Every Windows user knows that removing a program is more complicated than just deleting it. During the installation process, several files are dropped into different areas of your system to make a program work. The Windows Add/Remove programs utility was meant to be the tool to use for getting the various parts of programs off your hard drive, but it doesn't always do a great job.
Fortunately, some savvy developers designed uninstall programs to do all the guesswork for you. These applications attempt to gather all the files associated with unwanted programs, so that you can get every component of the software off your hard drive for good.
It's important to note that, while these programs do a great job of rooting out rogue files, my experience is that you still want to check all files thoroughly before deleting them--the best defense against getting rid of something you might need is checking it over carefully. With that, here are my three favorite uninstallers.
Your Uninstaller 2008 lists all your installed programs in a window letting you quickly choose which applications you want to uninstall. Double-clicking on a program begins the uninstall process. Your Uninstaller 2008 runs the available uninstaller which comes with the program you want to uninstall, then it rechecks your hard drive for files the program's uninstaller may have left behind. In my tests, this program worked pretty well to get all the associated files out of my system, but the steep demo limitations are pretty frustrating. You only get two uninstalls per launch of the program before you register ($39.99) and you can only use the program for 21 days.
ZSoft Uninstaller is a free program which uses a similar technique to Your Uninstaller 2008. It first runs the unwanted program's original uninstall option before cleaning up with its own technology. But for a more thorough uninstall, ZSoft Uninstaller offers an analyze function that you can use during the initial installation of programs to track exactly which files are being added to your system. Later, when you want to uninstall a program, you can then click the Analyzed Programs tab and rest assured when you uninstall the program, every associated file will be included. The search box for finding specific programs and the capability to get rid of temporary files are nice additions to this free program.
Revo Uninstaller, which has been featured recently here at Download.com is another solid free uninstaller. With Revo, you can choose the level of uninstall you want it to perform, from simply using the programs included uninstaller to performing a deep scan of associated files in the registry for a thorough cleaning. Revo Uninstaller takes you through each step of the process giving you the power to save certain files from deletion. Revo also offers a "Hunter Mode" which places a cross hairs icon on your desktop. To get rid of a program, simply drag the cross hairs over a programs unwanted shortcut icon and Revo will find all associated files and take you through the steps for deletion. Even as a free program, Revo uninstaller is definitely tough to beat in this category of software.
Getting rid of old and unused programs is a great way to make room on your hard drive, but sometimes the Add/Remove programs utility is not enough. If you really want to clean up your computer, these uninstaller options will almost always do the trick. As always, if you have a better uninstall program than the ones listed, please let us know in the comments so we can check them out!