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Utility Spotlight Windows Installer CleanUp Utility

Lance Whitney

You try to uninstall or update an application on one of the PCs in your environment, but your command doesn't execute. Instead, an error pops up telling you that the application could not be uninstalled or updated. Sound familiar? If so, you've undoubtedly wondered what causes this glitch.

Software installed using the Microsoft® Windows® Installer (MSI) technology writes certain files and registry settings. If any of those files or settings are missing or corrupted, you may be unable to remove, update, or even reinstall the program. The solution in such cases is to remove all of the Windows Installer information so that the program can be cleanly reinstalled. To do that, Microsoft offers the free Windows Installer CleanUp utility.

The Windows Installer CleanUp utility deletes all files and registry settings associated with a program's Windows Installer configuration. It's important to note that the tool does not remove the program's actual installation files or registry settings. Nor does the tool replace or supersede the Add/Remove Programs command.

Rather, you would resort to this utility if you can't uninstall or update an application through Add/Remove Programs or other methods. By deleting the Windows Installer information, you should be able to reinstall the application. You can then leave the program installed as is, update it, or even remove it.


The Windows Installer CleanUp utility displays a list of all the Windows Installer-based applications on the PC (Click the image for a larger view)

Some of you may be familiar with the Microsoft command-line program msizap, which removes a program's Windows Installer data. Well, that command is still in use here: Windows Installer CleanUp is simply a friendly front end to msizap, so that you no longer need to wrestle with any cumbersome command-line options.

After you install the utility, you'll find a subdirectory called Windows Installer Clean Up nestled under Program Files. Within this subdirectory are three files: msicuu.exe, msizap.exe, and readme.txt. The msicuu.exe file displays a list of all Windows Installer-based applications on the PC, letting you select, deselect, and remove any of them. This program then passes along your choices to the msizap.exe command, which removes the Windows Installer information for the selected applications.

To run Windows Installer CleanUp, go to the Start Menu | All Programs and find its folder; then click on the Windows Installer Clean Up shortcut. You'll see a list of all the Windows Installer-based applications that are on the PC (as shown in the screenshot). Select the application that you are having trouble with and click the Remove button. That application is then deleted from the Windows Installer database, giving you the opportunity to cleanly reinstall it.

You'll see that after you run the CleanUp tool, the application will no longer appear in Add/Remove Programs. Therefore, if you ultimately want to remove the application, you must reinstall it first. Windows Installer CleanUp works only with software that uses Windows Installer technology, which typically covers installations packaged as MSI files.

Finally, note that you must be logged in as an administrator to run Windows Installer CleanUp. The tool is compatible with all 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows. For more information on the utility and to download the software, please point your browser at

Lance Whitney is an IT consultant, trainer, and technical writer. He has spent countless hours tweaking Windows workstations and servers. Originally a journalist, he took a blind leap into the IT world 15 years ago.

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