How to uninstall unwanted computer programs

'Coffee and Computers,' the Friday morning computer gathering at the Tustin Area Senior Center, offers an endless source of topics to discuss about computer operation.

Recently a question arose concerning uninstalling unwanted programs in Windows. These programs may be ones that you no longer use or possibly games or other items remaining when you obtained the computer. Since programs take up a lot of space on the computer's hard drive, removing them makes more space available for future use.

When a Windows compatible program is installed, it places one or more files on the hard drive. Also it installs operating instructions in a part of the Windows system called the Registry. Therefore there are parts of the new program in many places on the computer. The program may also install an icon on the desktop. To uninstall a program, all these elements must be removed from the computer.

Removing these items from unwanted programs is simple. Windows has a special program called "Add/Remove Programs" which is located in the Windows Control Panel. If the program you are trying to remove was designed for Windows, its name will appear in a window in Add/Remove Programs. Highlighting the program name and clicking on the Add/Remove button will uninstall the program.

If the program was not designed for Windows specifically, it may contain its own uninstall program. In this case, the uninstall program may be located by clicking on Start-Programs and then on the program name. This should bring up a little window which includes the uninstall program. Clicking on uninstall should remove the program.

Some older programs may not contain an uninstall feature. Removing the program elements using the Delete command may uninstall them. Consult the original instructions or possibly call the manufacturer.

If an icon remains on the desktop after uninstalling, right clicking on the icon and then clicking on Delete can remove it. Remember, this works for any unwanted icon, and icons just are shortcuts to the program. Removing them does not affect the program itself. It still can be activated through the Program menu. It's a good idea to save the icon space on the desktop for frequently used programs and not clutter it with lots of other stuff.

Incidentally, when uninstalling a program, you may get a confusing warning window saying something like "this program may use a file shared by other programs. Do you want to remove it anyway?" Usually I am adventuresome and click "Yes to all." If I really remove something that is needed by another program, I will find out when I start the other program. Then I can go back to the original installation disk to get the needed element or possibly go to another computer and copy it to my computer. I don't remember ever having to do this.

With newer computers, you seldom need to remove unwanted programs since there usually is ample hard drive space. Remove the icon if you wish but leave the program. No harm done. On older computers, hard drive space may be an issue. You may need to remove older programs to make space for new ones. Incidentally, data files like letters or emails, take up little hard drive space. Programs are the space hogs.

If you would like to hear more about uninstalling programs, or other computer topics, visit "Coffee and Computers" at the Tustin Area Senior Center, 200 S. 'C' Street, any Friday morning starting at 9 a.m. Bring your questions or just come in and visit.

In the mean time, keep the neurons happy, synapses snapping and enjoy computing.


Dr. Art Holub is a long time resident of Tustin and teaches computer and Internet courses at the Tustin Area Senior Center and the Tustin Adult School. Visit his web site at: This column is written to address the computer adventures and concerns of older adults. If you have comments, questions or suggestions for future columns, Email HIM at:

Return to Doc's Home Page