How to uninstall stubborn software in Windows 10

Updated: April 12, 2021

In an ideal world, software management should be easy. Install, done. Uninstall, also done. But sometimes, even legitimate programs, due to badly implemented code and other various errors and bugs, refuse to uninstall quickly or cleanly. I recently encountered this issue - probably my first ever I'd say - on a Windows 10 machine, with a printing utility that would simply not uninstall.

The reasons for why I wanted it removed are outlined in my Marvels of modern operating systems article. Indeed, the reasons are not important. What matters is that I could not remove the utility using the standard Add/Remove functionality in Windows Settings, and I needed something more stringent. Luckily, Microsoft provides a dedicated tool for just this kind of issue. Let's review.

Problem in more detail

Specifically, the error I encountered reads as follows:

Product: HP DeskJet 3630 series Basic Device Software -- Error 25036. Call
to DriverPackageUninstall returned error 5 for package 'C:\Windows\System32\DriverStore\FileRepository\
hpwia_dj3630.inf_amd64_053b3cb5af31937e\hpwia_dj3630.inf': A caller of DriverPackageInstall must be a member of the Administrators group to install a driver package.

There are a lot of interesting lessons to be had here. One, the quality of software. Two, software nags. Three, the system's (in)ability to remove applications. Four, the fact the user must look for a separate tool to handle the issue.

But then, this is part of a bigger problem - in Windows 10, perfectly solid functionality that existed in Control Panel and/or older versions of Windows has been taken away. For example, Microsoft has a dedicated tool that lets you hide updates - this was an integral part of the WU functionality until Windows 10. Here, in a similar fashion, you need a utility called Microsoft Program Install and Uninstall Troubleshooter. Why this isn't part of the existing troubleshooter, dunno.

Solution

Download the tool and run it. You will then go through a guided wizard.

Run the tool

The tool actually lets you choose whether you need to handle an install or uninstall issue:

What option

Next, you need to select the program you want to have removed from the system:

Select

Now, the troubleshooter will try to remove it. There's a chance it may not succeed, in which case, you will need even more stringent methods. But that's a topic beyond this article, and something I may revisit in a separate tutorial.

Trying to remove

Issue fixed

For me, this worked just fine. And indeed, the program I wanted remove is gone:

Program no longer shows

Conclusion

There you go. Next time you encounter an issue with an application that refuses to install or uninstall, you may want to try Microsoft's Program Install and Uninstall Troubleshooter. If anything, it's an official tool from the operating system vendor, so that's your first (best) bet. Furthermore, the utility is lightweight, simple and needs no installation of its own. Very handy.

The bigger philosophical question is why the world of software is becoming less and less stable, less and less fun, across the board? In this case, I didn't really have any issue with the printing utility until Windows itself started popping up notifications that I use this app. Actually, apart from the uninstall problem, I still don't. But the notifications were a good opportunity to do some system cleaning.

The complete solution would be for an operating system not to do anything silly, but that's a wild dream, and I still have to use Windows, mostly for office tasks and gaming. Would I like things to be different, say like Windows 7? Yes. But can you go back to the sane days of desktop computing? Nope. Anyway, enough ranting. You got what you needed. Uninstall issue, solved. We're done.

Cheers.

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