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What you need to know about your Windows Registry

The Windows registry is where the computer keeps track of all of the software that resides on its hard drive and what to do with it. It controls how programs start and how they communicate with each other. Over time, the registry needs to be cleaned out just like a desk drawer, a closet, or a wallet.

Because the registry is so important to the functionality of the computer many people are rightfully intimidated about tinkering around with the unknown. Information within the registry is shown in code and changing or deleting something may very well end up costing a lot of money and time to repair. However, not performing regular maintenance can also have repercussions.

Over time the registry becomes cluttered with broken links and missing files. The most noticeable impact is the speed of the computer, particularly at startup and shutdown. Eventually, it can grind the computer down so much that software may not function properly.
There are, however, three simple tips to safely cleaning up the registry. But, first it is always a good idea to do a backup in case of unexpected or undesirable results.

Tip #1: Manual Clean Up

Go to the ‘Start’ menu, click on ‘Run…’ and type in ‘regedit’. This will open the registry. Select ‘HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE’, and then ‘SOFTWARE’. This will list all of the software running on the computer. If something looks unfamiliar it may still be legitimate because software is listed by the vendor name. For instance, Simply Accounting will show up under Sage Software. By clicking on the folder it is possible to see sub-folders with the name of the software. Keep in mind that the registry also shows software required for proper computer function so, if in doubt don’t touch it.

Look for software that definitely should not be there because it has been uninstalled. Clicking on a folder and hitting the delete button is all it takes to remove the folder. It is important to remember that this does not always work for spyware and other malicious applications because of intricate application links. It may look like it has been removed but, will show up again on restart. If this happens and spyware removal and anti-virus software do not do the trick it may be a good idea to get a computer technician to take a look.

Tip #2: Google It

The Internet is a fantastic source on all things computer. If curious about a particular application listed in the registry do a web search to see what has been written about it. Nobody knows all there is to know about software and the technical community are great supporters of information sharing. Chances are somebody has already asked the same question and somebody else has already answered it.

Tip #3: Registry Cleaning Software

There are a number of registry cleaning tools on the Internet that can be downloaded and run for free. Some are more effective than others but, they all do pretty much the same things. The important thing to remember is that no software will do as good a job as an expert user. However, they are a fairly safe and cost effective way of doing routine maintenance. The free scan will reveal the problems but, to clean them it will likely be required to buy the software. For the general computer user who is not versed enough to perform detailed registry cleanup this is worth the money.

Most of the applications will allow the user to backup their registry in case of unexpected results. This is always a good idea.

By removing old or missing links and defragmentation of the registry file the processor has to work less to get information requested by the user, launching files, and shutting things down. This will result in an immediate and noticeable improvement in speed.

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