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Be "Registry cleaner" of yourself!

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Step by step guide to Clean and Sort your windows registry!


Introduction:

Always remember:
A Clean registry = Better performance = Save your invaluable time

In this article we're going to clear our registry manually! Yes, manually! The expert's way!
Some of the steps below and this article in general was inspired by the article : "How to Clean the Windows Registry by Hand"

Some might say cleaning registry manually is unsafe and may suggest using Third-party softwares. But I say when you do it yourself, you know what you're doing to your heart of windows! Plus that even famous registry cleaners may harm your windows or softwares in some situations (As I experienced it!).

Just take precautions and take backups before you begin! And read the Article (and links down the bottom) before you start and make sure you understand.

By reading this article not only you'll be able to clean the registry yourself but also you'll learn many places that windows uses to store it's data! In next steps I'll show you how to clean this areas of your registry:

1) Useless or old Software settings
2) Useless or old File extensions
3) Windows history list
4) Explorer history lists
5) Recent Office documents references
6) Nero history lists
7) Run command's most recently used list
8) Internet Explorer Address Bar History (Recently typed URLs)
9) Useless or unwanted Startup programs
10) Advanced cleanup


Precautions:

Before entering windows registry do the following steps to be safe:

1) If you feel you don't have enough knowledge about this matter or may make mistakes DO NOT Proceed!
2) Make a "System restore" point.
3) Make a full backup of your registry

   1. Click on the "File" menu and select "Export".
   2. Select "All" in the "Export range" panel.
   3. Choose a location for the backup and then enter a name.
   4. Click on "Save".
   #  For more info on "System restore" and "Registry backup" visit this guide from Microsoft

4) Read each step carefully and completely to avoid any mistakes.


How to do the cleaning:

Open your windows registry by typing "Regedit" in the Run box (Press "Windows Logo key" + "R" for quick access to Run)
Follow the steps below to clean each area of your windows registry.

Note1: You can alternatively use "Regedt32" to access regedit or use one of the softwares suggested to edit registry.
Note2: Using the suggested softwares at the end of article is strongly recommended.

Alright, Start your cleanup by following the below steps:


1. Useless or old Software specific settings

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software

Navigate to above keys and remove any key which it's corresponding application have already been uninstalled.

a) Look for keys that contain either the application's name, or more commonly, the application's developer (company name).
b) Highlight a key for the application.
c) Press "Del" to delete it.

For example you've uninstalled SoftwareX a long time ago but it's key is still in the registry! You should remove it quickly!

Note: Do not remove Keys related to softwares that store license information for future use!


2. Useless or old File extensions

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\

Navigate to above key. Look for empty keys. If a key is empty the associated file type is therefore useless and can be deleted safely.

Note: An Empty key is a key with a single (default) string and without any sub-keys. Do not remove keys which have sub-keys or have their default value set.


3. Windows history list

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\ShellNoRoam\MUICache

Each time that you start a new application, Windows automatically extracts the application name from the exe file, and stores it for using it later, in Registry key known as the 'MuiCache'.
Go to above key and remove strings containing file paths that no longer exist. These invalid references can be removed safely.

Note1: Be aware that even if your delete MUICache items, they'll reappear the next time you run the applications. So there is no point in deleting keys of your existing softwares.
Note2: Be careful NOT to remove original windows entries; User created entries appear at the end of list.


4. Explorer history list

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\FileExts

Navigate to above key and delete any empty key. If no information has been stored in the key, the associated file type is therefore useless and can be deleted.

Note: An Empty key is a key with a single (default) string and without any sub-keys. Do not remove keys which have sub-keys or have their default value set.


Explorer history list (entry for "OPENWITHLIST file)
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\FileExts\OpenWithList

The "Open with" Windows function created the key because you wanted to open a file with the "OpenWithList" extension.
Delete the key if no information has been stored in it.


5. Recent Office documents list

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office

Go to above key. You can see your installed office products. Find your product version, for example office 12 or 14, and then go to it's specific key and then find the key for your
specific program (e.g. Word or Powerpoint) then enter the "File MRU" key for each one and remove unnecessary Items from the right pane.

Note: Do not remove the "default" and "Max display" strings!


6. Nero application history lists

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Nero

This part is for users who have installed one of Nero products. So if you don't have it jump to next step.
Navigate to above Key and find your installed version of Nero (e.g. Nero 9) and then select the key for a specific program (e.g. CoverDesigner)
And then remove unwanted items or all of the items in "Recent File List" key.


7. Run command's most recently used list

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\RunMRU

This key contains the typed commands in the Run box. For example "Regedit" that you've just typed to access registry.
Navigate to above key and remove unwanted items or all of items.

Note1: Do not remove "MRUList" string.
Note2: If you want to delete only certain items, make sure that the remaining items are renamed in sequential order start from a.


8. Internet Explorer Address Bar History (Recently typed URLs)

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\TypedURLs

This key contains the typed addresses (URLs) in the Internet Explorer Address Bar. For example "http://www.experts-exchange.com" that you've just typed to come here and read this!
Navigate to above Key and delete all the URLx items (e.g. URL1, URL2 and so on) that you do not wish to be visible in the address bar drop down list.

Note1: If you want to delete only certain items, make sure that the remaining items are renamed in sequential order start from url1. Otherwise you might corrupt your remaining keys.
Note2: It's necessary that all IE windows should have been closed before cleaning, otherwise the changes you've made won't be saved.


