Win32 programs have a lot of flexibility when it comes to the installation process. Programs may install in various directories, may write to the Registry, or run on system start without asking the user about it.
Most programs install in one of the "official" program folders. There is c:\Program Files\ for 64-bit applications, and c:\Program Files (x86)\ for 32-bit programs.
It often happens that the removal of programs leaves traces of the program on the system. It may be an empty start menu folder, values in the Registry, or files and folders on a connected hard drive.
Leftovers don't cause functionality issues usually. There are exceptions to the rule, but the vast majority of leftovers have no impact on a system's performance or stability.
They may cause other issues however like wasting disk space or making it more difficult to navigate the Start Menu or folders.
You can use a program like the free Bulk Crap Uninstaller to clean up the program files folder. While you can do so manually as well, using Bulk Crap Uninstaller has the advantage that you can remove multiple orphan folders in one operation, and that you get a second opinion in the form of a confidence rating.
Tip: check out our review of Bulk Crap Uninstaller if you are new to the program. It highlights all important program features and helps you get acquainted with the application.
If you use custom install locations, do the following before you continue: select Tools > Settings > Folders, and add any custom installation folder to the listing. The program crawls any custom folder you add there for leftovers when you run the leftover removal tool.
Select Tools > Clean up "program files" folders to get started. The scan takes a couple of seconds to complete. Bulk Crap Uninstaller lists folders in the program files directories that it identified as an orphan.
The program lists the full folder path and a reputation rating for each item. The reputation algorithm uses positive and negative identifiers. A positive identifier is an empty program folder, for instance, a negative one if files are present.
Note: There is no backup or creation of a System Restore point prior to the removal. If you want to be on the save side, create a backup first before you proceed.
The author of the application suggests that you mark folders with very good or good reputation ratings only.
What you may want to do first is to verify the findings of the program. While you can mark any program for deletion that you identify as uninstalled already, it is likely that you cannot do that for all the orphan programs listed by Bulk Crap Uninstaller.
A double-click on an entry opens the program folder on the local system. You can right-click and select open from the context menu alternatively if you prefer it that way.
A click on the details entry of the context menu opens the list of positive and negative modifiers used by the confidence rating algorithm.
You can export the list of orphan program folders with a click on the export button, and change the default list of checked items as well. There is no option to uncheck all items to start with a clean slate, unfortunately.
The best way to go about it is to select only very good items and uncheck those manually afterward.
Select the program locations that you want to be removed from the system, and hit the delete selected button then to delete them.
The leftover removal scan of Bulk Crap Uninstaller takes care of orphan program folders that are not deleted properly during the removal of installed programs on Windows PCs. It is easy to use but could benefit from a couple of usability enhancements such as an option to uncheck all items, or an option to create a backup before running delete operations.
Now You: How do you handle orphan program files and folders?
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