In recent years, a large hard drive or SSD has become the default on Windows devices. There’s usually at least 128GB built into laptops, but this can go beyond 2TB if you’re willing to pay extra. It’s even easier on desktops, where the storage capacity can often be upgraded by the end user.
This is great, as it means you’re less likely to ever run out of room. As you’ll be aware, a device that’s close to full capacity will be much slower and more sluggish than before.
But all this extra space means it’s difficult to keep track of everything installed on your PC. Clearing up File Explorer is always worth doing, but that also includes programs and apps you’ve downloaded.
In Settings you’ll find a list of everything installed, but this is no use if you’re planning to reinstall the whole operating system. Rather than worrying about trying to remember everything, there’s a much easier solution.
With one simple command, Windows can produce a text file containing all the programs you have installed. This can then be shared with another device, ensuring nothing important is forgotten.
The method below works for all recent versions of Windows, including Windows 10 and Windows 11.
How to create a list of everything you have installed on Windows 10 or 11
This tutorial uses the Windows PowerShell tool that’s pre-installed on all devices. It can be used to make permanent changes to your device, but carefully following the steps below will avoid any harm being done. If you’re planning to reinstall the operating system soon, there’s nothing to worry about:
- Click the search bar next to the Start menu and type “powershell”
- Click Windows PowerShell to open it and you’ll be presented with a window ready for your command
- Copy and paste the following command exactly as you see it below, then hit Enter:
Get-ItemProperty HKLM:\Software\Wow6432Node\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Uninstall\* | Select-Object DisplayName, DisplayVersion, Publisher, InstallDate | Format-Table –AutoSize
- The PowerShell window will now display every program you have installed, alongside the version, developer name and when it was first downloaded.
The final stage involves exporting to a text file. Scroll to the bottom of the list until you see ‘PS C: \’ followed by your username (‘anyro’ in the example below)
- To the right of the > symbol, copy and paste the following:
Get-ItemProperty HKLM:\Software\Wow6432Node\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Uninstall\* | Select-Object DisplayName, DisplayVersion, Publisher, InstallDate | Format-Table –AutoSize > C:\Users\anyro\Documents\InstalledPrograms.txt
Just make sure you replace the file path and document name (italicised above) with details of your own
Navigate to the specified area of File Explorer and it should now be there. It’ll open in the Notepad app by default, but you can share it just like any other file.
If you create a version of the file before and after you reinstall Windows on some devices, there’s a way to compare the two side by side:
- Open Windows PowerShell once more
- Copy and paste the following command, replacing the information in the file paths (italicised below) with where your specific files are located and what they're called:
Compare-Object -ReferenceObject (Get-Content C:\Users\anyro\Documents\InstalledPrograms.txt) -DifferenceObject (Get-Content C:\Users\anyro\Documents\InstalledPrograms2.txt)
- Hit enter and you’ll see a list of both, displayed next to each other. In the ‘SideIndicator’ column, => means it’s installed on the second one but not the first and vice versa for <=. The = sign is displayed if installed on both
This doesn’t work on all devices, but it’s a useful way to ensure you haven’t missed anything.
If you'd rather not execute commands in Windows PowerShell, there is another method.. Just download the free version of CCleaner and set it up. From the main home screen, choose 'Tools', then make sure the 'Uninstall' tab is selected. From there, just click 'Save to text file...' from the bottom-right corner.