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How to Install Uninstall Program in Safe Mode

windows installer safe mode
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Installing programs in Safe mode reduce the chances of software conflict since all third party software’s are disabled in Safe Mode. Uninstalling a program in Safe Mode is recommended especially in complicated cases where a software refuses to uninstall normally. But the problem is installing or uninstalling a program is disabled in Safe Mode by default. Here are some details.

Why install/uninstall program in Safe Mode than in normal mode?

A very legitimate question. Why would someone want to remove or install a program in safe mode? What are the scenarios where it is recommended to install/uninstall program in safe mode when the same can be done in normal mode? Here are the scenarios.

  • Uninstalling a program is not always easy. Occasionally, a program might refuse to get uninstalled because a service or a file associated with the program is used by another third party program. In normal mode, these third party programs may refuse to dissociate from using the file or service. The trick here is to restart computer in safe mode to disable the third party program. Once there is no external interference, it is easy to remove the software.
  • Security software can get corrupted for variety of reasons. Security software if not working properly may refuse to remove or add programs. This is mainly because the security software might block changes being made on registry. By restarting computer in safe mode, the security software is disabled so that the programs can be removed.
  • Some third party services may interfere with the successful installation of new programs. Safe mode installation is highly recommended.

What is Safe Mode?

Safe mode is a troubleshooting mode where all the third party softwares and drivers are disabled, and only the windows services will be running in the computer. Safe mode is usually used for troubleshooting purpose to find if a problem is caused by a third party program. In order to go to Safe mode, keep tapping F8 key (Shift + F8 in Windows 8) as soon as the computer is turned on.

Is it possible to uninstall a program in Safe mode?

In normal case, it is not possible to install/uninstall program in safe mode. This is because the windows installer service is disabled in safe mode.

Most software use windows installer service to get itself installed and uninstalled. Since the service is disabled in safe mode, it is impossible to uninstall a program in Safe mode. In case of programs which do not use windows installer service, there is no restriction to install/uninstall program.

How to make Windows Installer service run in safe mode

You can make Windows installer work  in safe mode by making some registry changes. These changes are not going to affect the already installed programs.
Note: Since changes are made in registry, it is recommended to take a back up before making the changes.

How to uninstall programs in Safe Mode

You can go to safe mode and try to uninstall the program normally. If it that don’t work, try this registry tweak.

  1. Press Windows Key + R for Run window, type regedit.msc. This will open registry editor.
  2. On the left side, navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE -> SYSTEM -> CurrentControlSet -> Control -> SafeBoot -> Minimal.
  3. Right click on Minimal, Click on New, Click Key
  4. A new key is generated on the left side, name it as MSIServer
  5. On the right side, double click on the default value. Under the Value date field, enter the value as Server.Install Uninstall Program in Safe Mode
  6. Now restart the computer in Safe Mode
  7. Press Windows Key + R for Run window, type services.msc. This open the services window displaying the list of services.
  8. Locate Windows installer service in the list. Right click on it and click Start.
    Install Uninstall Program in Safe Mode

This step enable Windows installer service to run in Safe Mode.

How to fix Windows Installer Service refused to start in safe mode after making registry changes

Reset registry permissions to default if Windows installer failed to start

One reason for failure to start Windows installer after making changes inside the registry is issues with registry permission. Whenever a software or hardware is added or removed or a major system change is made, corresponding entries are added or removed inside registry. Sometimes these changes are not reflected inside registry because of problems with registry permissions.

Possible reasons for registry permission problems

  • Security Software when corrupted may block registry permissions completely. Any attempt to make a change inside registry will be blocked. The issue can be fixed by removing all traces of security software completely using an uninstall tool.
  • Viruses and malware attacks can also lead to blocking all registry permissions. Removing these infections most probably will fix the problem. Since the changes were already made by the infections, you may have to run the tool to reset registry permissions.
  • Software and hardware installation rarely cause this problem, but cannot be ignored.

How to reset registry permission back to default

Whatever be the cause, since the registry permission is already changed you need to reset it back to default. Microsoft recommend using a tool subinacl which automatically reset all permissions to default. This is how to run subinacl tool.

Note: Before trying the following steps, backing up registry is recommended since it involves making changes to registry.

  1. Download subinacl tool from subinacl download link
  2. Install subinacl. The default install location is C:\ Program Files\ Windows Resource Kits\ Tools assuming Windows is installed in C drive
  3. Create a new text file
  4. Copy the following code and save it inside the text

    @echo off
    subinacl /subkeyreg HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE /grant=administrators=f  /grant=system=f
    subinacl /subkeyreg HKEY_CURRENT_USER /grant=administrators=f  /grant=system=f
    subinacl /subkeyreg HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT /grant=administrators=f  /grant=system=f
    subinacl /subdirectories %windir% /grant=administrators=f /grant=system=f
    @Echo =========================
    @Echo Finished.
    @Echo =========================
    @pause

  5. rename the file as reset.cmd
  6. Execute reset.cmd. You can see instructions getting executed line by line. This might take some time to complete (10-15mts, worst case may go up to an hour). Wait till the entire process is completed.
  7. Restart computer

Check if Windows installer changes is working now. Also, check if the changes made previously in registry is still intact.

Use the comment section for any queries.

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About the author: Anup Raman A Tech Enthusiast|Blogger|Tech Trainer with 10+ yrs experience in the field of IT. My expertise are in Operating Systems, mainly Windows and Computer security which comes from my experience, working as Tech Support and Trainer for Microsoft, Symantec and McAfee. Loves blogging about Technical Troubleshooting, discussing latest Gadgets, Games and doing Reviews.

{ 7 comments… add one }
  • davy rockstar Mar 15, 2017, 10:23 pm

    but…. does it works in windows 10???? i’ll find it out… this really helped me to successfully extract 3ds max in W 7… some computers sees autodesk pack file as a dangereous archive (WFT!!)

    • Anup Raman Mar 16, 2017, 2:37 am

      Yes, it does work in Windows 10.

      Not sure why the archived files was shown as dangerous. It may have suspicious files. There was a case where Photoshop was shown as dangerous by Windows Defender because it had a cracked file inside which was actually a Trojan.

  • Stefano Jul 11, 2016, 7:50 am

    thank you for the information, butthe correct key is MSIServer

    • Anup Raman Jul 12, 2016, 6:04 am

      Thanks Stefano…

      Failed to notice the mistake I made, until you pointed this out. I cant believe this wrong information was here all these years and nobody ever pointed this out. I sincerely apologize to everyone who tried these steps, but failed to get the expected result cos of the wrong registry.

      The mistake is corrected and reloaded with the right screenshot.

      Good job Stefano. My apologies and thanks again for pointing out the mistake.

      • Bhawesh Feb 21, 2017, 7:19 pm

        This key is still not able to start Windows Installer service. Can u help in pointing out the problem.

        • Anup Raman Feb 22, 2017, 1:56 pm

          One possible reason is the registry permissions may not allow the changes from getting applied. If so, the solution is reset registry permissions to default using subinacl tool. Do a search for how to use subinacl tool to find how to run the tool. Hope that should help.

          Thanks for sharing the problem. I almost forgot the existence of subinacl tool. I will be updating the post soon with instructions on running subinacl tool.

  • Jonathan Nov 21, 2015, 4:13 am

    Very usefull website thanks..

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