When you want to remove an app or program from your PC, you probably reach for Windows’ built-in ‘Add or remove programs’ option. It’s okay for removing the odd program here and there, but all too often you’ll be presented with a message telling you that some components couldn’t be removed, or that the uninstall has failed in some way.
That’s why you need a dedicated third-party uninstaller – and some of the best tools around are available completely free. These uninstallers will quickly scan your system for all installed programs, and let you select several at once for removal.
Once they’ve been purged, the software will then perform another scan to track down and wipe out temporary files and old registry entries, freeing up valuable space and ensuring you don’t run into problems when installing a newer version of the same software later on.
The best free uninstallers also provide a handy way to manage browser extensions and plugins, and remove any you don’t use.
You’ll also be able to empty your recycle bin with a single click, and delete your browser history.
If you like to experiment with new software, or just want to keep your computer tidy, a free uninstaller is essential. Presented here is our pick of the best.
Best free uninstaller 2017: IObit Uninstaller
IObit Uninstaller (available for Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 8.1 and 10) gets right down to business, scanning your system for installed software the moment it starts. Its smart, clear interface displays a list of all your installed software, with extra tabs if you’re only interested in the newest programs (if you’ve tried something new and don’t like it), and the biggest ones (which will have the greatest impact on system performance).
If you’ve already uninstalled a program but suspect it’s left mucky footprints across your drive, IObit’s deep scanner can hunt down junk including broken shortcuts and caches created when installing software updates. IObit Uninstaller also takes a look at your web browsers to identify any plugins that could be uninstalled to speed up your surfing. Version 6 supports Firefox, Internet Explorer and Edge. Each extension is accompanied by a user rating to help you decide whether to keep it.
IObit Uninstaller also throws a file shredder in too, which doesn’t really fit with the premise of an uninstaller, but all the other tools are relevant and useful.
All in all, IObit is the best uninstaller you can download, and its thorough scanning makes it the equal of many premium programs.
Best free uninstaller 2017: Wise Program Uninstaller
Wise Program Uninstaller is a portable app for Windows XP or later, so you don’t have to worry about it leaving a mess of its own.
It’s a very quick and lean little uninstaller that scans your system for already installed programs and displays ratings to show you how other users feel about them. You probably know what you want to erase, but it’s a thoughtful touch.
Your choices for each program are Safe and Forced uninstall (some also have a Repair option, but only if it’s part of the software in the first place).
Safe uninstall is a way to access the program’s own uninstaller, whereas Forced performs a deep scan to track down scrap files and broken registry entries. It shows you everything it’s identified before deleting them, but this doesn’t serve much purpose; you’re unlikely to be able to pick out an individual Registry entry and say “Hang on, I need that!” The main downside is that it can’t log new programs as you install them, but as an uninstaller it’s well designed and not bulked out with unnecessary tools.
Best free uninstaller 2017: GeekUninstaller
GeekUninstaller is another free portable uninstaller for Windows XP or later, weighing in at just 2.5MB. Although a Pro version is advertised on the developer’s site, this is actually a completely different program called Uninstall Tool – GeekUninstaller is completely free.
It performs a speedy system scan and provides the usual options: Clean or Forced Removal.
If you don’t recognize something, GeekUninstaller will Google it for you – a simple but welcome addition that saves you having to load up your web browser.
Just like the IObit and Wise uninstallers, GeekUninstaller also offers a deep scan option to help clean up the remnants of previously uninstalled programs.
However, unlike IObit it doesn’t automatically monitor your PC for new installations. Instead it highlights any programs you’ve recently installed the next time you run it. GeekUninstaller is offered in over 30 different languages too, and since it’s portable can be easily run from a USB stick hassle-free.
Best free uninstaller 2017: Revo Uninstaller Free
Revo Uninstaller Free’s icon strewn interface is colorful but cluttered, and includes tools such as a startup program manager, plus links to Windows’ system tools, including defrag and the on-screen keyboard. These aren’t necessary, and just distract from an otherwise solid free uninstaller. However, Revo Uninstaller Free does offer four uninstall options: built-in, safe (built-in with additional registry scanning), moderate (with extra scanning of common locations for leftover files) and advanced (moderate mode, followed by a thorough scanning of your whole system).
There’s also a strange Hunter Mode, which enables you uninstall programs by dragging their icons onto a crosshair on your desktop.
It’s more work than selecting the program from a list – a metaphor gone rogue.
Unlike some rival apps, Revo Uninstaller Free begins by creating a system restore point, which is reassuring. It can’t log new installations, though – if you want that, you might like to give Revo’s Pro version a whirl. It’s worlds away from the free edition’s late-’90s styling, and will give your drives a good scrubbing. Prices start at £33.33 for a single PC.