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Cleanup Files and Folders After Uninstalling Software

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Very few programs clean up themselves efficiently when you uninstall a program and thus there are remnants of programs you have uninstalled lying around your computer. You can run a Removal Tool of the product (if available) or It is a good idea to locate and remove these files manually.

Uninstallers frequently don't remove every trace of a program, so after you have uninstalled something you must then clean up the remaining files. Nearly all programs put one or more entries on the Start menu to enable you to run them and there may be just a single item or a folder that contains menu items and possibly sub folders and more menu items. You may find that one or more items are not removed and are still on the Start menu. This is common if you have changed the Start menu and have moved menu items around to organise them. Right click anything you don't want on the Start menu and select Delete to remove it. This moves it to the Recycle Bin.

The main program files are usually stored in C:\Program Files - assuming Windows is installed on drive C, which it usually is. However, a few programs are installed into the root of drive C:\, so it's worth looking there if you can't find it. The folder is usually named after the software company, programmer, or the program and provided you know what these are (access the program's Help, About menu before uninstalling it), you should easily be able to find the folder containing the files. There is a special folder that some software uses called C:\Program Files\Common Files. Shared files are sometimes stored here, so don't go deleting anything you might need. However, if you have uninstalled all the software from company X and there is still a company X folder in C:\Program Files\Common Files, it is usually OK to delete it.

Tip: Before you uninstall a program let the mouse hover over its menu on the Start menu and you will often see the path to the file displayed as a pop-up tip. It is common to have the program folder as a sub folder of the company folder. After uninstalling a program you should delete any folders and files that remain.

In Windows Vista and Win 7 there is a C:\ProgramData folder that contains data files created by programs in C:\Program Files, so open an Explorer window and check what the folder contains. Delete any folder created by the program you have just installed. 

The C:\Documents and Settings folder (XP) or C:\Users (Vista and Win 7) is where programs store information such as data, configuration settings, temporary files and so on. Click Start, My Computer, the hard disk drive, then open this folder. There are some general folders, such as Administrator, All Users, Default User, and Guest, and then there is a folder for each account that has been created. You'll see your own folder with your own user name. 

In XP, open each folder in C:\Documents and Settings and look in the Application Data folder, for example, C:\Documents and Settings\YourName\Application Data.

In Vista and Win 7, open the C:\Users\YourName\AppData folder (ignore the Application data shortcut which is only there for compatibility with XP programs running in Vista and Win 7). You may find a folder or sub-folder that was created by the software you uninstalled. It will be named after the company or program, or there may be a company folder with the program as a sub-folder. Delete it if you find one.

There is another Application Data folder in XP , but it is hidden and cannot normally be seen. You must make it visible so that you can check it.

  • In any Explorer window, select Tools > Folder Options and click the View tab.
  • Select Show hidden files and folders, then clear the ticks against Hide extensions for known file types (Recommended) and Hide protected operating system files.
  • Now you can navigate to C:\Documents and Settings\Yourname\Local settings\Application data. Look for a folder Created by the software company or program and delete it.
  • In Vista and Win 7 you'll find that you can't open the Local Settings folder, even if you are logged on as an administrator.
  • Sp navigate to the following location C:\Users\User Name\Appdata\Local or C:\Users\User Name\Appdata\Roaming
You must repeat this procedure for every user account in C:\Documents and Settings (XP) or C:\Users (Vista and Win 7), and also the other folders, such as All Users, Guest, and so on.

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