Monday, August 3, 2009

Optimize Your PC - Clean the Registry Like Your Would Your Clothes Closet

You have probably noticed that your PC is gradually getting slower while error messages and even crashes are becoming more common. It’s not the hardware wearing out; it’s the software that’s dragging. One important way of restoring your PC’s performance and reliability is to clean the registry.

The registry is a reference list that Windows uses to keep track of information about the many software pieces your PC uses. For each application program the registry tells, among other things, what options and default settings to use, what types of data files the program can handle and where to find them, and what the program will want to check out and use from the library of system software that Windows makes available. The registry also controls some of the order and timing of things the PC does.

Every time you install a new program in Windows, information about that program adds to the registry. Removing the program, however, may not necessarily remove the registry information. Imagine a list on which you write down the clothes you own and what other clothes they go with to make nice ensemble outfits. Clothes go out of style, get damaged, or somehow loose their fit, and new ones get added to the closet. As this happens that list gets longer and some entries get scratched out. But you not only have to remember to scratch out, say, the entry for a blue shirt that got wine spilled on it and was thrown out, you have to correct the note under those black pants that says they would look good with the blue shirt. Otherwise you might find yourself looking for that shirt when you want to wear those pants, and it’s no longer there.

The list also starts getting very ugly, especially if you make a lot of changes. Over time it will take longer and longer to look through the list when you want to find something. Add that to the errors like the blue shirt reference that didn’t get removed from the pants entry, and the list gets harder and harder to use. After a while, you’ll probably want to copy the list over to clean it up and maybe also check it against your closet contents to make sure it’s accurate.

The exact same thing happens with the Windows registry. Over time, as you add and remove programs, change settings, and otherwise go about the daily business of using your computer, the registry keeps getting longer and errors creep in.

When Windows removes entries from the registry it leaves gaps that the computer still must scan when it’s looking for information in the registry. The result is that the computer takes longer and longer to find the registry information it needs, slowing down system performance. The errors can cause the computer to make mistakes, ranging from freezing a program to crashing the system.

Cleaning up the Windows registry is not a simple task, however. It uses somewhat cryptic coding and it is not always clear from inspection where all the cross references lead, what must change, and what can safely be deleted. Make a mistake in the wrong place and your computer may simply stop working, leaving you with no way of undoing the damage.

Applications software such as RegistryWizard from Phoenix Technologies can help automate this difficult and risky yet essential task. These programs can check the registry for entries on programs that are no longer in the computer, verify that cross references are valid and accurate, and eliminate the empty spaces to make the list more compact and efficient to use. They can also rearrange registry entries to streamline program execution. They do all this with full understanding of how the registry works, and implement safety measures to ensure that changes can be reversed if problems do arise.

The benefits of cleaning the registry are immediate and obvious. Your PC will boot faster and activate programs more quickly. Programs may also execute more quickly, improving such things as video playback and game performance. Most importantly, many of those annoying freezes, glitches, and crashes will simply vanish.

Cleaning the registry is not the solution to every problem on a PC, but it will go a long way toward optimizing your computer's performance and stabilizing its operation.

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