Review of AOL Removal Tools

jv16PowerTools - image source: http://hwupgrade.it

Also see How to Uninstall AOL.

Edited/updated 12-08-2006.

After I ran tests a month or so ago, I concluded neither Mr. Tech’s AOL Cleaner nor the PC De-Crapifier do a good job of removing files, folders, and registry entries when they uninstall AOL, but I did my tests on a PC with 9.0, OpenRide, AOL’s Safety and Security Center and Security Monitor installed — more crap than either could handle, and didn’t test them until I’d already “uninstalled” AOL using AOL’s own uninstallers.

It hit me later that these tests weren’t good enough to base my results on, but neither cleaner did much better the second time around, so for the tech guys who deleted 2 podcasts about my uninstall and how-to cancel pages after I stopped recommending the PC De-Crapifier (update below), I’m hoping your site won’t be the last one to notice little ol’ mine.

For the latest tests I installed 9.0 on a recently restored eMachines XP Home, after removing pre-installed AOL 8.0 from it with jv16 powertools. To make the tests evenly weighted I didn’t install OpenRide or any external AOL malware programs, didn’t use AOL’s uninstallers first, and cleaned AOL off my PC with jv16 powertools before re-installing AOL to test the next removal product. The results were quite different this time.

First, what’s installed with AOL 9.0 SE:

  • AOL Connectivity and TopSpeed, added to Windows Services
  • 117 files and folders
  • 5 programs: America Online, Screensaver, Coach, Connectivity Service, and Spyware Protection
  • 1,092 registry entries

Mr. Tech’s AOL Cleaner

Mel Reye’s notes say it uninstalls almost everything except 9.0, which is what most people want to get rid of.

It didn’t remove any files or folders. It was good at removing registry entries, with only 2 keys left out of 1,092, but those, along with two processes still running, waol.exe and aolscd.exe, were all AOL’s software needed to reconnect, much to my horror.

The PC De-Crapifier

Jason York’s notes say it’s for removing pre-installed AOL, which I haven’t used it for. It does a decent job on a fresh download — not great.

The good news is you can’t reconnect to AOL with what it leaves behind. The bad news is, it leaves behind a lot, including AOL Coach, Screensaver, and Diagnostics, 34 files and folders out of 117, and 871 registry entries out of 1,092.

AOL’s Own Uninstaller

I didn’t use any of AOL’s uninstallers listed in Add/Remove because I was tired and knew it would take too long, so I went to aol.com and got OpenRide because it has an uninstaller you can use in place of them (how’s that for lazy?).

They’ve improved the uninstaller since last summer so you can’t reconnect to AOL after you use it, and HijackThis! no longer flags their Connectivity Service after the uninstall, either, just the dialer, which can’t do anything by itself. All the same, AOL Coach and Screensaver, 56 files and folders out of 117, and 879 registry entries out of 1,092 were left behind, along with nearly every program AOL installed in the first place. AOL’s own uninstallers merely stop AOL from connecting by removing a bare minimum of files, folders, and registry entries.

Out of the four programs I tested, there was just one that uninstalled everything I could find, so I suggest using jv16 powertools to uninstall AOL with or to clean up what other uninstallers will leave behind.

Update: I never saw either of the TechCasts mentioned above, (the first recorded on April 9th) so I wrote last week and asked them if they would send me the links. I told them the shows the search engines linked to don’t mention my blog anymore, and asked if their discussions were in fact deleted. One of them wrote back a few days later. He used his real name but I’m omitting it (update, 2-10-2010: TCN no longer exists).

Hi Marah,
I do recall seeing this [sic] a while back ago, but I’ve just done a search on my web-site at http://www.techcastnetwork.co.uk, but was unable to find anything about it. I do however have two podcasts that mention AOL which turned up on my site search engine:
http://www.techcast.co.uk/?p=127
http://www.techcast.co.uk/?p=131
…Hope this helps and thanks for your email.
Regards,
“Whoever,”
TechCast Network

Oh, well.

Check out my how-to uninstall AOL guides.

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