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).

Another one of those deletable posts turned public service announcement.

Perhaps owing to my advanced age (38), I pulled a muscle carrying about 15 bags of groceries last night so, since I can’t do much else, I’ve been playing around with possible new layouts for anti-aol. In a few minutes I’ll put up one I’m testing on my personal journal.

Never mind…I tested the new layout in IE, and…

…while it seems to work perfectly in IE7 and IE8, it breaks in IE6, which 10 percent of you are still using on my blog (today, that will equal over 50 people). IE6 came out in 2001, folks, so it’s time to upgrade to XP Service Pack III and install IE8 or, better yet, also install Firefox (please, please, please pick Firefox!) so I can finally install better layouts. How many more years am I supposed to wait so I don’t drive off at least 50 of you a day? IE8 will help you AOL software users have a smoother, better, and safer browsing experience until you can finally remove AOL, since your AOL software uses whatever version of IE is on your computer to display web pages. Please get cracking.

How do I remove the AOL Dialer?

How to disable, remove or delete the AOL Dialer

One question I get fairly often is, “How do I disable the AOL Dialer?” or “How do I remove the AOL Dialer?” How the question is worded matters: disabling the AOL Dialer is not the same thing as removing it. If you remove it, you might not be able to use AOL dial-up to get online.

To connect you to the Web through dial-up, AOL makes proprietary software, called the AOL Dialer, which connects your computer to AOL. It’s up in the air whether you can bypass the dialer by setting up your dial-up connection manually. AOL gives instructions for doing so, but for many AOL users (myself included, back in the day) using a manual setup without the AOL Dialer doesn’t always work, even if your dial-up modem is working fine.

Continue reading…

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 Remove AOL (any version) From Windows 7 When It Hangs

There’s an issue with removing more recent versions of AOL from Windows 7 (and therefore I assume all versions of AOL): when you click the Windows button –>Control Panel –> Programs and Features, then click on the AOL Uninstaller (choose which products to remove), it asks you to scan for “older versions of AOL” (it’s not like you have a choice – you can’t skip this step, or you won’t find any AOL clients) then it hangs during the scan.

And it hangs. And it hangs.

If you have a more recent version of AOL installed, you can right-click the Taskbar (or hit Ctrl-Alt-Delete – whichever makes you happy), open Task Manager, end the process for aolunins_us.exe, then shut down and restart your computer. That should stop the AOL Uninstaller from hanging on your next try.

If you have an older version of AOL installed on Windows 7 (such as AOL 9.0SE), you can follow these steps [works in all versions of Windows], then, if necessary, follow the steps above.

Once you restart your computer and run the Uninstaller again it should find all versions of AOL for you. From there you can use this tutorial [for XP or Vista] to remove all AOL software specified on those pages from Windows 7, including AOL 9.5 Revision 4337.80.

Alternately, on Windows 7 you can try right-clicking the Taskbar to open Task Manager, then ending all processes with “aol” in their name, then running the Uninstaller again. The AOL Uninstaller will still take at least 5 minutes to find all versions of AOL installed – even if you have only one version, so be prepared to chill out while you wait.

PS – I can’t believe AOL software even works on Windows 7, but as the first person to document the first bug with AOL on Windows 7, I had to watch this monstrosity alive and well on my own computer – in 3 different versions. I was hoping I’d get nothing but fatal error messages to save myself the trouble of writing new posts about AOL, but no such luck.

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…