How to Clean Up Messy AOL 9.0SE Removal (and kill aolsoftware.exe, AOLHelper.dll and AOLDeskbar.dll)

Update, 12-23-10: I have no idea why this post keeps getting stuck in my rough draft folder on WP.com but it does – this is at least the third time I’ve republished it this year after it got stuck in there. Sorry for any inconvenience…

I know, I know, I don’t do this anymore. But last week someone named Mike came and blew the dust off my blog, looking for answers on how to remove his copy of AOL. While my replies seemed to satisfy him, one of them was wrong.

He asked if putting his computer into Safe Mode would help him uninstall AOL. I implied it made little difference, but in fact, it makes a lot of a difference. It shuts down that pesky AOL Connectivity Service to make uninstalling AOL a breeze. Unless, of course, you’re removing AOL 9.0SE.

Using Safe Mode (at least, on Windows XP Pro with Service Pack 3, which is the only operating system I’ve tested AOL on recently) will not help you completely remove this particular version of AOL. Like me, you may run into the problem of seeing that two or three processes named aolsoftware.exe and one process named AOLSPScheduler are still running after you thought you removed this AOL program completely.

Let me show you what I mean (I’ve been updating my blogs via laptop lately, so these might not be the clearest shots, since I’m not in the resolution I’m used to):

Two aolsoftware.exe processes running after AOL 9.0SE removal

(click to expand all shots)

Even once I figured out how to make those processes stop running, using my favorite free Windows search tool, Everything, I was unable to delete two files – technically, they’re called Dynamic Link Library files – one is AOLDeskbar.dll and the other is AOLHelper.dll. I got “access denied” messages upon trying to delete each one of them.

The first problem can be resolved by looking through Add and Remove Programs for any AOL programs still installed and removing each one at a time (this might require restarting your computer to finish each removal process, depending on which AOL programs are still installed).

After I removed the AOL 9.0SE program in Safe Mode, then restarted my computer in normal mode, this is what my Add and Remove Control Panel still showed as being installed by AOL:

AOL programs leftover after AOL 9.0SE removal

In order, the AOL programs still installed after removing AOL 9.0SE are AOL Coach, AOL Deskbar (a truly funky looking, useless thing that sits by your system tray), AOL Spyware Protection, AOL Toolbar, and AOL You’ve Got Pictures Screensaver. AOL (Choose Which Programs to Remove) was also still there (click screen shot to see), and it still showed one program – AOL Internet Access Controls – ready to be removed.

Removing these programs will not shut down the aolsoftware.exe processes still running after you remove AOL 9.0SE. But you should try to remove them anyway, since doing so will at least remove the AOLSPScheduler process, which otherwise will run at every startup.

CCleaner and HijackThis to the Rescue

You might not be able to remove two or three leftover programs – AOL Spyware Protection, AOL Deskbar and AOL Toolbar – because of INSTALL.LOG errors. The only way to get rid of them is to download CCleaner, then, once it’s up and running, click on the Tools button, click on the AOL program entry you want to delete from XP’s Add and Remove Programs list, then click the button to the right that says Delete Entry.

Using CCleaner to remove corrupt AOL entries in Add & Remove Programs

This does not actually remove these programs from your computer, but there are no separate uninstallers for any of them that I can find, so it takes a hack job to get this done.

To stop the leftover aolsoftware.exe processes, download HijackThis and unzip the program to the specified folder (usually C:Program Files).

Run HJT by clicking Start, Run, and typing, without quotes, hijackthis.exe, then OK. Click the Do a System Scan Only button. Once the scan is done, place a check next to every AOL entry (if an entry says “AOL” or “America Online” in its name, and you’re trying to remove every last trace of AOL from your computer, it has got to go – so be merciless).

Using HijackThis to remove AOL

When you’re done making your selections, click the Fix Checked button on the bottom left. Next, restart your computer (this can be a reboot or cold boot, it doesn’t matter). The leftover aolsoftware.exe processes will be gone.

