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.

Symptom of Uninstallable AOL Blight, #1

'AOL has stopped working' error message.

When you click the AOL Uninstaller (found in the Control Panel, under Programs and Features), before it even runs, you get an error message saying the Uninstaller has “stopped working” and Vista needs to close it.

Symptom of Uninstallable AOL Blight, #2

'You must be admin' error message.

You get an error message saying you “must be logged in as the Administrator” to run the AOL Uninstaller. Even if you switch to the Super-Administrator account, you still get this message.

Symptom of Uninstallable AOL Blight, #3

The Uninstaller just hangs without finding any version of AOL (outside of maybe just the Connectivity Service) for you.

Ah…frustration! It seems like still another tool in AOL’s fat arsenal of psychological weapons to keep their software connected to both your wallet and your computer forever.

But…you can delete AOL from Vista completely!

You read that sentence right. Here’s how (these steps should work on Windows 7, too).

1. First, let’s remove as many AOL programs as possible…

If any AOL programs are open on your computer, you should close them now and follow the next steps.

To find AOL programs, click the Start Orb and Control Panel. In the next window, look to the top right for the words View by, then click the choice next to it. Set this to show “small” or “large icons” or you might be unable to get to the Uninstall List.

Now click Programs and Features in the Control Panel. When it opens, look for every AOL program except for “AOL (Choose Which Products to Remove)”, since that’s the one that won’t work.

Uninstall all non-essential AOL programs first.

You should see AOL Screensavers, AOL You’ve Got Pictures, AOL Coach Version, AOL Connectivity Service, AOL Spyware Protection, and so on. Click each program to uninstall it. This may take a few minutes and might or might not require some computer restarts.

If you don’t see these programs, that just means your copy of AOL didn’t include them, so you can jump to the next step now.

2. Next, let’s shut down AOL’s background services…

Click the Start Orb, then on the right-hand side of the Start List right-click Computer, then click Manage on the drop-down menu.

In the next window, on the bottom left, click the tiny gray triangle next to the words Services and Applications, then click the word Services to open the window.

AOL has one or two services that need to shut down to delete the main AOL program entirely. One is AOL Connectivity Service and the other is AOL Top Speed. To shut them down, right-click either one and select Properties from the drop-down menu.

Shutting down AOL Services.

The first button in the next box says: Startup type. Click it and a drop-down list will open with the options Automatic and Disabled. Click Disabled, then look at the next row of buttons: one says Start and one says Stop. Click Stop, wait while the service stops, then click Apply and OK on the bottom right.

Repeat for all AOL services on the list.

3. Next, let’s shut down AOL’s processes…

Right-click the bar along the bottom of your Windows desktop and choose Task Manager from the pop-up list.

Shut down all of AOL's running processes.

In Task Manager, click the Processes tab, then click the Image Name tab to sort them from A-Z.

Look for processes with the word AOL or aol in the names. Right-click them one a time, and choose “End process” from the list. Wait while Windows ends it, then repeat for all processes with AOL or aol in their names.

Now scroll down the list and look for these names: shellmon.exe and waol.exe. End these processes, too. There may be many AOL processes, so this might take a few minutes.

4. Let’s finally delete AOL…

To make sure Windows lets you see all files and folders, click the Start orb, click Documents, right-click the top breadcrumb bar, then click “Show menus”. In the Menu Bar, click Tools, then click Folder Options on the drop-down list.

In the next box, click the View tab, then scroll down to the option for Show hidden files, folders, and drives. Make sure it’s checked. Find the other options in that list for showing hidden files and folders, and make sure they’re also checked or unchecked as needed.

Click the Start Orb, click Computer, click Local Disk (C:), click Program Files, find your AOL folders (anything with the name AOL in it qualifies), then right-click and delete them. Click the Common folder open and right-click and delete the AOL folders in there, too.

Now click the Start orb and type the words aol and america online into the search box on the Start List, then right-click and delete any files and folders that turn up.

If you have trouble deleting AOL’s files or folders, see my article on how to take ownership of files and/or how to run as the Super-Administrator on Vista. If a file or folder is still giving you grief, you can also try this registry edit to take ownership of it.

Hack to take file and folder ownership.

The only AOL file and folder I was unable to remove was aolshare, because of the aolshcpy.dll file inside of it. You can leave those on your computer; they’ll do no harm once your other AOL files and folders are gone.

With this method you’ll have tons of leftover AOL registry entries, but they won’t harm your computer. The only concern is they might slow your computer down by increasing RAM usage as Windows searches through them to find what it needs.

If that concerns you, there are several registry cleaners, like jv16 PowerTools and CCleaner, that you can use to remove AOL’s registry entries.

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