Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Forcibly Uninstall Apps from Windows 8

I took the plunge a couple of weeks ago and upgraded to Windows 8. It takes some getting used to but overall I’m mostly happy with it. Except when it did something very unusual with the Metro apps (I refuse to use another name since everyone by now knows what “Metro” means).

For those who don’t know when updates are available for Metro apps they appear in the Windows Store, a little number appears on the live tile. One day I found that there were updates available for all the built-in apps such as Mail, Calendar, Bing etc. So I dutifully went to start the update process, found it was taking a while as there were quite a few, and just left it to it.

To be fair I might have messed up my system myself but while this was happening I thought “I don’t need Travel, Sports or anything like that. I’ll just keep the ones I’m interested in”. So I uninstalled the apps I didn’t care about whilst they were still updating.

In retrospect I should have known better – I’m effectively classed as a power user! As a result of my blunder I ended up with nearly all the apps that were updated being wiped from the system, including some of the ones that did matter to me. Here’s the interesting part though: when I went back to the Windows Store to try and install them again I couldn’t. This is what I saw:

So the Store thinks it is already installed. So why when I search for it does this happen?

Something in Windows clearly thinks I have the app installed. Now in the past I would have known to check certain folders like Program Files or delve into the registry to see if some sort of metadata was lying around, but Windows 8 changes things up a bit: these Metro apps seem completely self-contained and sitting in the WindowsApps folder which is quite secure and doesn’t even let me read it by default. So how can I remove these hidden settings to get Windows to play nice again?

Fortunately after some Googling I found the answer on this forum which I will explain in detail below. In this example I’m going to re-install the Bing app despite the Store telling me that I already have it.

First you need to open up an elevated PowerShell console. Simply:

  1. Press the Win-key to get you to the Start Screen.
  2. Start typing “Powershell”
  3. Right-click on “Windows PowerShell” and click on “Run as administrator” in the menu that appears at the bottom of the screen.

Now you can run this cmdlet to see what Metro apps Windows considers to be installed:

Get-AppxPackage -allusers

This should give you a list like in the image below:

Now that you’ve got the details of the app you can run another cmdlet to remove it. In my case I did this:

Remove-AppxPackage Microsoft.Bing_1.5.1.251_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe

You’ll notice that you have to use the PackageFullName value that is provided in order for the cmdlet to work.

Once that was done I went back to the Windows Store and checked that it worked:

In my case I simply repeated these steps until I had cleared up my mess and managed to get everything I wanted back.

I think it’s quite good that there is actually a way to uninstall something in an automated fashion. Regardless, this trick got me out of a hole so I’m sure someone else might benefit from re-learning Windows tricks like I’m doing.

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