Uninstalling Programs From Windows

After a recent look at the Recycle Bin on our home computer (I always look before emptying), it occurred to me that my better half (by far the better half) was deleting shortcuts to some old games that she actually intended to uninstall. I reasoned there are probably a lot of other Windows users who do that when they think they are uninstalling programs. So, here's the skinny on getting rid of software you don't need or want anymore.

The Registry is a part of the Windows operating system that tracks each piece of software that is installed; applications, games, utilities, patches, drivers - everything. When a program is installed, the installer copies needed files to your hard drive and also adds entries to the Registry - which is a sort of digital manifest of what's on the computer, and where.

You can access the list of installed software by going to the Control Panel and looking for Add/Remove Programs in Windows XP or Programs and Features in Windows 7. You should see a list of all your installed software. It may be a long list. The default behavior is to show programs only, but you can also select the option to also include Windows and other software updates in this list.

To uninstall a particular program, game, etc. click on the program name. Some programs may include the option to change or repair the program in addition to uninstalling it, most simply offer the option to uninstall. So, select uninstall or remove and confirm your intentions. 

After a moment, the Windows Installer will remove all (or most) of the traces of the program and it's registry entries, and you are good to go. This also frees up disk space associated with that software, which just deleting a program shortcut does not do.

Image courtesy

Note that Windows relies upon getting the correct information from the software installer that comes with the program you installed or removed, and that's partly why there are sometimes bits and pieces left behind after uninstalling (and why Registry cleaning utilities sometimes find stuff to "fix").

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