As a frequent downloader of new software, I try out a ton of programs on my PC. But after installing and uninstalling so many programs, it doesn't take long for my registry to become a complete mess, causing errors, sluggishness, and sometimes crashes. The problem is that not all programs uninstall as easily as they install, and often, registry entries are left to stagnate in your system where they may eventually cause problems.
To keep my registry lean and mean, I run a quick scan of registry entries using software designed to root out the garbage left behind by uninstalled programs. These apps check my registry for rogue entries so that I can decide whether I want to delete them. Some programs also give me a description of what specific registry entries were once used for, thereby allowing me to decide whether I still need them.
A word of warning: Be extremely careful when deleting files from your registry. Some entries have strange names that you won't be able to identify but that might be necessary to run your favorite program or even your system software. A good rule of thumb is to delete only entries that you are sure are related to programs you no longer use. With that said, here are my three favorites for regular registry maintenance.
Registry Medic does a comprehensive scan of registry entries, looking for the files and programs that they're associated with. This app gives you plenty of details on each entry it can't find a parent for, but with the shareware version, you can fix only five entries at a time. However, it might be worth $29.95 for the extra details you get. (Shareware/Windows)
Registry Mechanic lets you use a Windows Explorer-like interface to scan for registry problems. Registry Mechanic gives you a list of possible culprits that you can selectively delete. You can also back up your whole registry and delete all of the problem files. I like the second option because it requires less fuss, and I can always bring back the whole set if something isn't working correctly. (Shareware/Windows)
CCleaner (Crap Cleaner) was made to clean your Internet history and temporary files, but it includes a nice registry cleaner as well. It also lets you save a copy of your registry so that if you run into problems after cleaning, you can revert back to a working configuration. (Shareware/Windows)
Even if you feel pretty good about the way your PC is running now, I still suggest you pick up one of these apps as a preventive measure. Eventually, every registry needs a good cleaning, and these apps do the job nicely.
Have you had any disasters when cleaning out your registry? Talk back to me below.