Nearly all software comes with its own uninstaller, so do you need a program uninstaller utility these days? Yes, if you want to remove all traces of apps when you remove them from the computer.
|Good, but old interface|
|Wise Program Uninstaller|
|Good, but sometimes slow|
|Not as thorough as rivals|
|Good, lots of features|
|Does the job well|
There are thousands of apps for Windows PC and some great software. There is so much choice when it comes to programs that it is hard to decide which app is best. Which software should you install?
What I often do, is first do a bit of research and find several alternatives to the software I want. A good website for this is AlternativeTo, but if you don’t like that, you can use it to find alternatives to AlternativeTo. Yes, it shows alternatives to itself!
You can find several similar apps, like alternatives to Notepad text editor or alternatives to Photoshop photo editor and install them and try them. Then you can see what they are like and if they suit you. You can keep the best one and uninstall the rest.
The problem is that uninstalling software still does not remove everything, despite uninstallers in software being around for close to 30 years. They became common with Windows 95 software back in 1995.
The uninstaller included with software often only removes the files that were installed, and they completely ignore everything that is created when the software is run. This means that data files, settings, caches, registry entries and more, are often left behind.
More often than not, these leftovers from software are harmless. Well, mostly harmless. They do use disk space and add to system bloat, and they may add redundant startup items, non-functioning menu items, and more.
To be honest, it just bugs me that apps leave so much junk on the disk. I don’t care that it is harmless, I just like a clean system. I like to use an uninstaller utility to clear up the leftovers when an app is removed and get rid of everything it created. For me, an uninstaller is essential.
There are free uninstaller tools and paid ones and here I look at several free ones: RevoUninstaller, Wise Program Uninstaller, Absolute Uninstaller and IObit Uninstaller.
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Uninstall software with Revo Uninstaller
Revo Uninstaller has been around for a long time and the paid Pro edition of the app is up to version 5. It has great new features like the ability to uninstall apps for non-admin users, and to scan for leftovers in all user accounts on the PC.
The free version of Revo Uninstaller is version 2.3.9 and it is an older and simpler version of the app. It has a limited range of features compared to the paid app, but it has enough to make it a useful tool to have on the PC.
An added bonus is that there is a portable version of the software, which means it does not need installation and you just unzip it and run it. Portable software does not mess with Windows settings or change anything, and if you no longer want it, you simply delete it.
The first two icons in the toolbar show all the regular software installed on the PC and Windows apps. Double click a program in the list and the program’s own uninstaller is run to remove it. Occasionally, this does actually work and all associated files, folders and registry entries are removed. Mostly, it does not, and it leaves leftovers.
After the software’s uninstaller has finished, you can scan for leftovers and there are three levels, safe, moderate and advanced. The middle option is the default, and it picks up most leftovers.
Selecting apps to uninstall from a list is not the only way to remove software. If you have an annoying window pop up when you start the computer or when using it, there is a Hunter mode. It shows a target icon on the desktop and dragging it to a window and dropping it identifies the app and there is an uninstall option on the menu that appears.
There is also a collection of utilities that are useful, like Autorun Manager for disabling startup programs, Junk Files Cleaner, to find and remove unnecessary files like temporary ones. There is a Browsers Cleaner, which cleans up browser history, temporary files and cookies.
Revo Uninstaller free edition may be old compared to the latest paid Pro version, but it is still a useful tool that does its job well. The three different levels of scanning for leftovers is a feature some other uninstallers don’t have, which may sway you towards this one.
Uninstall software with Wise Program Uninstaller
Wise Program Uninstaller is an app that has been around a long time, but it is regularly updated, and I tried version 220.127.116.11. It can be downloaded from the WiseCleaner website and there is a version that can be installed and a portable version, which is my preferred version. There isn’t a paid version, it is free.
Run it and it shows a list of the software installed in Windows. They are organized into Desktop Apps, Metro Apps (Windows Store apps), and System Components. There is also a Browser Extensions section and extensions installed in Chrome, Edge and other browsers are listed. They can be uninstalled from within the browser, but this is an alternative and more components are listed here too.
Select a program to uninstall and there are options for Safe Uninstall and Forced Uninstall. A Safe Uninstall runs the program’s uninstaller, which is the best way to remove software. If it does not work because of bugs or corruption, Forced Uninstall skips it.
When the program’s uninstaller finishes, Wise Program Uninstaller scans the system for leftover files, folders, and registry entries. These can then be selected and deleted. The result is a cleaner uninstall of the software.
