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Repairing and Removing Programs

Most of the time, your applications operate smoothly and without incident. Occasionally, however, you need to repair a program that is having problems. Or, you may want to remove a program or a Windows feature that you aren't using.

In this tutorial, you learn techniques for managing installed programs. You learn how to change or repair programs as well as how to remove programs you no longer need or want. You do most of these tasks in the Control Panel's Programs and Features applet or from the Windows Start menu.

Changing and Repairing Programs

Some large programs let you choose how you want to install the program. For example, you may be given options to do a Minimum Install, Typical Install, or Complete Install. You might do a Minimum or Typical installation to conserve disk space but later discover you need a feature that only the Complete Install would have provided.

Sometimes a program becomes corrupted and stops working properly. That can happen if you inadvertently delete a file that the program needs. Or it may be caused by a minor glitch that compromises an important file.

The first step to changing or repairing a program is to get to the Programs and Features applet in the Control Panel. Here's how:

  1. Press Windows+X on the desktop and click Control Panel.
  2. In the category view, click Programs.
  3. Click Programs and Features.

You can also get to Programs and Features from Cortana. Simply start typing fea and click Programs and Features.

The page that opens lists all your installed application programs. (It doesn't include programs that come with Windows 10.)

Not all programs offer change or repair options. To see what options an installed program offers, rightclick the program name. Or, click the program name and take a look at the buttons above the list of program names. Things you can do with that program are listed in a toolbar above the list.

In most cases, you need the CD or DVD that you originally used to install the program to change or repair the program. If you have the CD handy, go ahead and put it in the CD drive. If Windows asks what you want to do with the disk, choose Take No Action. If the installation program opens automatically, just cancel or close that program.

Changes you make to a program affect all users. Therefore, you must know the password for an Administrator account on your computer to change or repair programs.

Exactly how things play out from here will vary from one program to the next, so we can only provide some general guidelines and examples. But all you have to do is make your selections and follow the instructions on the screen. For example, to repair a corrupted program, click the Repair button and do whatever the resulting instructions tell you to do.

The Change option for a program is generally for adding components you didn't install the first time around, although you can also remove any components you don't need. The exact process varies from one program to the next, but a typical approach is to list all program features in a tree.

Don't use Programs and Features to change settings within a program. Instead, use the program's Options or Preferences dialog box. Open the program as you normally would and look through its menus for a Tools or Preferences option. Or search that program's help for the word preferences or options.

In the tree, click a program feature to choose an action. For example, choose Run from My Computer to install a feature. To remove an optional feature, choose Not Available. That feature is then removed and its icon displays a red X. When you've finished making your selections, click OK or Next and follow the onscreen instructions.

Uninstalling Programs

Unlike documents and other files, copying a program to your hard disk isn't enough to make it usable. You have to install programs before you can use them. Likewise, simply deleting the startup icon for a program isn't enough to remove the program from your system. You have to uninstall the program. These steps are necessary because a program often consists of many files. For example, Microsoft Office comprises hundreds of files! Furthermore, installing a program makes other changes to the system. Uninstalling is necessary to undo those changes.

You must be logged in to an administrative account, or know the administrator password for your PC, to remove a program.

Before you remove (uninstall) any program, make sure you know what you're removing and why. Just because you don't know what a program is or what purpose it serves doesn't mean you should remove it. Removing programs isn't likely to solve any computer problems.

You can't use an Undo or Recycle Bin to reinstate removed programs. The only way to get a removed program back is to reinstall it from its original installation CD or DVD, or to download it again from the original website.

With all those cautions out of the way, removing a program is quite simple. Windows 10 provides two methods for uninstalling programs. From the Start menu, right-click a program icon and choose Uninstall. Or you can use the Programs and Features Control Panel applet. Assuming you're already in the applet, right-click the name of the program you want to remove and choose Uninstall. Or select that program's icon or name and click the Uninstall button in the toolbar. If prompted, enter an administrative password. Follow any additional instructions that appear on the screen.

Unpinning from Start

If you don't find a program that you want to remove in Programs and Features, you may be able to remove its icon from Start, the area on the right side of the Start menu when you display the Start menu. When a program is on Start, it's pinned to the menu. To unpin it, right-click the icon you want to remove and click Unpin from Start. If you find such an option, you can click it to remove the program from your system.

Dealing with stuck programs

Occasionally, you find a situation where removing a program generates an error message before the program is completely removed. The first thing to do, of course, is to read the error message and see what options it offers. You may be able to finish the removal just by choosing options that the error message provides.

If you can't get rid of a program through the normal means or error message, your next best bet is to install the program again. That may seem counterproductive, but the problem may be that the program only partially installed in the first place. A partially installed program may not have enough application files installed to do a thorough removal. After you've completed the initial installation, you should be able to remove the program without any problems.

Turning Windows Features On and Off

Windows 10 comes with many programs and features built right in. How many depends on which edition of Windows 10 you purchased. Your edition may include some features you want to use and some you don't.

Unlike Add/Remove Programs in Windows XP, program features in Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8/8.1, and Windows 10 allow you to turn features on and off without the hassle of installing and uninstalling.

To turn Windows Features on or off, open the Programs and Features Control Panel applet discussed earlier in this tutorial. Then click Turn Windows Features On or Off in the left pane. A list of available Windows Features opens. Items that are selected are currently installed and working. Unselected features are not active. A filled check box represents a feature that's active but that also has additional subfeatures. Click the plus sign next to a feature to see what subfeatures it offers.

Turn off only those program features that you're certain you don't need. If you don't know what a feature is or does, better to err in favor of keeping it active than to find out, the hard way, that you shouldn't have disabled it.

To disable a feature or subfeature, clear its check box. To enable a disabled feature, click its empty check box to select it. Click OK after making your changes.