Along with jv16 PowerTools…

To get rid of the “access denied” messages you’ll see when you try to delete the AOLDeskbar.dll and AOLHelper.dll files, you can try one of two things: you can edit the Windows Registry manually (this was how I did it after I removed AOL 9.0SE from my computer last week), which will take over an hour, since I’m not sure exactly which AOL registry entries must be removed to shut down access protection, or you can use a program like jv16PowerTools to do the registry editing for you.

It’s only fair to mention that you can try a program like Unlocker to get the .dlls out of Windows memory, but in my experience, it has never worked on AOL program files. I don’t recommend it for the same reason I don’t recommend the ever-popular Revo Uninstaller – on AOL programs specifically, both have proven not just incomplete in their effects, but Revo Uninstaller in particular gives you the potential to destroy your entire Registry in just a few clicks if you switch to Advanced Mode.

To edit your registry manually, click Start, Run, and type regedit into the Run box without quotes. On the Registry Editor’s Toolbar, click Edit, scroll down to and click on Find, type in “AOL” without quotes, then click Find Next (click here for a screen shot). Repeat for the search term “America Online”. You will click Find Next literally hundreds of times before this is finished, so make sure you have the time and patience for this. When you find an AOL or American Online registry entry, delete it by right-clicking it and choosing “Delete” (click here for another screen shot).

To use jv16 PT for this task instead, follow the instructions on this page from Step 5 through Step 6.

Once you’ve removed AOL from the Windows Registry, deleting leftover AOL files and folders from Windows, including previously locked .dll files, will be a snap (but if you run into a problem, restarting your computer after you edit the registry to remove AOL and before you try to delete the previously locked file again might be helpful).

How to Completely Delete AOL From Vista

This how-to is for people who get an error message when they try to remove AOL from Vista. If you are not getting the error messages mentioned in this post, please see How to Remove AOL (any version).

Deleting AOL from Vista - a tutorial

So you’re an ex-AOL user who’s moved on from Windows XP to Windows Vista. You put AOL software on your new Vista computer or added it to a new Vista install on your old computer back when you still paid for AOL.

Now it’s days, months, or years later, you’ve finally canceled AOL, and you no longer want to keep AOL installed, even if you can still use it for free, but you can’t get rid of it no matter what you do.

Continue reading…

How to Uninstall AOL 9.0 VR (Vista Ready), AOL 9.1, AOL 9.5, and AOL 10.0 From XP and Vista

Uninstalling AOL 9.0 VR, AOL 9.1, AOL Desktop.

Republished 12-30-08. Last updated 12-03-09.

If you are getting error messages when you try to remove AOL from Vista, please see this post, or see this post for error messages on Windows 7. If AOL won’t shut down before you remove it, or if keeps running after you remove it, see this FAQ.

Note: This tutorial will also help you remove AOL OpenRide, AOL Desktop Search and AOL Explorer 1.5. Unfortunately, I can’t fit that many versions of AOL into the title of this post, or into the sidebar.

Continue reading…

How to remove AOL (any version) when there’s no icon for it in Add/Remove Programs?

Updated 3-10-2009.

There are a few reasons why you won’t find an icon for AOL under Add/Remove programs on XP or Vista….

  • AOL did not install properly.
  • The AOL Uninstaller can’t find its own files when you ask it to (sounds unbelievable, but see next item).
  • The Add/Remove icon was removed by a partial or aborted uninstall done manually or with a program such as CCleaner or jv16 PowerTools.
  • AOL “hung” when you tried to remove it, thanks to an internal process that could not shut down.

Continue reading…

I’m in love…with an uninstaller.

I cannot believe this thing. Seriously, I’m in awe. I’ve been eying it for months but never touched it because I wasn’t using Vista when I found it. And it’s just a simple, lowly batch script. Haven’t had much luck with those in the past!

