How to silently uninstall just about anything

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Brock Bingham|September 24, 2015
silently uninstall
silently uninstall

I feel like we've let you down. We dedicate so much time demonstrating how to silently install applications that we often neglect showing you how to silently uninstall applications. Well, I have good news for you, because that ends today. From this moment until the end of this article, we are solely focusing on silent uninstalls!

Uninstalls need love too

Installs tend to get most of the attention around here, but that kind of makes sense. Installs happen WAY more frequently than uninstalls (Disclaimer: I have no scientific evidence to back me up on this theory).

Think about it. You install applications on your computer, and whether or not you use them, they tend to stay there. Also, think about all those updates. I don't know about you, but I feel like I'm bombarded with updates that need to be installed almost daily. In most cases, these applications and updates stay installed until your computer either dies or gets re-imaged. 

But just because installs happen more often, does that mean they're more important? Is the gas pedal in your car more important than the brake pedal just because you use it more? I think not. In fact, I'd argue the brake pedal is probably more important. When a deer decides to play a game of chicken with you when you're cruising in your Toyota Celica at 65mph, you'll be extremely grateful for that brake pedal. The same can be said for uninstalls. Maybe they won't save your life, but if you need to remove an application that has a vulnerability, all of a sudden, that uninstall becomes very important.

Uninstalling With PDQ Inventory

One of the lesser-known features of PDQ Inventory is that you can use it to uninstall applications remotely. PDQ Inventory even provides you with the uninstall commands for each application on a scanned computer. To view this information, double-click on a computer to open up its details window. Next, click on the Application menu option. Here you'll find a list of installed applications. You'll also find a column named "Uninstall" with the appropriate uninstall command.

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Here's how to uninstall an application directly from the Applications windows in PDQ Inventory.

  • Right-click on an application and click on Uninstall. In my example, I'm going to uninstall GIMP.

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  • The remote run command window will open. Review the settings and when ready, click Execute. (Note the computer you are running the command against will be shown in the bottom left corner of the remote command window.)

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Once the command finishes running and you close the window, you'll see that the software has been removed from the listed applications.

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Within a couple of clicks, you're able to remotely and silently remove applications from a computer with PDQ Inventory. PDQ Inventory is an excellent option if you only need to uninstall something from one or two computers. However, PDQ Deploy is your best option if you need to uninstall an application from dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of computers.

Finding silent uninstall parameters

Before we go making an uninstall package in PDQ Deploy, we first need to find the silent parameters for the application we're uninstalling. If you're dealing with an MsiExec.exe file, then you've got nothing to worry about. Since MSI's are standardized, PDQ Deploy will automatically fill in the silent parameters for you. You can find all of the available parameters for these files here

If you're dealing with some other type of uninstaller file, then you might have some detective work to do. PDQ Inventory is a great place to start when looking for silent uninstall parameters. As shown above, the Uninstall column will probably have everything you need to uninstall an application. You can copy the uninstall command and put it into a custom PDQ Deploy package. If, for whatever reason, PDQ Inventory doesn't provide the necessary information, here are a few other methods for finding silent parameters.

  • Usage Statements:  In a command prompt, enter the path to the uninstaller and include the "/?" parameter. If available, a usage statement or sometimes a help file will be displayed, listing the available parameters. Here's an example command I ran against the application AutoHotkey.exe.

    After running this command, I was given the AutoHotkey help documentation, which listed the parameters I was looking for.

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  • Google:  Though I probably don't have to mention it, Google is a great way of finding the information you need. Developers will often list their parameters 

  • Universal Silent Switch Finder:  If you've used PDQ Inventory, the usage statement, and Google and still haven't found what you're looking for, give this application a try. I've had mixed results, but when you're desperate, any option is worth trying.

Create an uninstall package with PDQ Inventory and Deploy

Now that we know how to find silent parameters, let's create an uninstall package using PDQ Inventory and PDQ Deploy.

As shown earlier, PDQ Inventory already provides us with the uninstall command. In fact, PDQ Inventory can also create an uninstall package for us in PDQ Deploy with just a couple of clicks.

  • In PDQ Inventory, double-click on a computer to open up the computer details window.

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  • Click on the Applications menu option.

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  • Right-click in the Uninstall field next to the application you want to uninstall and click Create Uninstall Package in PDQ Deploy.

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  • PDQ Deploy will automatically open up with a custom package containing the uninstall command. Review the package settings and click Save.

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  • Close the package window.

  • Locate and right-click on the newly created package in the Packages directory, then click Deploy Once.

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  • Add the targets you want to deploy the package to, then click Deploy Now.

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At this point, you can grab some coffee and let PDQ Deploy do its thing. The deployment window will let you know when the uninstall package has completed successfully.

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If we go back into PDQ Inventory, we can see that AutoHotkey is no longer listed as an installed application.

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Wrapping up

PDQ Inventory and PDQ Deploy make silently uninstalling applications a piece of cake. Also, make sure to check out the package library in PDQ Deploy, which contains over 80 uninstallation packages. There's a good chance we've already built a package for whatever you're trying to uninstall.

Brock Bingham candid headshot
Brock Bingham

Born in the '80s and raised by his NES, Brock quickly fell in love with everything tech. With over 15 years of IT experience, Brock now enjoys the life of luxury as a renowned tech blogger and receiver of many Dundie Awards. In his free time, Brock enjoys adventuring with his wife, kids, and dogs, while dreaming of retirement.

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