Uninstalling and Reinstalling Programs

Every once in a while, we decide to uninstall a program because we don’t need it any longer. We go to Start / Control Panel / Add or Remove Programs. After Windows shows the list of programs we can uninstall, we select the one and click on the Remove button. Sometimes, we have to go to the Start Menu section for that program in order to find the uninstall program.

The process is usually very easy. Some programs, unfortunately, do not always clean up after themselves properly when they uninstall themselves.

“When they uninstall themselves?” Yes; although you might believe that Windows is actually uninstalling a program when you use the Add/Remove Programs tool, all you are really doing is running the program’s own uninstall routine. The programmer has to create the uninstall program and register it with your copy of Windows for it to show up in that list.

There are some third-party programs that are designed to monitor program installations so that they know what to “put back” if you use the third-party program to do uninstalls. Norton CleanSweep is one that comes to mind. You can buy it separately or as part of the Norton Systemworks package.

Sometimes, though, the uninstall completes but leaves your computer disabled in some way. Norton Antivirus 2002 was such a program — on some computers, it would uninstall perfectly. On others, it would not remove one of its settings in the Windows Registry. I had NAV2002 uninstall perfectly on two computers and fail to remove a registry setting on two others.

Unfortunately, the setting told Windows not to get an IP address until one of the Norton programs was running — a program that it had just removed. [How did I find the answer? Hint — you’ve heard it before — Google!] The true fix was to edit the registry and take out that entry.

But, suppose I didn’t have another computer so I could search the Internet and find the answer. The temporary fix would be two-fold. First, reboot, whether the computer thought it needed to or not. Second, reinstall the program you just uninstalled. In the case of the fumbling NAV2002 uninstall, reinstalling meant the file was there, I could get an IP address and all was well. Temporarily, since my goal that time was to change to a different antivirus program. I wonder how many people just reinstalled, saw it worked, and decided to renew their NAV subscription after all.

There were several important points I want to communicate with this example. Those points do not include Norton as a problem in this regard — they fixed the later versions.

The first point is that, if you are going to uninstall and reinstall a program, reboot your computer after the uninstalla This was habit in the days of Windows 3.1, Win95, Win98 and WinMe because Windows forced you to reboot often.

Tech Tip
The reason for those forced reboots was that Windows only read the Registry when it booted — later changes to the Registry file on the disk were not used until the next boot.

By rebooting, you clean up Windows’ memory allocations and may prevent the program from failing to install properly. It only takes another minute or so and it is time well spent.

Also, Windows can not remove files that are currently in use by the operating system. The developer knows which these are — and instead of trying to delete them, the uninstall/remove routine tells Windows to delete the file during the next reboot/restart of your computer.

The third point is that computer problems after uninstalling a program can often be fixed, at least temporarily, by reinstalling the program you uninstalled.


  1. Hi Terry: With regards to uninstalling programs, I used to use Revo Uninstaller, which I find is highly recommended by many other noteworthy sites. Loved it on XP, however on my recent Win 7 64 bit upgrade (major OS improvement IMHO), the free version is no longer available. Worthwhile program to purchase for sure, however @ $39.95 for the compatible PRO version, my back-pocket says ” Sorry, but your out of luck “. Any thoughts ? Thanks for your time… Gusieppe

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