How to Fix: Program Won't Remove from Programs and Features

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader Rick F. writes:

" Dear Dennis,

I had a problem trying to uninstall a program via the Control Panel (Add or Remove Programs / Programs and Features) and ended up having to remove it manually. The problem now is that the program won't uninstall from Programs and Features. Is there a way to manually fix a program that won't remove from Programs and Features so it's completely removed from the list? It's like I have a phantom entry and I don't know how to get rid of it. I hope what I'm asking makes sense. I've tried to follow so-called guides online to fix this problem but they were not clear. I'm hoping you can help! "

My response:

I asked Rick if he'd like me to connect to his machine using my remote desktop support service in order to have a closer look, and he agreed.

Below I will discuss my findings.

How to Fix: Program Won't Remove from Programs and Features

Removing an entry from the Programs and Features (even though the program has technically been uninstalled) can be fixed by using a third party tool such as CCleaner (crap cleaner), or by modifying the registry manually.

Note that this fix works for Windows XP, 7, 8 and 10.

In Windows 7, 8, and 10, the list of installed programs is accessible via Control Panel -> Programs and Features. In Windows XP and prior, the same list of installed programs is accessible via Control Panel -> Add or Remove Programs.

Method #1: Using Crap Cleaner (CCleaner)

This method for uninstalling a phantom program is the 'least painful', however it comes with caveats discussed below.

  1. Download and install CCleaner.

    Caveats: while installing CCleaner, make sure to unselect any "bundled extras" such as the "CCleaner browser" that are completely unnecessary. At one point CCleaner was a good program, but now it comes bundled with absolute junk and extra "features" that end up make your computer run slower for the sake of trying to convert you into a paid customer. In my opinion, all these bundled extras effectively defeat the purpose in having such a "cleaning program" installed in the first place.
     
  2. Next: navigate your way to the CCleaner main screen, then go to the Tools -> Uninstall (on the left of the window). This will present a list of programs that are installed on the system, including any phantom entries.
     
  3. Select the program won't remove from Programs and Features and then select "Delete" (not "Uninstall"). The phantom entry should now be removed from the list.
     
  4. I highly recommend uninstalling CCleaner after this point, as it will stay resident in memory with its "smart cleaner," monitoring all your computer activity in order to supposedly "clean" things. I really don't think this is necessary. If your system is slow to begin with, this extra monitoring and processing will only make it slower.
     
  5. Now it's time to make sure that everything is working. Go back to Control Panel -> Programs and Features. Close the window if it was open already and then relaunch it in order to refresh the list. The list should now be updated, and the program that won't remove from the Add or Remove Programs should now be gone.

If it is not gone, then you will have to manually remove it using the registry editor - described next.

Method #2: Using the Registry Editor

Be advised that modifying the registry incorrectly can cause problems - so be careful. As such I recommend making a backup of the registry key(s) prior to making any changes. I've described how to do this in the steps below.

To do so:

  1. Click Start, then type in "regedit" (no quotes); wait for regedit to appear in the list, then click it.
     
  2. The next step can be completed using two methods.

    If you are using Windows 10, highlight the following text with your mouse:

    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Uninstall

    ... then right click over the text and select "Copy". Once that's done, go to the Registry Editor window you opened in Step #1. You will see menu options such as "File", "Edit", "View", and "Help"; directly under that is a text field. Erase everything in the text field so it's blank, then right click in the text field and select "Paste" from the dialogue menu. The text you copied above should now be output to the text field. Press Enter on the keyboard to go to that registry key.

    For all other versions of Windows (XP, 7, 8): you will need to manually navigate using the registry editor. To do so, click on the Registry Editor window then expand the folder icons one at a time. Start by expanding HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, then go to Software -> Microsoft -> Windows -> CurrentVersion -> Uninstall.
     
  3. At this point you should backup all the registry sub keys under the 'Uninstall' folder. To do so: right click over top of the "Uninstall" folder and select "Export" from the dialogue menu. Save the file as "Uninstall.reg" to your desktop for safe keeping.
     
  4. Next, look through the list of entries at HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Uninstall and find the name of the program you want to remove from your list of installed programs (via Control Panel -> Programs and Features).

    Note that the folder names should have the same name as the program you're looking to install; however, it may be listed as {05D996FA-ADCB-4D23-BA3C-A7C184A8FAC6}, as an example. In this case, expand the folder and then look at the "Install Location" sub key to figure out which program corresponds to the {05D996FA-ADCB-4D23-BA3C-A7C184A8FAC6} registry entry.
     
  5. Once you find the registry entries (folders) which correlate to the program that won't remove from Programs and Features, left click it with your mouse to highlight it, then press DEL on the keyboard to remove the entry.
     
  6. Now it's time to see if the changes took. Go back to Control Panel -> Programs and Features; close the window if it was open already and then relaunch it in order to refresh the list. The programs listed should now be updated. Hopefully the program that won't remove from Programs and Features should be gone. If it is not, then you will need to look at the registry sub keys that don't have names - such as the {05D996FA-ADCB-4D23-BA3C-A7C184A8FAC6} I mentioned in Step #4, then try again.

I hope that helps.

Additional 1-on-1 Support: From Dennis

If this is over your head, or if you need help removing a program that won't uninstall from Programs and Features - I can help using my remote desktop support service. Simply contact me, briefly describing the issue and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

About the author: Dennis Faas

Dennis Faas is the owner and operator of Infopackets.com. With over 30 years of computing experience, Dennis' areas of expertise are a broad range and include PC hardware, Microsoft Windows, Linux, network administration, and virtualization. Dennis holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Science (1999) and has authored 6 books on the topics of MS Windows and PC Security. If you like the advice you received on this page, please up-vote / Like this page and share it with friends. For technical support inquiries, Dennis can be reached via Live chat online this site using the Zopim Chat service (currently located at the bottom left of the screen); optionally, you can contact Dennis through the website contact form. 

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Comments

josephbleau22_3750's picture

Here is an easy, and IMHO a better way to use CCleaner, then keep it to periodically clean out the Crap, but not continuously monitor the computer.
kk
https://community.ccleaner.com/topic/56059-i-cant-disable-smart-cleaning/