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How Well Do You Know Your Computer Registry?

What is your computer’s registry? In essence, the registry holds the files that contain all the information within your computer. This can include web browsing, program installation files, information about drivers and other essential programs. The registry stores all of this data as “keys”; much like car keys, the registry’s keys allow your computer’s programs to run. It creates the blueprint for how the parts of your computer fit together. However, it’s not a static system: The registry changes, sometimes with each keystroke you perform, because it’s always working to accommodate each new download or program. But, what ends up happening is that while it stores more and more and more files, it doesn’t delete them nearly as efficiently. That’s why you need to be familiar with your computer registry and know how to take care of it.

Because your registry could have hundreds of thousands of files contained within, it can become too full, which will compromise your computer’s functioning. It’s not possible to completely clean your registry, but there are ways to get it clean enough that you can improve your computer’s performance. Especially if you’ve been feeling as though you need to fix an older computer, the registry is a great place to start where you might see immediate and lasting results.

Before you get started, you want to think about what caused the registry issues in the first place. One way that your registry could have become damaged is that the computer may have been shut down incorrectly. Your computer should perform the shut-down process each time it needs to power off. If you’re choosing to skip the shut down by pressing the power button (but not choosing Shut Down in your Start menu) or just turning off the power (for example, by flipping off your surge protector), you’re causing the power to rapidly cycle on and off, and this is a likely cause of registry issues.

Another way that your registry could have been damaged is by not having adequate anti-spyware protection. Certainly, you’re familiar with viruses that can (1) steal your encrypted data, and (2) mess up your files. A good virus protection program can keep your registry running properly.

Finally, not cleaning your registry can leave it in disrepair. As mentioned earlier, having a clogged registry can cause a computer to become sluggish. But, having an excessively clogged registry can cause your computer to crash completely.

One note of caution, though, if you’re going to attempt to clean your registry: There is risk involved. Chances are that you don’t know every code and filename contained in your registry, so you want to be sure that you don’t delete anything that you need in order to keep your software functioning. The most important thing is to back up your registry before you begin the cleaning process. Depending on your operating system, there could be slight variations in how to back up a registry, but the process should take fewer than 10 minutes.

First, open your Registry Editor by typing “regedit” in the Run window of the Start menu. From the Registry Editor menu, highlight Computer, then choose File and then Export. When you see the window to Export Registry File, choose a location where your files will be saved (and go ahead and save them there). The desktop or Documents folder are good spots because they are easy to find if you need to access them later.

Cleaning your registry is not a simple task, but it can be accomplished if you are reasonably computer-savvy. Here is a step-by-step guide for how to do it:

  1. Like you did when you backed up your registry, launch the Windows registry editor by typing “regedit” into the “Search programs and files” field in your Start menu.
  2. In your registry editor, select the folder entitled “HKEY_CURRENT_USER” and expand it by clicking on the (+) sign next to the folder. Then, expand the Software folder. Search for any software that you’ve uninstalled and delete it.
  3. Press Control + F to open the “Find” dialog box. Enter the text name of the software you’re looking to purge; once any files related to that software are found, delete them and press F3 to repeat the process.
  4. Go back to the original registry editor pane and expand each folder until you get to this:

            – My computer

            – HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE

            – SOFTWARE

            – Microsoft

            – Windows

            – Current Version

  1. Once there, highlight “Run” and look in the left-side pane for shortcuts to executable files. Delete any files that you’re sure you can get rid of. This will delete files that are used when you boot Windows; eliminating unnecessary files should speed your PC’s boot process.
  2. Repeat this process for HKEY_CURRENT_USER and close the registry editor when you are finished.

Are you feeling nervous? Don’t be. The process is daunting, but you don’t necessarily have to do it yourself. This is where software like AOL Computer Checkup comes in handy; it could clean the registry for you so that you never have to take the time, nor do you have to worry that you’re going to make a mistake that cause even greater problems. This program is designed to perform a regular PC check up in order to keep your system running at optimal performance. It can help identify issues and repair any broken registry entries that have been causing your computer problems. Sounds like a pretty good deal, doesn’t it? Not only that, but AOL Computer Checkup can run on specific intervals so you don’t even have to think about doing it – it will just run on its own. So, consider this: Your registry is important, and you need to be sure to maintain it just as you would any other major appliance. AOL Computer Checkup can help!