9. Unwanted Startup programs

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Current Version\Run
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Current Version\Run

Jump to above keys.

a) Highlight the "Run" key.
b) Look for values inside the right pane. These will be shortcuts to executable files.
c) Highlight a value to remove. If you're not familiar with these, or are unable to guess which ones correlate to which applications, Google for it or use a process search engine such as Process Library. (http://www.processlibrary.com/)

Note1: Removing an entry which you're not familiar with, may cause some of your startup programs to stop loading automatically.
Note2: Do not remove original windows entries, including : Ctfmon.exe, IMJPMIG8.1, PHIME2002A, PHIME2002ASync


10. Further cleaning

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Search applications by their name, executable name or folder name. Remove any application listings which have already been uninstalled.

a) Press "Ctrl" + "F" to open a find dialog (Or select "Find" from edit menu).
b) Enter the text used to search for the application's listings (Name of the software that you want to remove).
c) Click on "Find next" to search. The key or value should be highlighted when found.
d) With the proper key or value highlighted, press "Del" to delete it.
e) Press "F3" to find the next result and repeat.

Note: Do not remove Keys related to softwares that store license information for future use!


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

What to do after cleaning:

After finishing the clearing process close the registry and restart your windows for changes to take effect.
It's recommended that you use a "Registry Defragment" tool to optimize your registry further.


In case of mistakes:

If anything goes wrong, restore your registry with the backup you made. This can be done by opening the backup file directly (ie: double-clicking on it), or using a Windows installer CD to boot to a "recovery" console and restoring it manually.


Compatibilities:

This article is primarily designed for windows XP but it may work on other windows versions. (Some parts may not apply to some prior or later versions of windows)


Notes and warnings:

This article is intended for simple cleaning of registry. Third-party registry cleaners also look for invalid items or "no-longer-exists" items.
Third-party registry cleaners may not have the best logic and algorithms to effectively clean all registry entries.
They perform cleaning tasks based upon a predefined set of rules that may not work in your registry and even may lead to a corrupted registry.
Or they may remove parts of windows registry which may be against your favorite configurations or expectations.

The software you may use to clean your registry are: CCleaner, Tuneup utilities, MindSoft Utilities, etc.
The software you may use to defragment your registry are: Tuneup utilities, MindSoft Utilities, Auslogics Registry Defrag, Free Registry Defrag,etc.
There are many registry defragmentation tools. You can find them via software download sites (e.g. Softpedia,Filehippo, CNET Download, etc)

Note1: Tuneup utilities comes with a nice "Registry editor" tool with a lot of features.
Note2: Editing the registry with the built-in Windows Registry Editor can be risky. There is no "undo" functionality if you accidentally delete the wrong key or value. Always take a backup copy first.
Get a Third-party registry editor to be more comfortable and safer.

Free software like RegEditX:                         http://www.softpedia.com/get/Tweak/Registry-Tweak/RegEditX.shtml
Paid software like Registry Workshop:          http://download.cnet.com/Registry-Workshop/3000-2094_4-10281175.html


Many thanks to:

1) God for giving me knowledge to share and ability to write.
2) Author of the article"How to Clean the Windows Registry by Hand"
3) Daniel Petri for this article.
4) Greg Shultz for this article.


Good luck
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LVL 9

Expert Comment

by:Timothy McCartney
Just a question...

Have you done a before and after performance comparison using the method prescribed above?

I ask because I've read PLENTY of opinions about registry cleaning, and honestly most of them suggest that cleaning the registry is too minimal of a performance boost to bother with (especially if you're manually making the changes your self, which takes plenty of time to sort through).

I personally would consider your method of registry cleaning similar to an investment of some sort. You invest an undetermined amount of time into cleaning the registry yourself (obviously this depends on experience) in hopes of getting a return (faster boot times, better performance). But in the long run, how much time are you really saving? Does it add up to the time you've spent performing the cleaning? Or will it take an eternity to truly recover the time you've spent...

This is just my opinion. I'm in no way a registry expert. In my experience through using registry cleaners, defraggers, etc., I've yet to see a tremendous performance boost.
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LVL 9

Expert Comment

by:Timothy McCartney
On a side note... My opinion above does not refer to reg-key changes that directly affect how and when programs run. Obviously if there is a plentiful list of start-up programs in the registry, and you remove them all, you're going to see a huge boot-time boost.

Great layout to your article by the way. It's easy to follow.
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LVL 10

Author Comment

by:Arman Khodabande
Hi friend!

First of all thanks for commenting...

1. As I mentioned in the beginning this article has an educational purpose besides the performance improvement aspects.
"By reading this article not only you'll be able to clean the registry yourself but also you'll learn many places that windows uses to store it's data!"

2. This article mostly applies to low-performance-PCs (Like PCs in Offices or homes which can't support buying new and high perf PCs) So if you have a high performance PC there's no point in doing such a thing...

3. This method is free so if someone can't buy a Registry Cleaner software and still wants to clean his/her Registry , This article helps.

4. I've done all this modifications to my own PC, and I'm using it for 3years without changing my windows and any performance reduction. However as you said it may add a little performance (saving about 5 secs every boot up) But many 5 seconds will make hours of life!!

It's on your own ...

Regards
Kpax7
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LVL 9

Expert Comment

by:Timothy McCartney
Good point regarding your initial disclaimer. I failed to bring that into consideration when I first commented.

Again, great layout on your article. Very easy for a lesser-experienced user to follow and understand.

And thanks for the response on my comment!

Regards,
Tracer Fett
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Expert Comment

by:shehap
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