Installing a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is easy, uninstalling it is even easier. However, there are things that go by unnoticed, and some of them are important for your safety. If you want to know more, keep reading this article.
Many VPNs brag about their policies of keeping zero-logs. However, you’ll be surprised by just how much information is actually kept. And not necessarily by your provider, but sometimes by you as well. Or more precisely, by your computer. Even after deleting and uninstalling your VPN, chances are, you will have hidden data of your network history somewhere on your device. Sometimes they stay there for a very long time, even years. Many VPNs, including the best ones, keep detailed logs on your PC, which include your account details, session logs, and the names of the servers you’ve accessed.
Uninstalling a VPN after your subscription is over, or because you were not satisfied with its service, is easy. You just have to open the Programs and Features in your Control Panel and then find the “Uninstall a program” list. Search for your VPN there and uninstall it. After this is done, search whether there is a file on the list with the name TAP – “VPN name here” and if it exists uninstall it as well. It’s the virtual network adapter, known as a TAP Driver. If you have difficulties in finding your VPN on the list, make sure you check the place where you installed the program. In order to do that use your task manager (Ctrl + Shift +Esc). Search in the “Processes” Tab, and after finding it, open its file location. The file for removing the VPN should be here somewhere. Look for the uninstall.exe file, click on it and follow the instructions.
Up until now, this is something that most of us do when trying to remove a certain application from our computers. However, your work doesn’t end here. First of all, restart your computer in order to complete the process. Now, it’s time for a more thorough clean-up.
*Note: The following applies to a Windows operating system.
Start by manually checking the folders such as your Program File, Program Data, Program Files (x86), and Users/App Data (Local and Roaming) in your Local Disk. If you find any file that might be connected to the VPN (usually you will notice by the way they are named), delete it. However, do this only if you are certain that what you found is from the VPN provider. There is a chance that you could delete something important from your computer, so make sure you avoid making this mistake.
Now the next step is to check the Registry and the Network adapter.
Before deleting anything from the computer’s Registry, keep in mind that if you delete the wrong file you might make a huge mistake. The registry is the heart of your PC’s software. One wrong move and you might damage your device. To find the Registry run REGEDIT (click Win + R and type it), then open HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE, and HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE. Look through the files, and if you find something that you are 100% sure is left from your old VPN, delete it.
As for the Network adapter, you can easily find it in your Device Manager. It will show you the adapters that are currently on your PC. As previously mentioned, if there’s something left from your VPN, it will be under the name of TAP, presumably followed by the name of the provider as well. If you are not sure whether you should delete it or not, just double click it and open the Driver tab to see its real origin.
When this is done, next, you need to clean your Firewall and network profiles.
After installing a VPN, the software might make some changes on your Firewall, in order to operate on your PC without any problems. However, these changes remain after you’ve uninstalled the VPN. To access your Firewall, run wf.msc (again, click Windows key + R). Go through the inbound and outbound rules, and if you notice anything connected to the VPN simply remove it.
Moreover, you can access your Network profiles by clicking the Windows button + I, and go into Network & Internet. You will notice that, on the left side, there is a VPN section. Click on it and check whether there is something that remained from your old provider. If there is, delete it.
By finishing all of these steps, chances are, you’ve removed almost everything from your provider. There are some additional steps for all of you privacy freaks out there. You can check your system drives or the network history in your Registry. However, if you don’t know what you are doing, I recommend that you not delete anything.
The best option is to consult with an expert on the subject before deciding on anything that might put your computer in danger.