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.
AOL 9.0 VR was the first version of the AOL desktop client to include a new version of the AOL Uninstaller, the tool that AOL includes to find and remove all versions of AOL for you. AOL has released four new versions of the desktop client since the day I wrote this post: AOL 9.1, AOL 10.0 Desktop, AOL 10.1 Desktop, and AOL 9.5 (formerly AOL Classic). I cover how to use both the 9.0 VR Uninstaller and later versions of it here.
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.
Mac users, please read this advice for removing AOL at Mac Rumors.
Issues for all AOL users running XP, Vista or Windows 7: 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. Some versions of 9.0 SE will not uninstall because a process won’t shut down and all versions of AOL may become corrupted and unremovable by normal means; if that’s the case use my instructions to stop the AOL Connectivity Service from running before you remove AOL. See this (for XP) or this (for Vista and Windows 7) if you can’t find or run the AOL Uninstaller.
As you go along remember you can click on each screen shot to expand it to full size.
- 1. First, let’s find the AOL Uninstaller…
For Win XP users: Click your Start button and click Control Panel. In Control Panel click Add & Remove Programs, then locate the AOL Uninstaller on the Add & Remove List and click Change/Remove.
For Vista and Windows 7 users: Click your Start button and click Control Panel. In Control Panel click Programs and Features, then locate the AOL Uninstaller on the Installed Programs List and click Uninstall.
- 2. Choose which AOL programs to uninstall.
By default, the older version of the AOL Uninstaller (seen only in AOL 9.0 VR) won’t display a full list of AOL products installed on your computer. It will only show that the AOL Connectivity Service is installed. Newer versions of the AOL software such as AOL 9.1, AOL Desktop and AOL 9.5 will automatically list all versions of AOL that are installed.
If you’re using AOL 9.0 VR (you’ll know if you are because your screen will look mine does in the picture above) place a checkmark next to the AOL Connectivity Service and go to the next step.
If you’re using AOL 9.1, AOL Desktop, or AOL 9.5, place checkmarks next to all of the AOL programs that you wish to remove and go to Step 4 or Step 5.
- 3. AOL 9.0 VR users only: How to find every version of AOL…
Click on the words Search for Older Versions of AOL. Those words will be underlined in blue.
Wait while the Uninstaller searches for older versions of AOL.
You’ll see a dialog box that says, “Searching for older versions of AOL. This may take a moment.” It’ll take a few minutes, so pour yourself a cup of coffee and chill; when it’s done searching for older versions of AOL, place checkmarks next to the versions you would like to uninstall and go to the next step.
- 4. For hurried and/or expert users: Remove some or all of your shared AOL data now. Not in a hurry or don’t know what you’re doing? Go to Step 5.
Warning: this is not an option to choose which data to save. It’s an option to choose which data to remove.
If you don’t need to preserve sensitive data (such as passwords and email files) on a case-by-case basis, you can safely choose this step. Otherwise, hit the Cancel button and go to Step 5 now.
Click the Manage Data link on the right-hand side of the Uninstaller screen after you choose which AOL programs to remove.
You’ll see a dialog box that says: Manage Your Personal Data. This box gives you the option to “clear” (delete) your passwords or to “clear” all of your data. Click the button that best matches your needs. You’ll see the message: “All of your local data (or “All of your passwords”) have been cleared.” Click OK to close the message.
- 5. For casual or worried users: Remove shared AOL data on a case-by-case basis now.
If you prefer to remove saved data on a case-by-case basis, this is the step for you. Once you’ve placed a checkmark next to an AOL program you wish to remove, a dropdown box will open and you’ll see the message: “Shared Data: This application shares storage for settings and personal data…Click to remove this shared data now.” Click on the word Click in that message. It will be underlined in blue. Your shared data for that AOL program will be removed. Repeat this step for every AOL program on your computer. If you don’t wish to take this step on a particular AOL program, hit the Cancel button and proceed to the AOL program that you wish to remove some or all data from.
- 6. Select which files you’d like to keep.
Look at the bottom, right-hand corner of your Uninstaller Screen. It will say, “Select which files you would like to keep.” The choices are Downloaded Files and Cabinet Files (click the links to learn what the files contain). AOL assumes you want to keep those files, so the boxes for them will be checked by default. If you don’t want to keep those files, uncheck the boxes to discard them, then click Uninstall.
- 7. Confirm the uninstallation(s).
You’ll see a dialog box that says, “Are you sure you want to uninstall these AOL products?” Read the list of installed products to make sure, then click the box marked “Yes.”
- 8. Restart your computer to finish removing AOL.
You’ll see the message: “Your computer must be restarted to complete the AOL uninstallation.” Click the Restart button in the dialog box. Your computer will automatically be restarted.
Further Reading: Check the FAQs if you have a question; if your question is not answered in the FAQs, please feel free to send me an email. See my How-to Section for more ways to get AOL out of your life.