How to Properly Reinstall Software in Windows

How to reinstall software in Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, & XP

Reinstalling a software program is one of the more basic troubleshooting steps available to any computer user after attempting automatic repair Windows problems, but it's often an overlooked step when trying to solve a software problem.

By reinstalling a software title, be it a productivity tool, a game, or anything in between, you replace all the program files, registry entries, shortcuts, and other files needed to run the program.

If whatever problem you're having with the program is caused by corrupt or missing files (the most common cause of software problems), a reinstall is very likely the solution to the problem.

The proper way to reinstall a software program is to completely uninstall it and then to reinstall it from the most updated installation source you can find.

Uninstalling and then reinstalling a program this way is really pretty easy but the exact method differs a bit depending on the Windows operating system you happen to be using. Below are instructions specific to each version of Windows.

It's important to know what version of Windows you have. If you're not sure which version of Windows is installed on your computer you may not be able to reload the correct version of your software.

Photo of a stack of DVDs
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How to Properly Reinstall a Program in Windows

  1. Open Control Panel.

    A quick way to open Control Panel in Windows 10 or Windows 8 is with Power User Menu, but only if you're using a keyboard or mouse. Choose Control Panel from the menu that appears after pressing WIN+X or right-clicking on the Start button.

  2. Click on the Uninstall a program link located under the Programs heading, or Add or Remove Programs if you're using Windows XP.

    If you're not seeing several categories with links below them, but instead just see several icons, pick the one that says Programs and Features.

    If the program you're planning on reinstalling requires a serial number, you'll need to locate that serial number now. If you can't find the serial number, you may be able to locate it with a product key finder program. A key finder program will only work if the program is still installed, so you must use it before uninstalling the program.

  3. Locate and click on the program you want to uninstall by scrolling through the list of currently installed programs you see on screen.

    If you need to reinstall a Windows Update or an installed update to another program, click on the View installed updates link on the left-hand side of the Programs and Features window, or toggle the Show updates box if you're using Windows XP. Not all programs will show their installed updates here but some will.

  4. Click the UninstallUninstall/Change, or Remove button to uninstall the program.

    This button appears either on the toolbar above the program list when a program is selected or off to the side depending on the version of Windows you're using.

    The specifics of what happens now depends on the program you happen to be uninstalling. Some uninstallation processes require a series of confirmations (similar to what you may have seen when you first installed the program) while others may uninstall without requiring your input at all.

    Answer any prompts as best you can - just remember that you are wanting to completely remove the program from your computer.

    If uninstalling doesn't work for some reason, try a dedicated software uninstaller to remove the program. In fact, if you already have one of these installed, you may have even seen a dedicated uninstall button in Control Panel that uses that third-party program, such as the "Powerful Uninstall" button when IObit Uninstaller is installed — feel free to use that button if you see it.

  5. Restart your computer, even if you're not required to.

    In my opinion, this is not an optional step. As annoying as it might sometimes be, taking the time to reboot your computer will help ensure that the program is completely uninstalled.

  6. Verify that the program you uninstalled has been fully uninstalled. Check that the program is no longer listed in your Start menu and also check to make sure that the program's entry in Programs and Features or Add or Remove Programs has been removed.

    If you created your own shortcuts to this program, those shortcuts will likely still exist but of course, will not work. Feel free to delete them yourself.

  7. Install the most updated version of the software available. It's best to download the latest version of the program from the software developer's website, but another option is to just get the file from the original installation disc or a past download.

    Unless instructed otherwise by the software documentation, any patches and service packs that might be available should be installed to the program after the reboot following the installation (Step 8).

  8. Restart your computer again.

  9. Test the reinstalled program.