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.

Before we get started, visit this page to learn how to back up your registry, files, and folders.

Issues for AOL users running XP: I’ve had email that some PCs are infected by viruses when removing AOL, so run a scan with the free online Trend Micro tool before you get started.

The first thing you’ll need to do is shut the AOL Connectivity Service down. There are two ways to do this on XP and neither way is hard.

1. The easiest way to shut the AOL Connectivity Service down (works on XP or Vista)…

Click Start, right-click My Computer, and click Manage.

Click 'Start', right-click 'My Computer', click 'Manage'.

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.

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

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.

Click 'Startup type: 'Disabled', click 'Apply', click 'Service Status': Stopped, click 'OK'.

All you need to do now is uninstall the copies of AOL you don’t want, delete the leftover AOL files on your computer, and (optionally) clean up your computer’s Registry.

1a. A second way to shut the AOL Connectivity Service down…

For this method you’ll need to make sure you can view “hidden files and folders” on your computer. To do so on XP, click Start, click My Documents, click Tools, click Folder Options, click the View tab, then click the radio button for Show hidden files and folders.

Optionally, you can also enable the display of hidden operation files by unchecking the box that shows you want to hide them.

Now click Start, click My Computer, click C:Program FilesCommon FilesAOLACS, (in AOL 9.6 and later, the AOL folder names are written in lowercase, so the path is C:Program FilesCommon Filesaolacs) then click the uninst.exe.

This will run the Uninstaller for the AOL Connectivity Service, which will take a minute. When it’s done you’ll see a dialog box that says, “AOL Connectivity Service has been removed from you computer. Click OK to exit.”

Do not restart your PC for any reason until you follow the next steps on this page. Restarting it now may reinstall the Connectivity Service and mess up your PC.

2. To finish removing AOL without the AOL Uninstaller…

Click Start, click My Computer, click Program Files, then click on any AOL folder in your Program Files (such as 9.0, 9.0 VR, 9.1, etc.) to open it.

Look for an executable file called the uninstall or the uninstaller (the name of it may depend on which version(s) of AOL are installed). An easy way to find it is to use the View Option in Explorer to tile the files within the folder, then arrange the tiles by group. When you find the uninstaller click on it to uninstall AOL.

Special note for AOL Desktop users: You will not find an uninstaller in the AOL Desktop Program Files. Navigate instead to Program FilesCommon Filesaol, then click on the uninstaller file that has AOL’s blue icon next to it. Screen shot for AOL Desktop users:

Desktop users: Click 'Start, 'Computer', 'Program Files', 'Common Files', 'aol', and 'uninstaller' to run.

Screen shot for all other users:

Click 'Start, 'My Computer', 'Program Files', click on any AOL program folder, and click on the 'uninstall' to run.

The uninstaller will search for every version of AOL on your computer, then it will ask you which versions you would like to uninstall. Select the copies you want to uninstall by clicking on them. If you don’t want the Cabinet and Saved Files, uncheck the boxes next to those choices. When you’re done with that, click Next and Uninstall. Since these are very brief instructions, you may feel you need a more thorough guide to this. Use the one here.

After removing AOL, you must restart your computer.

The uninstaller will run for a few minutes, then prompt you to restart your computer. It’s important to restart your computer so you can finish removing all of AOL’s files.

3. To remove leftover AOL files and folders from your computer after uninstalling AOL…
Click Start, My Computer, Search, type 'aol', delete any unwanted results.

Do an Explorer search for “AOL” (without the quotes) with Advanced Options enabled to get rid of all the leftover junk in your Program and Common Files and in your Temp and Application Data folders.

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Optional (leftover registry entries will not harm your computer!): To clean your computer’s registry, I recommend you use a free one-month trial (no credit card required) of jv16 PowerTools, version 2006 for XP users, or jv16 PowerTools, version 2009 for Vista and Windows 7 users, then use these instructions, starting with Step 4, to clean your computer’s Registry. A quicker and easier (but not as thorough) way to clean the Registry is to use CCleaner. Download it here, and use these instructions, starting with Step 5, to clean the junk up.

That’s it! It’s as easy as pie.

Check the FAQs if you have any questions. See my How-to Section for more ways to get AOL out of your life.