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Windows 7: How to completely uninstall Handbrake (or any program)

08 Feb 2016   #1
pooksahib

Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit 7601 Multiprocessor Free Service Pack 1
 
 
How to completely uninstall Handbrake (or any program)

Hi. Until yesterday, I had Handbrake 10.2 installed. On launch, a message appeared (within the GUI) inviting me to click for 10.3. Which I did. I can't recall the exact sequence of events but it appeared to have gone smoothly and I was left with a popup saying Do you really want to uninstall 10.2? I said Yes as that seemed logical.

I then went to open up 10.3 nothing there. The only Handbrake related file I could find was a defunct link to the shortcut I had on my desktop. Ah well, so off I went and downloaded the 10.3 installer. But before I ran it, I used regedit to delete all registry entries referring to Handbrake. That way, my PC would be 'clean' right?

After the install, 10.3 launched and immediately showed a message about my previous presets and there it was 10.3 had the custom preset that I'd made with 10.2! Not only that, but 10.3 was able to load a DVD with DRM protection. To do that with 10.2, I had to copy a 'special' dll file into Program Files/Handbrake.

It seems I was mistaken then. Uninstalling a program and then deleting registry entries doesn't 'clean' your PC. Otherwise, my Handbrake 10.3 wouldn't have known about my old preset nor would it have the 'special' dll file.

So how DO you completely remove a program?


My System SpecsSystem Spec
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08 Feb 2016   #2
wasnotwas

W10 Pro x64, W7 Pro x64 in VMware
 
 

Software settings are often stored in hidden folders eg for Handbrake on my pc -

C:\users\<my name>\AppData\Roaming\Handbrake

There may also be other locations. To see this AppData folder you have to go Control Panel, Folder Options, View and click 'show hidden files, folders'. Some softwares delete everything on uninstall, but most leave some settings behind. To fully uninstall, you might like to look at Revo Uninstaller - after uninstall it will search for leftover files etc (incl Registry) if required. The free Revo only uninstalls 32 bit programs - you need the paid version for x64 stuff (the free version doesn't even see x64 programs).

Download Revo Uninstaller Freeware - Free and Full Download - Uninstall software, remove programs, solve uninstall problems

The AppData folders are hidden for a reason ie to stop accidental deletion of important files. I'd also steer clear of seach + delete in the Registry - it's easy to turn a pc into a brick.

BTW, the first time I reinstalled a program - to fix a problem - and it magically had the same settings, I was somewhat surprised to say the least.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
08 Feb 2016   #3
whs
Microsoft MVP

Vista, Windows7, Mint Mate, Zorin, Windows 8
 
 

That is actually a very good question. My research found that it is actually not possible. Only a system reset with an image can accomplish that - and that may not always be practical.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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09 Feb 2016   #4
pooksahib

Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit 7601 Multiprocessor Free Service Pack 1
 
 

Thanks to you both. I'd forgotten about AppData - that's no doubt the reason.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
23 May 2018   #5
davesev

Windows 7 Pro 64-bit
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by whs View Post
That is actually a very good question. My research found that it is actually not possible. Only a system reset with an image can accomplish that - and that may not always be practical.
What makes you say that?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
01 Jun 2018   #6
Alejandro85

Windows 7 Ultimate x64
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by davesev View Post
What makes you say that?
I think I can answer that too.
The basic problem you face is that you don't know what to look for, or where, or anything. An installer is only supposed to deploy files in specific locations and initialize default settings, but in no way forced to do anything in particular, it can put files virtually everywhere (more specially considering that installers are run with administrator permissions).

The corresponding uninstaller is supposed to know all the installer does, but once again, there is no way to enforce that it really removes everything and restores the system to the exact same state as before.
Moreover, many don't touch per-user settings (sometimes a difficult task) and it's not a bad practice to leave those. User generated files also remain, as the uninstaller is unaware of their existence. And finally we always have the case of the poorly made or buggy uninstaller that "forgets" some things behind.

It all boils down to you don't know what the installer did, therefore you cannot know exactly how to reverse its effects. To some extent, when you install a program you must put a degree of trust in what it does and that it must be able to clean it up after itself.
Registry cleaners aren't perfect too. What they really do is to look for the typical signs that programs leave, like its folder in program files, settings in appdata and programdata, and the like. They try to identify by using the name, company, any text they can find about the software to clean, but they in fact have no precise idea of what it's needed to do. Cleaners make educated guesses, nothing more. You can attempt the same manually too, but it would also be a best guess and nothing exact.

More often than not, it's not relevant if not every single file gets reverted before and a lost file or two don't cause any trouble, but from time to time they do. And in those cases, if you want to be sure that you revert everything, you have to restore a full system backup. Or try to revert the effects manually, if you can even determine what they are.

This is also, not coincidentally, the very same reason why when striked by a virus infection, the only reasonable course of action is a clean install. You don't know what the malware did to your system, and your priority is to get to a safe point, so a clean install becomes unavoidable.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
01 Jun 2018   #7
Barman58

Windows 10 Pro x64 x3, Ubuntu
 
 

If you try Revo as suggested back in 2016 you should be able to use the post uninstall search to find and remove most if not all of any regular application, it may even work better if you reinstall the application again and then use revo to uninstall and always choose the most aggressive option if asked. Revo actually interrogates the application it is uninstalling rather than just guess where files and registry entries are.

The pro version is much better of course especially when you use it to monitor installs but the Free version is very effective
My System SpecsSystem Spec
02 Jun 2018   #8
F22 Simpilot

Windows 7 Ultimate x64
 
 

There are also programs that can monitor where registry files and data folders were created. So in a sense, one could reinstall the program and watch its activity.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
02 Jun 2018   #9
Alejandro85

Windows 7 Ultimate x64
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by F22 Simpilot View Post
There are also programs that can monitor where registry files and data folders were created. So in a sense, one could reinstall the program and watch its activity.
That's a superior alternative to those crapy "uninstallers", to watch out what it does really do and undo it. One must take the precaution of monitor the install only.

However, that alternative doesn't cover changes made by the program itself, only its installer.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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 How to completely uninstall Handbrake (or any program)




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