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There are several Windows components that don't show up on the common Add/Remove programs list. Some show up elsewhere and can still be removed.

How can I get rid of Windows programs I will never use? Outlook Express, Netmeeting, Frontpage, Movie Maker, Gaming Zone and others. I hate the way Microsoft does not allow them to be uninstalled.

Actually Microsoft does allow many of those to be uninstalled. How to do so is just really confusing at times. You'd think that they would show up on the Add/Remove programs list. Unfortunately you'd often be wrong.

It turns out there's a subtle distinction between what is and is not a "Windows Component", and that makes all the difference.

In most cases when software is installed it also shows up in the Add/Remove Programs list in control panel:

Windows XP Add/Remove Programs List

In Windows Vista this same list is available as "Programs and Features" in Control Panel:

Windows Vista Uninstall or change a programs list

In both cases not everything we might want to control is listed.

In Windows XP click on Add/Remove Windows Components, on the left hand side of the Add/Remove Programs list, and you'll be presented with even more things you can control:

Windows XP Windows Components Wizard

Scroll down in that list and you'll see things like Outlook Express which you can uncheck to remove.

However, as the late night TV infomercials so often say: "but wait, there's more!"

Pay close attention to the Details button. If it's enabled, it means that there are more items that can be individually controlled. For example, with "Accessories and Utilities" selected if you press it, you'll get this:

Add/Remove Windows Components: Accessories and Utilities

With Accessories selected, you'll see you can click Details again to get this list of accessories:

Add/Remove Windows Components: Accessories

Unfortunately there's no easy way to know what's where, or how many levels of "Details" button clicks you need to go to discover whether the components you're interested in are going to be there. Outlook Express is there, I believe Netmeeting should be there, as well as many other items you might not consider to be "Windows Components".

Windows Vista changed both the terminology and the look. In Vista click on Turn Windows features on or off and you'll get:

Windows Features control in Windows Vista

They've replaced the "Details" button with a more familiar tree representation. That should make finding what you're looking for a little easier. The basic concept remains the same: windows components, aka features, can be turned on or off which I believe will cause Windows to install or uninstall the associated software.

Article C3184 - October 16, 2007 « »

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?

October 20, 2007 2:20 AM

One cautionary note I learned from personal experience. In many cases (all cases?) if you decide you want to reinstall a Windows component you'll need the original install CD/DVD. If your computer came with a "recovery" disk instead of an actual install disk, you might not be able to install individual components.

And sometimes a manufacturer doesn't include any disks with the machine. If you're lucky you might have an i386 file on your hard drive. But I'm not knowledgeable enough to tell you how or where in the file you can access those Windows components or if Vista even has an i386 file. Perhaps Leo will offer some additional insight.

October 20, 2007 2:24 AM

Due to an advanced case of old age and memory loss I was going to include a link to one of Leo's previous articles. But I forgot :-)

Howard Rubin
October 20, 2007 4:31 AM

You can also edit the sysoc.inf. It is in a sub-directory called INF in the Windows directory. Edit out the word HIDE from the lines and save the results (always make a backup!). Open Add Remove again and many more items are shown... like Pinball to remove, etc.

November 4, 2007 9:46 AM

I want to do away with Windows Mail, Contacts and Calendar. According to the help facility in Vista they can be turned on or off using this utility but I cannot find them in the list. Any thoughts?

April 28, 2009 8:10 PM

Read article "How to unistall Windows programs I never use" I unchecked "Outlook Express" & "MSN.Explorer". Now when I click on the "envelope logo" on MSN.COM website & click on
"Read Mail", nothing comes up so I can logon to my "". I checked the 2 programs again but still it doesn't come up. I can logon to windows live, but I don't like it because it doesn't show all the e-mails that I have in one page. Also e-mails that I had on my computer
folder, I'm not able to see them. I even Downloaded MSN Explorer without any success. Does anyone knows if I can get it back?

Michael Cauley
October 19, 2010 4:41 PM

I have removed many programs in Xp (and the junk left over by an uninstalled program) by simply clicking Start > Search > For Files and Folders > All files and folders, and then typing in the name in the top box and clicking "start." Everything (including unrelated stuff with some of the name in it) will pop up, shortcuts, file folders, etc. You can highlight one, then hold down the control key to highlight the others, then click delete on the keyboard. If some are left undeleted, try them one at a time.

My Compaq has "Compaq Application Recovery" that will reinstall many of the original programs if they are not working or got lost somehow. You can check your Computer Help to see if you have your own Application Recovery.

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