Most of us know that when you install an application, it’s not that uncommon for it leave bits of itself behind on your system after you uninstall it again, even using the official uninstaller utility that came with it. Security software is a prime example which can often leave a ton of redundant data behind and in many cases this causes system instability until all traces have been removed. Many of us have third party uninstall tools to help scan for and get rid of this leftover data such as Revo Uninstaller, but although they can do a fine job, these are after the event tools and sometimes not quite as accurate as they need to be.
The best way to make sure nothing gets missed after removing an application is to monitor and track the file and registry changes when you install the software so when it comes to removal, you have the chance to delete anything the original installer left behind. There are many tools around that can watch your system for certain changes and we’ve written about ones that can track changes during an installation in another article. These 7 utilities can monitor the install and then uninstall the software again removing all the changes the original uninstaller might have missed.
1. Advanced Uninstaller Pro
Advanced Uninstaller Pro is definitely trying to be the complete all-in-one utility because in addition to the uninstalling functions, it also boasts a whole host of other useful tools. Registry cleaning, optimizing, backup and restore, file cleaning and optimizing, Services, Startup, Control Panel and Font managers, several different tools for IE, Chrome and Firefox, and there are many more. The program has a Revo like Uninstall Programs option that does a standard removal and then scans for leftovers and a Monitored Installations option.
This second option requires you to start the installation monitor tray component and then you can right click on it to start a monitored install using the before and after snapshot method. We were quite surprised at how long the program took to create the snapshots and then the log file, nearly 3 minutes reading from the in built clock. Uninstalled software can be backed up and restored again at a later date. Even if you never use the uninstaller functions on offer, Advanced Uninstaller Pro still has a ton of other features you might find useful. Watch out for the AVG search bar adware being offered on install.
2. Install Monitor
Mirekusoft Install Monitor has a few advantages and possible disadvantages over some other install tracking tools. On the plus side everything is monitored in real time so you don’t have to create before and after snapshots which saves a lot of time. This is achieved by a service running in the background (MspySvcHost.exe) that constantly watches for installations. Then when you click on the installed program in the Install Monitor window it will give you information about the size of the install and all the registry and file changes that it created. The selected software’s created content and startup entries can be viewed using the tabs below.
Software removal is a 2 step process with the standard uninstaller running 1st and then the program will tell you if there are still leftover entries it tracked which you can then remove using the Cleanup button. The running service could also be considered a drawback if you don’t want monitoring on all the time as you would have to stop it manually. Although it isn’t bundled with any adware, Install Monitor does require the Visual C++ Redistributable and SQL Server Compact Edition to function which can be downloaded automatically if you don’t have them already. There are separate versions for XP, and 32/64 bit Windows.
Primo is actually a before and after snapshot utility based around Regshot 1.8.2 and users with experience of that utility will probably like Primo as well because it has a few additions. The program consists of 2 executable files, the Primo executable to take the snapshots and then save the differences file, and a tool called CHKUnin which creates a .reg file and a .bat file, both of which can be used to delete the monitored application installs or delete any leftovers after an uninstall.
If you don’t extract the program to the C drive it will popup an error on start, simply change the Output path to stop it appearing again. Multiple drives or folders can be scanned by separating them in the box with a semi colon. Click 1st Image to create the before snapshot, install the application and click 2nd Image to create the after snapshot. Then press Compare to create the log report which can be in TEXT or HTML formats. To create the uninstall batch and registry files run CHKUnin and open the text log file (not HTML) which will automatically make the files for you and they can then be run when you want to remove the software or left behind data.
4. Total Uninstall (last freeware version)
Total Uninstall has been shareware for many years now, but was once a freeware tool and although it comes from 2005, this older version 2.35 still works and does the job quite nicely. There aren’t that many features in the program apart from the standard registry and file scanning options for the before and after snapshots which makes it an easy to use application.
Monitoring a new install is done via dragging the installer onto the window and before you create the 1st snapshot will be given the chance to edit the default registry and file locations to be scanned. After waiting for the snapshot to be created you have the option of monitoring just the single application or several which can then all be uninstalled at once. The rest of the procedure is quite standard and will create the after snapshot and show you the differences in a tree view. Then when you want to remove the program from your system select “Uninstall or view changes of a monitored application” from the main window along with what to uninstall where Total Uninstall will let you review and then completely remove the program.
5. Comodo Programs Manager
Comodo Programs Manager is a well polished tool to monitor and help remove installations and also has some nice features such as an install maker option that creates a setup executable from the contents of the monitored install so you can install the program next time quickly and silently. It also has quick access to the Windows Features option and a Windows Updates section allows the viewing and possible removal of any causing issues. The Drivers and Services option is a powerful and also dangerous thing to play around with if you’re not sure what you’re doing. Uninstalling something Windows or a piece of software relies on will likely cause it stop working properly.
When you want to remove a program simply click on it and select Uninstall, you will get the a Complete Uninstall option if it’s been previously tracked by Comodo or Standard Uninstall for one that hasn’t. After the uninstall any changes still left will be available to remove. Programs Manager also places shortcuts on the right click context menu for easy access and has a backup uninstall option so you can undo the uninstall process at a later time. Monitoring is in real time and like Install Monitor uses a resident service process called CPMService.exe to monitor the install.
6. ZSoft Uninstaller
ZSoft Uninstaller has quite a few interesting features built into it. Apart from being able to Analyze an installation using before and after snapshots of the system’s files and registry, ZSoft Uninstaller also has a simple temporary file finder and remover, an empty folders finder and remover and a very basic startup program manager. A few more interesting functions are the the automatic classification and filtering of known “Crapware” entries and a “Badware” finder which will scan your system for selected keywords such as “Coolwebsearch” or “CyDoor” etc, and then allow you to remove the entries.
The program runs on the standard formula of taking a before snapshot, installing your software and then taking an after snapshot although you do have to give a name to the analyzed program yourself. Uninstalling is a bit on the annoying side as the developer has placed 3 different disclaimer check boxes that you have to tick before continuing with the removal. The option to remove leftovers is also not great because any entries have to be removed individually. The website does point out that ZSoft Uninstaller cannot remove 64-bit specific software although removing 32-bit programs on a 64-bit o/s works fine.
7. Ashampoo Magical UnInstall
This tool is the predecessor to the shareware Ashampoo Uninstaller application dating back to 2007 and is completely free if you use an email address to get a free key. As with all Ashampoo free products, it’s best to use a temporary email service to avoid being bombarded with advertising emails. One major drawback of Magical Uninstall is it won’t work on a 64-bit Windows but still works fine on 32-bit Windows including 7.
Apart from an options window, Magical Uninstall doesn’t have an interface as such and all actions are controlled through the tray icon context menu. Simply select the Install an application option from the menu and you will be asked to browse for the setup installer. Then it’s the standard snapshot A, install, snapshot B and compare process and selecting the menu Uninstall an application option will fully remove the application again. There is also the ability to backup and re-install the software at a later time and actively monitor for when you launch a setup installer. Thankfully this version of an Ashampoo product does not include adware or toolbars in its installer although you do need to opt out of the newsletter on first run.