Explained: Can I Remove Java Updates? Is it Safe? How?

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader Gloria D. writes:

" Dear Dennis,

The other day I went to uninstall a program on my Windows 10 PC using Control Panel -> Programs and Features, and noticed there were about 20 or more Java updates installed on my system. I regularly receive messages from the Windows 10 Action Center that there is a new Java update available and that I need to download it due to security updates, which I always do. Therefore, I have four questions: is it safe to remove old Java updates? If so, which Java updates can I uninstall? Can I remove older Java versions? Is the latest Java backwards compatible with my Java applications? "

My response:

The simple answer is: Yes, it is possible to remove older Java updates, and there is an automated way to do this safely (explained below).

Generally speaking, uninstalling older versions of Java is recommended for security reasons and should not impact the programs that require Java to operate (I.E.: Java is meant to be backwards compatible), though the only way to know is through trial and error.

I will explain all of this in more detail below.

First, What is Java?

Java is a widely used programming language that is used on computers, tablets, phones, and even appliances such as your refrigerator.

The beauty of Java (compared to other programming languages) is that it is cross-platform. This means it can run on different operating systems, whether it's Mac, Linux, Windows, or other devices, without making changes to the Java application itself. This means you can literally run the same Java application on one machine to the next, regardless of its operating system.

What's the Difference between Java and JRE?

The Java Runtime Environment (JRE) is referred interchangeably with the term "Java", though technically they are not the same.

Let's look at this a bit more closely.

To make the Java application cross-platform, it requires the "Java Virtual Machine" (JVM) as an 'interpreter' between itself and the operating system.

Both Java and the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) come packaged together in what is called the "Java Runtime Environment," or "JRE". On Windows platforms, the JRE is essentially a single executable file that installs everything you need to run Java applications on your machine.

Oftentimes people will refer to Java / Java Runtime Environment (JRE) / Java Virtual Machine (JVM) interchangeably because essentially you can't have one without the other, though as I mentioned they are not the same.

Why Do I need Java on my Machine?

Some programs require JRE (Java Runtime Environment) in order to operate; without it, they simply won't run. For example, some Windows games require JRE.

Although rare, some older Java applications won't run on newer Java releases. As such, it is possible to have more than one version of Java installed on your operating system.

Can I Remove Older Versions of Java?

Generally speaking it should be safe to upgrade to the latest Java Runtime Environment (JRE) for your operating system, then uninstall previous releases using the "Java Uninstall Tool." The Java Uninstall Tool will automatically figure out which releases are no longer required and remove them for you.

Is it Safe to Remove Old Java Updates?

Yes, for the same reasons mentioned above.

As each JRE is installed on the machine, Java will prompt to install updates as they become available. Older updates are not cumulative and can be removed using the Java Uninstall Tool or manually by the user. The Java Uninstall Tool will allow you to select which versions of Java (and its updates) you want to uninstall.

Is the New Java (JRE) Release Backwards Compatible?

Generally speaking, yes.

However, the only way to know if your Java applications will run on newer Java Runtime Executable (JRE) releases is to update your JRE and then launch your Java application. It may be difficult to figure out which Java applications you have installed, as Windows does not list which programs are actually "Java applications".

If at some point later on you come across an installed program which fails to launched due to a Java Runtime Executable (JRE) error, you should research the name of the application / program to see which versions of Java Runtime Executable (JRE) are required to run it, then install that Java Runtime Executable (JRE).

I hope that helps.

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I need more questions. If you have a question - or even a computer problem that needs fixing - please email me with your question so that I can write more articles like this one. I can't promise I'll respond to all the messages I receive (depending on the volume), but I'll do my best.

About the author: 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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DLStoehner's picture

I use this program to uninstall older versions of JAVA. It will leave the newest version. it also have part where you can see if there is a new version out there too.


DLStoehner's picture

Oops! I just looked at their website. They are no longer updating JAVA Ra. The program is still there for download if you want to give it a try.