[FAQ] Questions About Uninstalling AOL

Last updated 1-31-10.

This FAQ is for people having problems removing AOL. It is not a replacement for my how-to-uninstall AOL tutorials. Please see the tutorials if you missed them on your way in. You can leave a comment here or send me an email to get other questions answered or to offer up your own solutions.

If you’re looking for an operating system-specific FAQ, please see these:

The instructions on this page will work for Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 users in most cases (if not, see the how-to pages linked to above). My tutorial index and FAQs are constantly updated to reflect changes in AOL’s and Microsoft’s software.



I can’t uninstall AOL because it keeps running – or I can’t delete an AOL file or folder because “the computer won’t let me”. What can I do now?

If you’re trying to uninstall AOL and you can’t because the AOL program won’t shut down (you may see a message to this effect on your screen) or if you can’t delete an AOL file or folder from XP after you uninstall AOL (but see this page if you can’t delete an AOL file or folder from Vista or Windows 7), most likely you have a copy of AOL 9.0 SE installed. It’s defective by design, so to uninstall it you must first shut the AOL Connectivity Service down.

To shut the AOL Connectivity Service down, click Start, right-click My Computer, and click Manage.

Click 'Start', right-click 'My Computer', click 'Manage'. Click to expand all shots.

The Computer Management window will open. Click Services and Applications at the end of the list you’ll see on the left hand side, then double-click on the word Services.

Find the AOL Connectivity Service on the Services list on the top right hand side of the window. Right-click and choose Properties, then click Startup Type Disabled, click Apply, then click Service Status Stopped and click OK. Now the AOL Connectivity Service is disabled.

Once the Connectivity Service stops running, AOL will uninstall smoothly and you will be able to delete any AOL file or folder leftover from uninstalling AOL. (I tested this using HijackThis to determine the Service’s status both before and after, and it did the trick.)

Click 'Services & Applications', then click 'Services'. Right-click AOL Service, click 'Properties'.

Note: Once AOL’s Connectivity Service is disabled, you’ll be able to remove AOL no matter what other AOL processes are still running on your computer.

If your AOL software is missing the AOL Uninstaller you will need to disable AOL’s Connectivity Service, then run an older version of AOL’s uninstaller buried deep in AOL’s program files (see the next answer).

If AOL isn’t listed in Add/Remove Programs, how do I uninstall it?

To remove just the AOL Uninstaller,
please see this page.

  1. First double-check Add/Remove Programs. If you’re using my jv16 tutorial to remove AOL, you can check the jv16 PowerTools Software Manager to see if it’s installed. Tip: you can sort jv16’s list alphabetically, by date, or by author. If you’re using my CCleaner tutorial, you can check CCleaner’s Uninstall List for the AOL Uninstaller, and run it from there.
  2. Next, right-click your Taskbar, click on the words Task Manager, then click the Processes tab, and check the list for any AOL processes. You can sort the list alphabetically by clicking the “Image Name” tab. For guidance, the next screen shots show my computer’s Processes List with a variety of AOL products installed: AOL 9.0SE, OpenRide, and assorted McAfee products included with AOL’s recent software. Click on each image to expand it to full size.
  3. AOL processes found in Task Manager

    AOL processes found in Task Manager
  4. If AOL isn’t listed in Add/Remove Programs or in your Software Manager, and no AOL processes are running, then AOL isn’t installed. Simply delete all of the AOL files, folders and registry entries you find now. If AOL is installed, these are the instructions for removing it for XP users; these are the instructions for removing it for Vista and Windows 7 users.
I’ve uninstalled AOL. Is it safe to delete AOL’s leftover files, folders and registry entries?

Yes, it’s safe to delete them. AOL comes with most PCs, tosses files all over your hard drive, and it’s hard to get rid of, but once it’s gone, the leftovers can go, too. Just so you don’t mess anything up: Make sure you double-check each item you’re about to delete before you delete it. Try to be careful the first time around.

Do I really need to remove AOL’s files and/or registry entries?

No, it’s not necessary to remove them. It’s simply the best thing you can do for your computer (to make it cleaner and faster) but it’s not worth doing if you’re unsure how to do it, and it will take longer than simply uninstalling AOL.

When I uninstalled AOL I deleted a [file, folder, program, etc.] that I need very badly. How do I get it back?

I’ve done research since I took that question and learned Windows never erases anything, even if you delete it, overwrite it, use Eraser, have a system crash, or reformat your hard drive. That said, XP’s System Restore cannot bring back a lost folder, file, or document. It can only restore lost settings and some lost programs.

Your mileage may vary, though, especially in Vista and Windows 7, which both have the ability to save not just your programs, files, folders, documents and pictures, but individual versions of them.

In all versions of Windows from XP through Windows 7, I find Recuva works very well for most temporarily “lost” stuff you need to recover.

If you’ve checked your Recycle Bin and C:RECYCLER and the missing item isn’t in those places, and if System Restore can’t bring it back for you, try typing “restore lost files” or a similar phrase into any search engine to look for programs including Recuva that might restore the lost item for you.