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Windows Programs and Features list.  Where is it stored?

Posted on 2014-04-19
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Last Modified: 2014-04-24
I've had situations where the Programs and Features list was somehow corrupted.  
In at least one case it was Windows Vista.
Some of the normally-listed items went away.
Some of the listed items had strange-looking icons.
Some of the listed items had no "Uninstall" available.

So I figure to research this a bit and dig into the registry to do it.
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Question by:Fred Marshall
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by:aadih
ID: 40010547
The list is from your "program files" on your primary drive (generally C: drive).

To solve this problem, you may like to save your data and files and perform a clean install of your operating system.

I'd refrain from messing up with registry entries.
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by:John Hurst
ID: 40010563
You can try running System File Checker: SFC /SCANNOW.  Allow to complete, restart and test

If that does nothing, then the advice above by aadih to do a fresh install is good advice.
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by:Fred Marshall
ID: 40010901
Perhaps I wasn't clear in my objective:
I *want* to dig into the registry.
If you know where to look then great.
If you don't then that's OK too.
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by:John Hurst
ID: 40010913
There could be many registry entries for a single program in Programs and Features. You cannot reconstruct P&F from the registry. That would be nearly impossible.

If you tried SFC (you did not say) and if that did not work, then reinstalling Vista is probably the only way.

You can try repairing Vista from the Vista DVD. Back up first and then try the repair option. That may work.
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by:nobus
ID: 40011029
the problem arose after "cleaning" a corrupt disk
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by:lionelmm
ID: 40011295
There are numerous places where programs and features are listed but they is no one place where every Windows programs and features are listed where you can go in and repair. You can verify this for yourself by doing a search on "Windows Mail" as just one example and see in how many places you find it.
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by:Fred Marshall
ID: 40011593
OK.  I bit the bullet and did this:
I prepared to install a new app on a Windows XP machine:
I backed up the registry first.
I installed the program.
I backed up the registry again.
I did a WinDiff on the two files.
The new file included:
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Uninstall\appname
and then listed the contents of this key which include:
"UninstallString"="C:\\Program Files\\appname\\uninst.exe"
and
"DisplayIcon"="C:\\Program Files\\appname\\appname.exe"

If either of these are deleted then the app doesn't show up in Add or Remove Programs.
If either of these has their value changed then you get what you might expect:
If the icon is changed to another icon reference then you get the new icon.
If the UninstallString is set to some nonesense like 0 then it generates an error if you try to uninstall the programs.
But, of course, the uninstall program is still there in Program Files.....

So, while not 100% conclusive, I'm thinking that this is the answer.  Presumably one could add entries with all the necessary information manually.

An inspection of a Windows 7 registry suggests the same thing although in a 64-bit installation there are a few places where such things show up:
Program Files and Program Files (X86)
and Wow6432Node in the registry.
So, in this case, reconstruction might be a bit more challenging unless one looks into a registry backup.  Well, that might be a good idea anyway....

Presumably if one knows where to find the app's uninst.exe then this is more cosmetic than necessary.  But, if one is trying to restore some focused damage for the benefit of a more typical user then then it could be of some value.
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by:aadih
ID: 40011609
These entries about a installed program in the registry are well known.  The point in the posts above is that there are many more entries related to a specific program in the registry. With the registry, it's not that simple.

Again, please do not mess with registry entries (if you are not an expert or even if you are).

Just a caution, which, of course, can be easily ignored.

Thanks.
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by:John Hurst
ID: 40011611
I don't know why one entry could cause multiple errors on programs and features. So indeed your observation is not likely conclusive.
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by:lionelmm
ID: 40011823
You question asked about Windows Programs and Features, related to Windows and not to programs that are installed but to Windows--but from your above example it looks like you instead want to know how to repair installed programs and not the Windows installation--is that right? Regardless I still suggest you do a search on a installed program and you will find it in many places and not just the one place that you can quickly and easily go in and repair. It may be a good exercise to try to do but why would you do that when ALL of the experts are advising you against this--we know from years of experience how tricky a proposition you are hoping to accomplish.
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by:nobus
ID: 40012073
that's why Revo is a good uninstaller - after using the normal one, it scans for leftover files, and registry entries - - AND it shows these to you
so maybe that would help in your search ?
http://www.revouninstaller.com/
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by:Fred Marshall
ID: 40013665
nobus mentioned that I'd had a problem after cleaning a corrupt disk.  Actually that's close.  I'd cleaned up an infected computer and quite a few of the Programs and Features entries were either:
1) Missing altogether
2) Without their normal icons
3) Not able to generate an "Uninstall" from Programs and Features in any way.
I hypothesized that the entries had been removed from the Registry either by the cleanup or by one of the parasites that had been there.  [FYI: Malwarebytes found over 1,800 items - an all new record for me].

nobus: I'll have to pay more attention to Revo.  I've used it but not with all those capabilities in mind.

