invisible in Explorer. I finally found them, but only with an advanced search of non-indexed locations.

The files were in C:\Users\my account\AppData\Local\VirtualStore\Program Files\my_program There are over 30MB of files there that would have not been deleted.

So, if you are on Vista and manually delete a program, check that VirtualStore location. In fact, I have now found many orphans from programs that did have uninstall options, but didn't properly clean up after themselves.

Alan Masterman
October 23, 2008 12:36 AM

Even if the program is not listed in the Control Panel, and does not offer a menu option to uninstall, look in the program folder and you may find a file called "unwise.exe" or perhaps even "uninstall.exe". Double-click on it to initiate the uninstall routine.

Bernard Winchester
October 23, 2008 3:19 AM

The "Windows Installer CleanUp Utility", which can be downloaded from Microsoft or software hosting sites, can also be of help sometimes with uninstall problems.

October 24, 2008 7:47 AM

This is what i do and works every time.
Works in both XP & Vista.

Delete registry keys...
Star-Run-type in regedit-go to edit-find-next-
type in-*program*-find next-right click-delete any key that
says-*Program*-keep clicking find next and deleting.
When all is gone you will get a popup
That says finished searching.
I have used this time and time again
with great success.

October 25, 2008 4:01 PM


I am in full agreement with Dennis, who posted 10/21/08. Revo Uninstaller is just about the best that I have found, after 11 years working with computers. Now, I have Windows XP Pro and it works just fine with that version. Revo's website states the following:

System requirements:

Minimum system requirements:
Microsoft Windows 2000
64 megabytes (MB) of RAM
5 MB of free Hard Disk space
133 MHz or higher
Pentium - compatible CPU

Please note: Revo Uninstaller will only work with the Vista 32-bit version, at this point in time. They are working on 'upgrading' to the 64-bit version of Vista.

What I like about Revo is that you have control over how much or how little you want to uninstall. In other words, there are 4 different Modes, "Basic", "Safe", "Moderate" and "Advanced". The first 2 modes Basic and Safe are the 'safest' modes and even beginners should feel 'safe' using them. The Moderate mode is a little more advanced, but still pretty 'safe'. The Advanced mode is the one that really goes deep into the registry and the files, looking for left-over entries and files. I tend to use the Advanced uninstaller, most of the time. I know, from experience, that left-over registry entries and files can create havoc.

October 25, 2008 4:04 PM

Oh, I am so sorry, I forgot to mention that Revo Uninstaller is absolutely FREE and it is a FULL version software! I apologize, for forgetting to mention that.

August 20, 2009 10:55 AM

hi leo i ve got avast antivirus which is not working properly. i ve tried to delete it by add remove prog but it didnt work i tried to delete it manually but it also didnt work. i dont know how i ll b able do delete it. now niether ican use this antivirus nor can i install a new one. please help

August 20, 2010 9:36 PM


August 20, 2010 10:05 PM

but in all honesty only a complete backup will give you complete confidence that you'll be able to undo any inadvertent damage.

March 15, 2013 2:19 AM

Thank you for these information, i have installed a program and it didn't allow me to delete it, when i am trying to delete it,there is a sound look like that i have a virus in my computer

Comments on this entry are closed.

If you have a question, start by using the search box up at the top of the page - there's a very good chance that your question has already been answered on Ask Leo!.

If you don't find your answer, head out to to ask your question.