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[Guide] Clean, Compact, Optimize XP Registry

The Microsoft Windows registry is a hierarchical database of system configuration data. Many of the programs written for Windows 32-bit and 64-bit platforms require data from the registry. This means it is used often, and some programs really like to hammer the registry. Running a program such as SysInternal's RegMon, which logs access to the registry, can show you just how much some programs make use of the registry. Even Explorer, the file browser built into Windows, makes heavy use and this can have wide impact on performance.

When Windows is first installed, the registry is relatively lean. It shouldn't contain any extraneous data nor is the data file bloated or very fragmented. Over time though this can change, especially when many programs are installed and uninstalled. When programs and other components are removed from the system they can leave behind data inside the registry.

Many programs have been made to clear out the data left behind by poorly uninstalled programs. The original, RegClean, was developed by Microsoft. A search on the web will show many results for registry cleaners, some sites touting their commercial solution as a cure-all for any Windows problems. Choosing a registry cleaner is best done on good advice, and forums are a great place to look and ask what cleaners people are using. I suggest you find a shareware or freeware cleaner, it's not worth paying for one when there are excellent free ones available. RegClean is available from Microsoft Download Centre.

After data is deleted from the registry, the space in the file used by that data is kept until it can be re-used by newly added data. If lots of very small bits of data are deleted the registry can become very bloated with 'holes' where no data will fit. This causes the registry to be larger than neccesary which in turn means it is spread over more hard drive space and hence slower to access. To solve this issue there registry compactors which can rewrite fresh registry hives without the holes. I use ExperimentalScene RegCompact.NET to compact my registry - with great success. My system very noticeably speeds up when the registry has been very bloated and I compact it.

Once the registry is cleaned and compacted it also should benefit from being optimized. This is done by rearranging the location of the registry hives as they are stored on your hard drive. Like normal file optimization or defragmentation this process will further enhance the speed of the registry. To optimize the registry use SysInternal's PageDefrag which also happens to defragment the virtual memory page file.

Following these steps in order will keep your registry nice and lean, speeding up your Windows experience.

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In reply to: [Guide] Clean, Compact, Optimize XP Registry

" It shouldn't contain any extraneous data "

I am lucky to have dived into XP's registry after a clean install and SURPRISE!!! There is plenty of what can be called "extraneous" data or entries.

Please update this section of your claims.


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Compacting with Norton Utilites Compact Registry feature

In reply to: [Guide] Clean, Compact, Optimize XP Registry

What do you think of the Registry compactor feature of Norton Utilities 16. I own the program but I have never compacted the registry. Is there a chance that compacting the registry can corrupt it?

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It's unnecessary

In reply to: Compacting with Norton Utilites Compact Registry feature

It's unnecessary and one of those things companies like Symantec toss in there to try and justify new versions of the software since they long ago exhausted all the legitimate features of the software.

Even on an older XP machine with say 1GB of RAM, the registry is probably never going to take up more than 10-20MB of that. That's like 1-2% of the total RAM on the system. If you "compact" it, you might save a few hundred KB, tops, which is absolutely trivial. If you want to try and reclaim wasted RAM, you should start with the bloated behemoth that is any Norton product over the past 2 decades or so. Replacing that with something a bit more lean and tightly focused will do far more for system performance than compacting the registry.

For that matter... The registry does not EVER need to be cleaned, compacted, fixed, or whatever other euphemism some snake oil salesman wants to come up with. You do not need a special program to do any of those things and using them is far more likely to CAUSE problems than fix them. When you stop and think about it for about 5 seconds. AV companies and malware removers all are very up front about what actions they take to remove some specific bit of nasty software. It may take a little digging, but you can find instructions on how to do a manual removal if you want. Registry cleaners and their ilk are a black box. We have absolutely no idea what they use for selection criteria. Why is entry A deemed extraneous while entry B is not? We have no idea and the people peddling these worthless programs aren't exactly forthcoming about it, so that should speak volumes. It's not just a "secret sauce" sort of thing, they're selling a utility that is completely devoid of utility and they know it. The only useful thing these companies do is provide an excellent randomized sample for sociological research into the general gullibility of people when it comes to computers and how P.T. Barnum was right all those decades ago when he quipped that there was a sucker born every minute.

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