Ran it just now and words can’t even do it justice – or maybe they can – let’s see: it bypasses AOL’s uninstaller entirely (except for one brief stop at the AOL Toolbar Uninstaller), removes almost every AOL reg entry (just 12 entries left afterward), and requires just one restart no matter how many AOL programs you’ve got installed. And it’s quick! Naturally I want to marry whoever wrote it – or at least reincarnate as him in my next life.

Vista users: try it. XP users: don’t. It only works on Vista, at least as far as I can tell.

You may get a few “cannot find uninstall.exe” warnings. Just click through them and the UA warnings (if UAC is enabled on your PC) – I promise, you won’t be sorry.

5-22-08, Update: This product made my Honorable Mention list as one of the three Greatest AOL Removal Products of All Time.

How to Uninstall the AOL Toolbar From Any PC

Updated 6-1-08.

AOL Toolbar In All New HPs (Hewlett-Packard Computers)

As many of you know, AOL will soon preload AOL Toolbars and set AOL as your default home page and search engine in every new HP computer you buy thanks to a deal they made this month with Hewlett-Packard.

Here’s a general purpose tutorial on how to remove the AOL Toolbar from IE, all versions from 5.0 to the latest version out on 6-1-08, from any PC running Windows.

Continue reading…

How to Uninstall AOL Without An Uninstaller on XP

Last updated 12-23-09.

Issue: You want to remove AOL, but you’re missing the AOL Uninstaller.

Solution: Remove AOL without it.

Difficulty Level: Easy

Helping you remove AOL from the Earth, one computer at a time.

So you want to remove AOL from your Windows PC but when you check Add/Remove programs you’re missing the AOL Uninstaller (or the entry for “AOL Choose Which Version to Remove”).

What to do? This is one of the most frequently asked questions about removing AOL. What follows is a pretty simple way to remove AOL that doesn’t harm your computer. Whether you’re a tech who’s looking for the easiest way to get AOL off of your customer’s computers, or a beginner who can’t get AOL off of your PC, this page is for you.

I tested this method on AOL 9.0 SE, AOL 9.0 Optimized, AOL 9.0 VR, AOL 9.1 GM (the first public release of 9.1), AOL 9.1, and AOL Desktop on both Windows XP and Windows Vista. This method works well on both operating systems. See this tutorial if you’re a Vista or Windows 7 user.

Continue reading…

How to Remove the AOL Uninstaller From Any PC

With this post I’m beginning an ongoing series of questions and answers from my readers. This week’s first question is from Melissa (and ladylynx would also like an answer).

Question

“Hey. It’s been bugging me for a while. How do I uninstall AOL’s uninstaller?”

Continue reading…

How to Uninstall Any Version of AOL with CCleaner

Last updated 3-16-09.

Problem: How to uninstall AOL.

Solution: CCleaner.

Difficulty Level: Easy

Uninstalls/Cleans Up After: Any Version of AOL

Good for: XP and Vista/Windows 7 users.

Easy...uninstalling AOL with CCleaner

Advanced Vista/Windows 7 users only: I suggest you use CCleaner first, then follow up with jv16 PT 2006 to get at AOL’s leftover registry entries – if you use CCleaner first you can remove every leftover reg entry with jv16 afterward. No other method tested so far on Vista does that.

Credit for the idea to write this tutorial goes to William (the page no longer exists), who’s comments made me check out CCleaner’s neat features.

All visitors running Windows ’98/2000/ME/XP: Before we get started, visit this page to learn how to back up your registry, files, and folders. See this tutorial to uninstall the AOL WAN Miniport after you’ve removed AOL.

Continue reading…

How to Uninstall the AOL WAN Miniport Adapter from Any PC

Updated 10-17-09.

Uninstall the AOL WAN (ATW) Miniport

A funny thing just happened. I was checking my PC’s Device Manager to see if dialup was installed, and I came across a new tutorial for Anti-AOL: How to find and uninstall the AOL WAN Miniport.

The software that installed it, AOL 9.0 VR, has been off my computer for months. All versions of AOL install the WAN Miniport Adapter, so here I’ll show you how to find and get rid of it so you won’t get a nasty surprise like I did.

Continue reading…