How to Remove a Stubborn Add-in from MS Office

It’s quite common nowadays for some unscrupulous software companies to bundle PUPs in their installers. For that reason, I’m always keen when hitting the next button on those installers, however it seems that’s not enough.

I’m saying this due to a recent experience where even after picking the only components I needed in the installer, it went on to install an extra component. To be fair though, that component, an office add-in, wasn’t listed in the components to be installed.

Regardless, the one component I installed was not in any way dependent on this add-in, and as a matter of fact, it’s the add-in that was dependent on the components that I chose not to install.

The Add-in

The add-in question here was none other than PDFFill’s PDF Printer Office Add-in which is bundled along with their free PDF Tools.

word 2016 ribbon
Add-in in Word 2016

The add-in in this case wasn’t functional and either did nothing or crashed my office programs when I tried using it. I can only assume this is either an honest mistake on the part of the developer or a deliberate attempt at advertising their add-in.

Anyway, I had to remove the add-in whilst retaining the main program but that proved to be quite problematic. The following is everything I tried in my quest to remove this stubborn add-in.

Perhaps one of this will work for you should you find yourself in a similar situation.

1. Disable/Remove Add-in within Office

1. Went to the Options for a specific Office Product e.g. Word Options

2. Selected the Add-Ins Tab

word options
Add-in Options in Word 2013

3. The add-in was listed there as a COM Add-in. So I selected that type of add-in at the drop-down list at the bottom and hit the Go button.

4. In the next window, I first removed the check mark to disable the add-in but that didn’t work. Next I selected it and hit the Remove button but that didn’t work either.

COM add-ins
Custom COM Add-In

2. Check the Startup Folders

The add-in was nowhere to be found in the MS Office Startup folder found in these locations:

C:\Users\[yourusername]\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Word\STARTUP
C:\Users\[yourusername]\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Excel\XLSTART

So, nothing to delete.

3. Disable/Remove using Autoruns

The nifty Autoruns from Sysinternals includes an Office tab that list Ms Office add-ins. So I tried disabling it from there to even deleting its’ entries but that didn’t work.

autoruns office tab
The Add-in Entries in Autoruns Office Tab

This called for the nuclear option.

4. Remove from the Registry

Hoping to delete its keys, I went to the following keys but the add-in wasn’t available there:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\Word\Addins
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\Excel\Addins
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\PowerPoint
registry office add-ins
MS Office Add-Ins’ Entries in the Registry

5. Delete Custom Command

I stumbled upon this by chance while trying to figure if the add-in worked and surprisingly it’s what worked for me. I just right-clicked on the add-in button in Ms Word 2013 and selected “Delete Custom Command”.

custom command
Delete Custom Command
prompt
Accept Prompt

Doing that removed it from the Excel and PowerPoint and also in all the other Office Suite Versions (2007, 2010, 2016) I had installed. I’ve since established that this option is also available in the older versions of Ms Office.

6. Command Line Switch

If you don’t want to load the add-in a specific instance you can use a command line switch for that. Just start up word from the command line and add the [/a] switch at the end e.g. for Word 2013 it would be:

C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office15>WINWORD.EXE /a

Note: the path will depend on the type of Windows (32-bit or 64-bit) you’re running as well as the version and type of MS Office (32-bit or 64-bit).

Alternatively, you can create a shortcut for Word (WINWORD.EXE) with the switch added in the Target box so that every time you start Word from that shortcut, no add-in will be loaded. e.g. for Word 2013 it would be:

"C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office15\WINWORD.EXE" /a
shortcut
Shortcut with Disable Add-ins Switch

If need be, you can copy this shortcut to your Start Menu folder.

Note:

  • This switch only works in Word and using it will also disable all global templates (including the Normal template). That won’t however making a new document, not unless you wanted to use a custom template.

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