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Cleaning the Registry

The Windows registry has been the center of much debate ever since Windows 95 came out.  The daily operation of the operating system required heavy interaction with the registry, and early problems with registry corruption led to serious performance problems on many computers.  At the root of the problem is the fact that your hard drive is a dynamic environment where files are constantly added and deleted.  The registry, on the other hand, is not updated that often (usually only when something is installed or uninstalled) so that missing files could potentially prevent your system from booting up in some cases.

Oh, it might help at this point to say what the registry does.  It’s essentially a file on your computer that remembers important information that your operating system and all of your installed programs require in order to run properly.  The information could be user settings, critical file locations, and uninstall information.  The point is, this stuff is system critical information, and damage to your registry could result in unreliable performance of your system.

To make things worse, most uninstall scripts that come with any program are messy in that they don’t necessarily clean up after themselves.  As a result, the registry WILL, without a doubt, accrue a large number of erroneous entries over time.  These entries are not necessarily dangerous to your system, but could be under the right circumstances.  The problem here is that the registry is huge, and not fully understood by most people.  Trying to clean the registry by hand would take days to do, and it would seriously burn out your body! 

The good news here is that there are many free programs available to help you find erroneous entries and remove them.  The best of the bunch is ccleaner.  No, you’re not reading that wrong.  Cleaner is short for ’crap cleaner’, and does more than just scan your registry for errors.  It also happens to clear out a lot of stored information like recently visited websites, recently opened files, and all sorts of stuff that you may not want random people to see on your computer.

There are commercial registry cleaners available for purchase, but I don’t see a reason to pay money for something so simple as this.  All you have to do is run a registry scan, and any entry that points to an invalid location will be removed.  You’ll find that for programs that you’ve uninstalled, there are many leftover entries that stick around.  Be sure to make backups of your registry before removing any entries, however.  While you can be safely assured that an uninstalled program’s registry entries won’t be called by other programs, there’s no way to be sure.  So make a backup of your registry (most programs, including ccleaner, can do this) before you remove anything or else you might do irreversible damage to your operating system.