8 Ways to remove desktop programs and modern apps in Windows

From time to time, I stumble upon applications that are hard to remove. Sometimes their Add/Remove Programs entry disappears for whatever reason or they don’t have a handy Uninstall shortcut available, and so on. The problems vary from case to case. That’s why I decided to make a roundup of all the methods that can be used to remove both desktop programs and modern apps, in Windows.

NOTE: This guide applies to Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10.

1. Uninstall desktop applications from the Control Panel

This is the method most people know about. It works great for all desktop applications but it cannot be used for modern apps that are distributed through the Windows Store in Windows 8.1 and Windows 10.

First open the Control Panel. If you don’t know how, here are some guides to help you:

Then go to “Programs -> Programs and Features”.

remove, uninstall, apps, desktop, programs, applications, Windows 10, Windows 8.1

Select the desktop application that you want to remove, click or tap Uninstall and follow the wizard.

remove, uninstall, apps, desktop, programs, applications, Windows 10, Windows 8.1

Please remember that the steps involved in removing a program are different from program to program.

2. Uninstall desktop programs using their Uninstall shortcuts

Some desktop applications, when installed, create an Uninstall shortcut. This is generally found in the application’s folder in the Start Menu (in Windows 7 and Windows 10) or the Apps View (in Windows 8.1). Below you can see the Uninstall shortcut for Dropbox, in Windows 8.1.

remove, uninstall, apps, desktop, programs, applications, Windows 10, Windows 8.1

Here is the Uninstall shortcut for Fitbit Connect, in Windows 10.

remove, uninstall, apps, desktop, programs, applications, Windows 10, Windows 8.1

Click the Uninstall shortcut to start the uninstallation wizard for the selected application.

Please keep in mind that Uninstall shortcuts are sometimes also placed on the Desktop. Double-click on them to start the uninstall procedure.

3. Uninstall desktop apps using their Uninstall.exe

Many desktop apps (especially those which create Uninstall shortcuts) have an executable file named uninstall.exe or something along these lines. This file is always found in the installation folder of that application. You can see below the uninstall.exe file for the VLC Player.

remove, uninstall, apps, desktop, programs, applications, Windows 10, Windows 8.1

Run it and follow the steps required to uninstall the program.

4. Uninstall desktop apps using their setup MSI file

Some programs (like the 64-bit version of 7-Zip) do not use a setup.exe file for their installation. Instead their setup file has the extension ".msi". This format is used by the Windows Installer, a special installation format created by Microsoft for its Windows operating systems. The desktop applications that use an ".msi" installer are very easy to uninstall. You right click or press and hold on their setup file and click or tap Uninstall.

remove, uninstall, apps, desktop, programs, applications, Windows 10, Windows 8.1

The removal can also be triggered from the command line. Open the Command Prompt as administrator and type “msiexec /x ” followed by the name of the ".msi" file used by the program you want to remove.

remove, uninstall, apps, desktop, programs, applications, Windows 10, Windows 8.1

You can also add other command line parameters to control the way the uninstall is done. For more information, check this article from Microsoft: Msiexec (command-line options)
If you are interested in how to remove modern apps from Windows, which are distributed using the Windows Store, read the second page in this guide.

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About the Author: Ciprian Adrian Rusen
I love technology and I work in IT for more than a decade. I am the co-founder of Digital Citizen and its chief editor. Alongside my work as an editor, I am also an author. I have written and published 7 books, most of them about Microsoft products and technologies. They are translated into more than 12 languages. In 2014, I have been recognized by Microsoft for my technical expertise and involvement in the community with the title of Microsoft MVP - Windows Consumer Expert.