When Wise Program Uninstaller lists installed software, it shows ratings for programs. You can see poor ratings and remove the software if you agree, or a high rating might encourage you to keep software. Software ratings are interesting and could be useful.
Uninstall software with Absolute Uninstaller
Glarysoftware has a large collection of free tools, a dozen last time I looked, and some of them are useful. Absolute Uninstaller looks like a great alternative to Programs and Features in the Windows Control Panel.
Run it and it quickly populates a list of all programs installed on the computer. You can sort by name, publisher, installation date or size. In the sidebar you can select Large Programs, Rarely Used Programs, Windows Updates and Windows Apps. This is all very good.
Select a program and it can be uninstalled. However, it provides no feedback on what it is doing and it seems to me to be simply running the selected program’s uninstaller. Whereas Revo Uninstaller and Wise Program Uninstaller spent time afterwards scanning the system for leftovers, Absolute Uninstaller did not. It did not do anything obviously more than the program’s uninstaller and I found leftovers that had not been removed.
It has some useful tools, like Autofix Invalid Entries, and backup and restore uninstall info, but Revo and Wise seem much better to me. I would skip this one.
Uninstall software with IObit Uninstaller
IObit Uninstaller has been around for many years and it is now up to version 12. There are free and paid versions, but although the paid version has more features, the free version is good enough and that’s what I tried here. Keep your wits about you when installing it and opt out of the extra software it wants you to install, unless you actually want it of course.
The latest version has dark and light modes and the dark interface is very nice. It looks modern and is easy to use. The sidebar enables you to access six sections: Programs, Software Health, Install Monitor, Browser Extensions, Windows Apps and Action Center.
Select Programs and there are subsections and All Programs shows the full list of installed software on the computer. The other subsections break this down into Bundleware (the junk apps bundled with new PCs), Recently Installed, Large Programs, Infrequently Used, and Logged Programs.
IObit Uninstaller can automatically monitor the installation of software and this helps when it comes to uninstalling it if you decide not to keep it or need the space. Select an app in any of the subcategories, click the Uninstall button and the app’s own uninstaller is run. Afterwards, IObit Uninstaller scans for file and registry leftovers. You can see what remains, select it and delete it. There is also a Shred option that securely deletes files too.
Software Health is a useful feature. Select this section, click Scan Now and IObit Uninstaller scans for leftovers from uninstalling software before you got this utility, outdated software, software permissions, disturbing notifications and programs with uninstall issues.
It found a lot of items from previous software that had been uninstalled but failed to remove everything and it was easy to clean up these leftovers. This is a very useful feature and it worked well. The curiously named Disturbing Notifications turned out to be simply app notifications that were enabled in the Windows Settings app.
Overall, IObit Uninstaller is a good utility to have on your computer. It keeps it clean and free of left-overs when software is uninstalled and it can even clean up software uninstalled before you even got IObit Uninstaller.
HiBit Uninstaller is less well known than some of the other programs looked at, but it is pretty good and it seems to do the job well. There is no paid option and the free app is the full version. Select an app and a panel at the bottom shows the location of the program on the disk, the registry entry and the website, which is useful.
The home screen shows a list of software installed on the computer, the installation date, size, type and comments. As you use it, you will notice a Recently Installed section appear at the top. Double click a program and the software’s own installer is run. When it has finished, HiBit Uninstaller scans the disk and registry for leftovers. These are presented in a list and you have the option of deleting them.
Open the Tools menu and there are over 20 items, some of which are related to uninstalling, but others are just useful tools. Force Uninstall can be used when a program’s uninstaller is missing or corrupted. Installation Monitoring enables you to take a snapshot of the system before and after installing software so that all the changes it makes can be recorded. This makes for better uninstalls.
There are many unrelated, but useful tools, like Process Manager, Startup Manager, Service Manager, Context Menu Manager, File Shredder, Junk Files Cleaner and so on. HiBit Uninstaller is more of a general-purpose clean-up utility than the other programs.
Which uninstaller utility should you use? RevoUninstaller looks a bit dated in its design, but it still works well, and it has several useful tools built in. Wise Program Uninstaller looks more modern and up to date, which makes it a bit nicer to use. HiBit is good, but my favorite is IObit Uninstaller because it has some great features.
All uninstallers are free and several are available in portable versions, which means you can keep them in your Downloads folder and use them to clean up software you no longer need. They free up disk space and keep your Windows PC running smoothly.