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Thoughts about setup and deployment issues, WiX, XNA, the .NET Framework and Visual Studio

How to uninstall an application when it does not appear in Add/Remove Programs

How to uninstall an application when it does not appear in Add/Remove Programs

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One of the questions I commonly receive from customers is how to uninstall a product when there is no entry created for that product in the Add/Remove Programs control panel.  I get asked this question about a lot of different MSI-based setups and OS hotfixes, particularly from people who are trying to follow the uninstall instructions for beta versions of VS 2005 and the .NET Framework 2.0.

For MSI-based products, I typically recommend using the following steps to locate and remove a product that does not appear in Add/Remove Programs:

  1. Use these steps to download and run the MsiInv tool to create a list of applications that Windows Installer thinks are installed on the computer
  2. Open the MsiInv output file, locate the product that you are interested in removing and copy the Product Code value to your clipboard.  The Product Code will be a GUID with curly braces surrounding it.  Make sure to copy the curly braces in addition to the GUID value
  3. Go to the Start menu, choose Run and type cmd
  4. From the cmd prompt, run msiexec /x {product_code} using the Product Code value from the MsiInv output and try to uninstall it using the standard MSI uninstall command line
  5. If the uninstall succeeds, you can stop here
  6. If the uninstall did not succeed, download the smartmsizap tool (if you are interested, you can read about the behind-the-scenes design for smartmsizap here) and extract it to c:\ on your computer
  7. From the cmd prompt, run c:\smartmsizap.exe /p {product_code} using the Product Code value from the MsiInv output

This set of steps has resolved nearly all cases I've run into in the past where someone needed to remove a product but could not find an entry in Add/Remove Programs to launch the uninstall process from.  If you try these steps and run into problems or have questions, please contact me and I will try to help.

For OS hotfixes, you need to make sure the Show updates checkbox is checked in the top middle of the Add/Remove Programs control panel.  If that is checked and the hotfix you want to remove still does not appear in Add/Remove Programs, the hotfix may have been installed on your system with a command line that suppresses the ability to uninstall.

<update date="1/9/2006"> Added more specific information about extracting and running smartmsizap.exe from c:\ because otherwise Windows may not know where to find the exe when running the command from a cmd prompt </update>

<update date="4/1/2009"> Fixed broken link to smartmsizap tool. </update>


  • Hi Cass - The MsiInv and SmartMsiZap workaround is designed to remove the beta version so that you can install the final release of the product.  This workaround does not remove all of the files for a product though, so that would probably explain why you still see those folders.  Is your goal to install the final release or to just remove the beta?  If you want to install the final release, I would suggest installing it now.  If you want to only remove the beta, I would suggest manually deleting the SQL Server service and deleting the folders you mention above manually.  Hope this helps....
  • Hi, my goal was not to install the final release but to remove it all together. I didn't want to remove the folders without being sure that if I did I wouldn't start getting some system error because sqlservr.exe seems to run on its own. Also, I wanted to make sure that I removed all the files that may have been installed in other directories associated with it so that I wouldn't have all these extra files still on my computer. Thanks for your help.
  • Hi, Aaron
    Because of a problem with my anti virus, I had to uninstall Visual Basic Express Edition (and .Net Framework 2.0, MSDN, and optional SQL that was installed during VB installation). Unfortunately, I uninstalled first .Net Framework 2.0 and after I realized that it had to be installed to be able to uninstall VB, so I re-installed .Net Framework 2.0 back and continue uninstalling the rest. At the end, I uninstalled .Net Framework 2.0.

    After that, I tried to install again VB and optional SQL (now with the anti virus disabled, that was the problem in my first installation). But this second time, I was not asked if I wanted SQL installed (the first time, I was asked about SQL and I said yes). So, I do not have SQL installed, although I see a lot of folders and files related to SQL. I look in Control Panel -add/remove programs- and nothing related to SQL appears.

    Can you tell me how to force the installation of SQL? If not possible, are MsiInv and SmartMsiZap tools good for uninstalling everything again and reinstall once more? I have the CD burned from the ISO image file downloaded from Microsoft.

    Many Thanks in advance for your help.
  • Hi Iafossi - I would suggest first trying to download and install SQL Express directly by using the link at http://msdn.microsoft.com/vstudio/express/sql/download/.

    MsiInv and SmartMsiZap would probably help here, but it would be more reliable for you to try to repair SQL Express using the official setup package first.

    Hope this helps!
  • Many thanks, Aaron
    I will try your suggestion and let you know the result.
  • Hi Aaron
    I downloaded and installed SQL Express directly following your advise and it seems that everything is right now. Many thanks for your help.
  • PingBack from http://blog.xpint.net/?p=6
  • Where to get Visual Studio 2005 and the .NET Framework 2.0 Where to download the .NET Framework 2.0 redistributable

  • OK I tried the steps you gave me to run MSIINV then MSIEXEC then SMARTMSIZAP and they all indicate that they worked on the visual web developer to uninstall ... BUT I still get the error that it needs to be uninstalled before SP1 of VS 2005 can be loaded. When I go into the VS 2005 and look at help/about it still shows the Visual Web Developer 2005 and Web application Projects 2005 in the Installed products. I reran the MSIINV and did not see those products in the list. I did see the VS 2005.

    What am I doing wrong here?

    Jim Noe

  • Hi JamesNoe - Please make sure that you have uninstalled the Visual Studio 2005 hotfix for web application projects (KB915364) in addition to the web application projects package itself.  Both items that you need to uninstall are listed at http://blogs.msdn.com/astebner/archive/2007/02/11/uninstall-vs-2005-update-to-support-web-application-projects-before-installing-vs-2005-sp1.aspx.

    If that doesn't help, I have heard of cases where customers were able to resolve this issue by reinstalling the web application projects package and the Visual Studio hotfix and then uninstalled them again.

    If both of the above fail, you might need to uninstall and reinstall VS 2005, but hopefully you'll be able to avoid doing that.

    Hopefully one of these will help.

  • As described in this post on S. Somasegar's blog and in other places, Visual Studio codename Orcas beta

  • Recently, I heard from a customer who has a system with Update Rollup 2 for Windows XP Media Center Edition

  • PingBack from http://msdnrss.thecoderblogs.com/2007/09/01/how-to-repair-a-localization-pack-for-update-rollup-2-for-windows-xp-media-center-2005/

  • Visual Studio 2008 - Install Problem Solved

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