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Windows Installer Cleanup tool uninstalls hard-to-lose apps

How do you get rid of an application that Windows won't let you uninstall? Use the Windows Installer Cleanup utility, which is included with Windows Server 2003 as part of the Windows Support Tools.

The Add/Remove Programs Control Panel applet usually does a good job of installing and uninstalling applications....

However, problems with applications may at times prevent you from uninstalling them in the normal manner.

Recently I was cleaning up one of the test servers I use to experiment with the techniques I write about. I accidentally uninstalled Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) without uninstalling the Active Directory Management Pack Helper Object first. The result was that I was unable to uninstall the Active Directory Management Pack Helper object through the usual way because the uninstaller depends on MOM being installed.

This is just one example of a condition that can prevent you from uninstalling an application. There are many others. So how do you get rid of an application that Windows won't let you uninstall?

One way of dealing with this situation is to use the Windows Installer Cleanup utility, which is included with Windows Server 2003 as part of the Windows Support Tools. Note: This article will focus on the GUI version of the utility, but if you're the type of admin who prefers command line tools, the Windows Support Tools include a command-line version of the tool, called MSIZAP.EXE.

Before you can use the Windows Installer Cleanup utility, you must install the Windows Support Tools included on the Windows Server 2003 installation CD. To do this:

  1. Navigate to your Windows Server 2003 installation CD's \SUPPORT\TOOLS folder and double-click on the SUPTOOLS.MSI file. Windows then launches the Windows Support Tools Setup Wizard.
  2. Click Next to bypass the Wizard's welcome screen. You'll be prompted to accept the software's EULA.
  3. Once you do that enter your name, click Next, verify the installation path and click the Install Now button. The installation process only takes a few minutes. (Windows Support Tools consume about 24 MB of disk space.)
  4. Once the Windows Support Tools have been installed, open My Computer and navigate through the server's directory structure to C:\Program Files\Support Tools.
  5. You can then launch the Windows Installer Cleanup Utility by double-clicking on the MSICUU.EXE file.

You'll now see a dialog box, like the one below, that lists most of the applications installed on the server. (I say most because the server that I used to get the screen capture has Exchange Server 2003 installed, yet Exchange Server is not on the list.)

Now simply select the application or applications you want to remove and click the Remove button. A warning message will indicate that you're about to remove the selected products. Click OK and the application will be removed. When you're done, click the Exit button to close the Windows Installer Cleanup Utility.

Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional for his work with Windows 2000 Server and IIS. He has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once in charge of IT security for Fort Knox. He has written for several TechTarget sites, Microsoft, CNET, ZDNet, MSD2D, Relevant Technologies and others.
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This was last published in February 2006

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