Every time you install or uninstalled a program, the Windows Registry adds information that the program accesses. However, uninstalling programs you don’t use is not enough to get rid of all its parts so to speak. Although we have removed the main parts of the program, it usually leaves a trail that contains information like usage preferences and other technical stuff.
This can lead to inconsistencies. An inconsistency on its own may not really be a huge deal. However, when these inconsistencies accumulate overtime, they can harm the stability and fluidity of your Windows system.
So how do you get rid of it? Tweaking Windows registry is the answer.
The Easy Way
One of the most comfortable and effective ways to clean up your registry is to use third party software that optimizes and defragments your Windows registry. Programs like CCleaner and TuneUp Utilities belong to this category.
The downside is that these are not free. But worry not! With a little guidance and caution, cleaning your Windows registry can be done manually.
First Things First
Before anything else, let me warn you that tweaking the registry is a serious matter and usually in the domain of advanced, tech-savvy users. Back when I was a teenager, I toyed with my first computer’s registry (it was running on Windows 95 back then). What’s the end result? I was left with a PC that wouldn’t boot and the technician couldn’t even fix or reformat it.
In light of that, the first thing you should do before making any changes to it is to back it up by making a copy. First, access the registry. To do this, pull up the search box in the Start menu and launch it with the “regedit.”
Next, go to File / Export and enter a name for the backup. Next, mark Save All and you’re done. When things don’t go as planned and you need to restore, just double click on the file.reg that you just generated.
Now that we have everything safe, let’s review what’s in each branch. The first, HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT contains all the file associations set (ex. a *Doc opens in Word), but really you will see there are shortcuts that take you to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINES Software Classes.
On the other hand, HKEY_CURRENT_USER Software is where applications create their entries. This is the section of the registry you want to focus on. I recommend making a list of the programs you have uninstalled before if possible.
Once you’re done with the list, check the HKEY_CURRENT_USER Software for keys of programs that you have uninstalled. You can easily delete these without any problem or risk.
Moving forward to HKEY_CURRENT_USER, you will see the system configuration information and software user you have logged in, so the change will only affect your User Account. From here, we can customize what is shown in the Control Panel, the installation directories, network settings, etc.
Meanwhile, HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE focuses on what affects the hardware and the PC controllers while HKEY_CURRENT_CONFIG is a dynamic branch, in which entries are created on the fly, depending on the applications you’re running at the time and services Windows that are in use.
There may be superfluous keys in the last two branches mentioned. But since they are a bit too advanced and a lot riskier to tweak, it’s best to leave these alone.