I hope this helps put some context to what I was trying to do.  It seems like there was a lot of misunderstanding about that:

lionelmm:  This site is properly named "Experts Exchange".  In some things I'm the expert and in other things someone else is the expert.  It's good practice to ask questions of your peers.  Whether you get good adive or take their advice or not is something else again.

One of the characteristics of Experts Exchange and technical people in general is that we tend to be "problem solvers".  If one doesn't present a problem exactly then we try to turn it into one that we know how to solve.  Sometimes I go so far as to ask my questions with a clear caveat about the kind of answer I want to receive and about the kind of answer that I don't want to receive.

I did not want to know how to repair installed programs nor even the Windows installation if I understand your terminology.  I wanted to investigate repairing Programs and Features.  That's in the first sentence of the original question.  It hasn't changed.

So, why did I go about installing a new program?
The purpose was to see what changes happened to the registry that might lead to hints about Programs and Features.
And, indeed, I found what I was looking for.

Now, I have no doubt that a program install puts a bunch of stuff in the registry (although my little test didn't indicate all that much).  And, I didn't really care about any of the other stuff - why would I under the circumstances?  That is, if one can access and run the uninstall then that stuff should go away.  But the casual user (the person I'm helping) *needs* the Programs and Features working reasonably well to do that.  Thus, I was trying to learn how to fix Programs and Features.

 
It may be a good exercise to try to do but why would you do that when ALL of the experts are advising you against this--we know from years of experience how tricky a proposition you are hoping to accomplish.
This is a learning experience. Why would anyone advise against THAT?  And, as it turned out, it wasn't all that tricky after all.
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by:aadih
ID: 40013680
fmarshall, Yes, it's only a caution. I have messed up with registry and have learned from messing it up. Except from the "negative" learning, nothing positive have come out of it. I still use registry to make specific changes, but never a general change such as you seem to want to do.
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by:Fred Marshall
ID: 40013903
OK.  Well, I didn't know what kind of change might be necessary or even possible.  So this has been a learning experience.  The changes that seem to be needed seem specific enough.  Although, I admit that the question was rather general at the beginning.

Back to the beginning, if one has the necessary information then it should be possible to construct entries in the Registry for Programs and Features:

Here is what showed up when I installed RegSeeker on a Windows XP machine;

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Uninstall\RegSeeker]
"DisplayName"="RegSeeker"
"UninstallString"="E:\\Program Files\\RegSeeker\\uninst.exe"
"DisplayIcon"="E:\\Program Files\\RegSeeker\\RegSeeker.exe"
"DisplayVersion"="2.57.2212"
"URLInfoAbout"="http://www.hoverdesk.net"
"Publisher"="HoverDesk"
"NSIS:Language"="1033"

And, of course, there we other things that showed up but don't seem pertinent to this objective.  After all, if you can uninstall the program then those other things should go away also.
This is based on the belief that if you run the [app].exe file then that takes care of it.

What I found was that you need the UninstallString and you need the DisplayIcon string for this to show up in Programs and Features.  I didn't test any of the others.  And this was on XP and I didn't test other OS's.
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nobus earned 500 total points
ID: 40014120
run revo on the regseeker(or any other program) and uninstall it for a test, and see what it comes up with - after  the normal uninstall : files  and registry entries
i'm not sure it shows all, - but only the leftovers; anyway, it is a start
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by:Fred Marshall
ID: 40015923
nobus:  I did that test as you suggested.
Well, it does create a list on the screen of what was deleted as part of the normal uninstall (that can't be copied easily) .  I found no logs of what had been deleted.
And, it shows you what might be deleted thereafter but, again, no list that can be easily grabbed and no log.
The Hunter Mode is quite interesting for removing parasites.  Does that work well in your experience?
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by:nobus
ID: 40016824
>>  no list that can be easily grabbed   <<  i never said that; but you can copy it if you need to with the snipping tool
and if you don't want to write it down, convert it to txt with an OCR reader

i must say i never used the hunter mode
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by:Fred Marshall
ID: 40017944
nobus: not a criticism, just an observation.  And, yes of course, a snipping tool would do the job if it becomes necessary.

Since you recommended Revo, I recommend you look at Hunter mode.  It's a bit like the "Include Process in Window" target in Process Monitor.  Whether you want to use it is another matter but it's interesting to see how it operates.  It greatly expands one's ability to delete things that may be otherwise unknown or hard to identify.  And, since it extracts the program file path/name onto its cursor display, one could choose to deal with the program in other ways if one desires.
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by:nobus
ID: 40018016
no -  i only used it for uninstalling some programs in auto mode - that works well, so i had no need to get into it further (but maybe it's time now since you talk so greatly about it)
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Author Closing Comment

by:Fred Marshall
ID: 40021600
Thanks for the suggestions.  There were a few guesses made in this exchange that didn't pan out.
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by:nobus
ID: 40021928
hi - i hope this helps you a bit with your quest
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