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Whenever I uninstall an application or program from my Windows 7 PC, I always go to the Control Panel and use the inbuilt utility within Windows to accomplish this, and then reboot the PC.

Is there therefore a rationale to use a freeware third party uninstaller instead eg Revo, to carry out the same task and may it actually be doing more harm than good (if one is not careful) ?

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2 Answers 2

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I do not see how it would be of benefit, everything in add/ remove programs or the appwiz.cpl is in the registry at HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Uninstall as a subkey.

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MSI installers write their GUID in the format {AFF7153F-C4AA-4C48-AEE9-8611D276CE86}

This is not really a problem, as much as a difficulty in reading the keys. There are couple ways to read through these. One, there is a Value Name DisplayName that will have the more friendly value of (in this example) Quest ActiveRoles Management Shell for Active Directory (x64).

Another approach, is Windows writes a “compressed and hashed” version of the GUID to another part of the Registry.

To Hash the value, take the GUID {AFF7153F-C4AA-4C48-AEE9-8611D276CE86} and reverse each set of hex values. AFF7153F becomes F3517FFA, C4AA becomes AA4C and on down the GUID until you have the following: {F3517FFA-C4AA-84C4-9EEA-68EC672D1168}

Now, drop the {, -, and } to get F3517FFAC4AA84C49EEA68EC672D1168 You now have the compressed and hashed GUID that you can compare to another key.

You should now be able to find this new GUID at the following location in the Registry: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Classes\Installer\Products

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Essentially, all uninstalling from the appwiz.cpl or Add/remove programs does is call the uninstall string HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Uninstall, you can easily copy this command in the command prompt and achieve the same results.

As for orphaned files that a third party uninstaller claims to remove, I would not accept the risk as low enough for the little gains. Usually what is left behind is of no consequence, a registry key with license information or a key, or a C:\Program Files\ApplicationName folder that I can easily delete myself. I have seen applications try to wipe shared dll files though, and I would 10 times as worried about something like Reno catching a reference to a shared dll and cleaning it for me, breaking another install.

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good detailed explanation :) –  Lorenzo Von Matterhorn Sep 23 '13 at 11:14
@LorenzoVonMatterhorn Thanks, these are actually from notes I made myself a while back when working on a C# tool to enumerate remote computers installed applications. –  AthomSfere Sep 23 '13 at 11:17
@AthomSfere Appreciate the technicality of your answer, to reinforce what Lorenzo was saying (even if I don't fully understand it IMHO). It will be interesting to see if anyone comes on here in defence of third party uninstallers (and flips the coin - so to speak). –  Simon Sep 23 '13 at 11:23
@AthomSfere I forgot to add thankyou for your reference with regards to orphaned files. –  Simon Sep 23 '13 at 12:02
+1 for the last paragraph –  Dan Neely Sep 23 '13 at 14:32

Third party unistallers follow the same philosophy as registry cleaners - do not use them.

They can easily be described in two words: Snake Oil.

In real IT environments they are not used for the simple reason they are just that - snake oil - and are prone to cause more trouble than to fix things.

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Just to clarify you always use the inbuilt utility, but also isn't it possible that debris for example orphaned or obselete files sometimes get left behind ? –  Simon Sep 23 '13 at 11:05
it is possible. but aamof, we can never predict what the software will do in order to attempt an uninstall. –  Lorenzo Von Matterhorn Sep 23 '13 at 11:06
Obviously it is better to be safe than sorry. –  Simon Sep 23 '13 at 11:09
@Simon - There is nothing that Revo does that running the default uninstaller can't do. –  Ramhound Sep 23 '13 at 11:34
@Ramhound Yes and also if they are indeed similar to registry cleaners, I certainly wouldn't want to mess with the registry (may lead to unforeseen problems). –  Simon Sep 23 '13 at 11:38

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