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What is the difference between uninstalling a program through Control Panel, and uninstalling via the Program's uninstall.exe?

Example: C:\Program Files (x86)\Notepad++\uninstall.exe

In general, I read that it's better to uninstall a program via window's Control Panel. But for the programs that have their own uninstall.exe, is there any real difference between the un-installations? Is the Control Panel's cleaner in removing dependencies?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

As the previous answers have said, the Add/Remove Programs applet invokes the same uninstall process as if run manually... however, just running the uninstall program from the program's subdirectory does not ensure you're using all the proper parameters.

e.g. to uninstall Doom the


uninstall entry in the registry for Doom might say

C:\Program Files\Doom\uninstl.exe /S C:\Program Files\Doom

whereas if you just run the uninstl.exe file in the \Doom subdir it might NOT perform the same actions.

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Normally there's a shortcut in the start menu for the program that has the correct parameters attached, though. But good point. – Joel Coehoorn Apr 5 '10 at 15:16
So for programs that don't have an "uninstall.exe". I would assume there is some executable in the folder that Control Panel runs with parameters to uninstall? – spong Apr 5 '10 at 15:36

There is no difference, the control panel just links to the programs uninstaller.

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Most of the time there is no difference. However, there are two exceptions that I'm aware of.

One is if you're using Windows Server with Terminal Servivces (ie, for thin clients) some extra registration happens when you run things via the control panel to help software work better when several people are logged in and using it at the same time. In this case, you should always go through the control panel to both add and remove any programs.

The other is if you have a broken or missing uninstaller of a certain type, the Control Panel may offer to simply remove the program from the list for you.

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For the second case, would this be similar to removing/deleting the program folder? – spong Apr 5 '10 at 13:56
That could be the cause for the broken or missing uninstaller, but it won't do that. It will just remove the program from the Add/Remove programs list. – Joel Coehoorn Apr 5 '10 at 13:58

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