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How to uninstall a portable app on Windows 10

Portable apps, by their very definition, are not installed. They can run as stand-alone files though that doesn’t necessarily mean you can run them without admin rights. Portable apps may not need to be installed but, they do still create a few additional files on your system when you run them. In some cases, they might create more than one folder though as a user, you will normally have the option to choose where the folder is created. If you suspect a portable app that you ran on your system has left residual files, here’s how you can remove them.

Uninstall a portable app

The key to uninstalling a portable app is simple; quit the app, delete the EXE. That is enough. Even if residual files remain, they won’t be able to run in the absence of the EXE that was coded to run/read them. Now you just have junk files on your system that you need to get rid of.

Check app folder

When you run a portable app, it is located in a folder like any other file on your system. This may be the desktop folder, the Downloads folder, or any other folder e.g., the one that you extracted or moved the app to. This is the first place to check for residual files. If you see any files or folders related to the portable app you deleted, go ahead and delete them all.

Startup folder

With portable apps, it is assumed that certain features such as running at startup or storing user preferences will not be available. That is not the case. Many portable apps are able to run at startup but when you remove them, their startup folder entries remain. Thankfully, since they’re portable apps, the startup folder entry is made for just the one user, and not all users.

To check for and delete such an entry, open the run box with the Win+R keyboard shortcut and enter the following.

shell:startup

In the startup folder that opens, look for any shortcut files that are for the portable app that you’ve removed.

Check AppData

Finally, more complex portable apps such as portable browsers will create folders inside the AppData folder. Again, when you first run the portable app, it will show you or ask you where it can create a folder to run from and store essential files. If it doesn’t, and you suspect that there are still files for the app remaining, open the run box with the Win+R keyboard shortcut. Enter the following, and tap the Enter key.

%appdata%

You will see three folders in the AppData folder. Go through all of them and check if any residual files remain for the portable app.

Registry entries

It is extremely rare for a portable app to make additions or changes to the Windows Registry. The apps that need to do so will prompt you, and you will need to authorize the edit with admin rights. The unfortunate thing is that when you remove the portable app, the registry edits still remain. If you suspect an app has made modifications to the registry, you can run two tools to help you figure out where those entries are, and delete them. The first tool is Autoruns. The second tool is MalwareBytes.

It goes without saying that tracking down registry entries isn’t easy. You can Google if a particular app modifies the registry and it might help you narrow down which key or value to look for and remove.

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