Do you still need a program uninstaller utility for Windows?

Remove software cleanly on Windows PC and delete leftovers

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.

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 three free ones: RevoUninstaller and Wise Program Uninstaller.

Uninstall software with RevoUninstaller

RevoUninstaller 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 RevoUninstaller 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 installing 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.

RevoUninstaller software running on a Windows PC: Screenshot
RevoUninstaller free version

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.

RevoUninstaller software for Windows PC: Screenshot
Scan for leftovers after uninstalling software with RevoUninstaller

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.

RevoUninstaller for Windows PC: Screenshot
Delete the leftovers after uninstalling with RevoUninstaller

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.

RevoUninstaller 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 3.0.3.251. 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.

Wise Program Uninstaller software for Windows PC: Screenshot
Uninstall software with Wise Program Uninstaller

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.

Wise Program Uninstaller software for Windows PC: Screenshot
Uninstaller leftovers found by Wise Program Cleaner

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.

Absolute Uninstaller utility for Windows: Screenshot
View software in different ways with Absolute Uninstaller

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 RevoUninstaller 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.

Conclusion

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. I prefer it.

Both uninstallers are free and are available in portable versions, so why choose one over the other? Have both! These tools are small and useful. Keep them in your Downloads folder and use them to clean up software you no longer need. They will free up disk space and keep your Windows PC running smoothly.


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