On Windows (10), can a user determine if a program was installed by another installer.

If the title is not clear, let me just say 'Visual Studio' and all should be clear to those in the know. Similarly, some programs will install C++ re-distributables.

In the VS case, a ton of other stuff gets installed with it. However, when you uninstall it, it leaves a ton of those programs behind. Is there any way to know what installed a package - whether it was a user directly, or whether it was downstream from something else. And, critically, if anything else installed is still using an indirectly installed program.

I'm migrating from one version of VS to the next and while I think most of those packages are free of side-effects, I really don't like that it does this. I'm wondering if there is an audit trail somewhere.

I'm this close to paying for choco, as I think it does this - the free version doesn't handle programs self-updating well, so I guess it's the paid version.

E.G ssms, even though, it's currently uninstalled.

enter image description here

  • 1
    A program cannot install another program. A program can install required programs, by running the installers for those programs, there is a subtle difference. No; There is no way to tell the difference. In either case the user has launched the installation process.
    – Ramhound
    Commented Feb 14, 2020 at 1:37

1 Answer 1


I believe that the best you can do is look at the install date, and assume that everything installed on the same date that Visual Studio was installed was likely installed by Visual Studio. Since I am also updating to a new version of Visual Studio, I am also considering the possibility of completely starting over with the whole laptop, the repave -- going back to factory-installed newness (and the bloatware -- ugh!)

Your screen shot shows one view. You can hit WindowsKey+R and type in AppWiz.cpl+[ENTER]

Windows Run Window

which allows you to sort by install date, which is useful for seeing what was installed on the same date as Visual Studio, or might have been installed with a Visual Studio Service Pack or Windows Feature Update.

Windows Programs and Features Window, or Add Remove Programs Window

I also sometimes sort by size descending, though drives are so big nowadays that I don't generally need to. Just like to know who's installed Gigs of code to bring some piece of functionality to my box.

The final thing you might do is go back into the install for that version of Visual Studio, and see what it installs that you've got, and reason that way. But I don't know of anything that Visual Studio leaves behind that connects it to a particular install.

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