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Weeding Out A Windows Registry

Question : My Windows XP Registry file is huge. Can any program weed out old information from hardware and software I no longer use?

Answer : The Registry file is essentially a large database and is the one place where Windows stores all the settings for the hardware and software used on a computer. Over time, as you add and remove old programs and devices, modify your personal settings and do other typical things to your machine, the Registry can balloon in size with all the entries it has been collecting. Spyware and other malicious software can also increase the size of a Registry.

Pruning outdated entries and tidying up the database can help keep the Registry a more manageable size and less prone to becoming corrupted and causing problems. Windows loads the Registry each time the computer boots up; if the file is damaged, Windows may not start.

Manually editing the Registry can clean things up and weed out old information, but Microsoft advises extreme caution when modifying the file because it is vital to Windows. (The company has its official documentation on backing up and modifying the Registry at support.microsoft.com/kb/322756, but it may be a bit daunting for users who are uncomfortable wading around in the inner workings of Windows.)

There is also utility software available that guides you through the process ó Registry Mechanic (www.pctools.com/registry-mechanic) and Registry Medic (www.iomatic.com) are two such programs. Registry cleaner programs may round up active Registry entries along with the deadwood in the database, so examine the programís findings carefully and make sure you are eliminating data pertaining only to programs and devices you no longer use.

Read the programís instructions carefully before you start. Itís also a good idea to make a backup of the Registry file before you begin; using the System Restore feature in the Help & Support area is one way to take a snapshot of your current system.


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