Uninstalling SQL Server Manually

December 21, 2009

I have uninstalled SQL Server quite a few times for various reasons.  SQL Server’s uninstall program has consistently proven effective and easy to use, something atypical of uninstall programs in general.  Just go to Add or Remove Programs in Control Panel, locate Microsoft SQL Server, right-click, and select Uninstall.  Step through a few wizard-style screens accepting the defaults and you are done.

Last week, I ran into a bit of a roadblock in the rosy scenario above.  I was asked to reinstall SQL Server 2005 on a server that had originally been installed by a vendor.  No problem, right?  I went to Add or Remove Programs and… uh oh.  I’m not sure how it ended up this way, but SQL Server was not listed.

I searched online for a way to uninstall it manually and stumbled on a Knowledge Base article titled How to uninstall an instance of SQL Server 2005 manually.  That sounded promising!  At first glance, the process looked a bit overwhelming.  However, it turned out the that entire list of steps perhaps only applied to the worst-case scenario.  Quite a bit of the article was specific to Reporting Services as well, which I did not have installed.  In my case, just a couple of steps from the article were enough to get the job done quite easily.

Step 1:  Install the SQL Server Setup Support files.

This can be done quite easily by running Setup from the SQL installation disks.  The first thing Setup does is install these support files.  Then, just cancel the installation leaving the support files installed.  You can verify whether or not the support files are already installed by looking for them in Add or Remove Programs.

Step 2:  Kick off the uninstall via the command line.

Running the following command from the KB article will begin the uninstall process:  “%ProgramFiles%\Microsoft SQL Server\90\Setup Bootstrap\ARPWrapper.exe /Remove”

Step 3:  Walk through normal uninstall steps of the Setup program.

I had expected the command above to kick off a command line style uninstall but was pleasantly surprised when it kicked off the GUI-based version of Setup just as you would get with Add or Remove Programs.  According to the KB article, it is the same command that Add or Remove Programs executes.

Step 4:  Repeat as necessary for all instances that you are uninstalling.

I performed these steps three times as I was uninstalling two SQL instances and one Analysis Services instance.  Since the uninstall in Step 3 removes the SQL Server Setup Support files, each iteration must begin again at Step 1.