The Windows Registry is a complex database filled with entries about your computer’s software and hardware. However, these entries can become corrupt, damaged, or invalid due to unusual changes made to your computer.
You usually don’t have to do anything about them, but sometimes they start causing problems, such as error messages, a slower PC, and even crashes. If you think the registry is to blame for your computer problems, here are three safe ways we recommend going about cleaning it.
But First, Back Up the Windows Registry Before Cleaning It
Considering how important the data contained in the Windows Registry is, you should only try to clean it if it is absolutely necessary. One wrong change olr deletion and you can render your computer unusable since Windows needs that information to run smoothly. In fact, messing up the Registry can force you to reinstall Windows.
One of the fixes we discuss below is using the Registry Editor, and we recommend backing up the Registry before using this tool. That way, you can use the backup to restore the Registry to its previous state in case something goes wrong.
You can also create a system restore point. In a nutshell, this will create a snapshot of the current state of Windows, including the Registry as well. You can use the restore point to return Windows to that state and undo any disastrous changes you may have made.
How to Safely Clean the Windows Registry
We don’t recommend using Registry cleaners to optimize the Windows Registry. That’s because these tools usually make sweeping changes to the Registry, which, in some cases, can damage it.
Try these three safer ways to clean the Registry instead.
1. Use the SFC and DISM Tools
Both the SFC and DISM tools can help you fix corrupted files on your Windows installation, which include Registry entries. The former will scan your system for damaged and corrupted system files and replace or repair any that it finds. The latter will repair Windows’ system image, which includes all its files, apps, drivers, and settings.
2. Run the Disk Cleanup Utility
The Disk Cleanup utility does not clean the Windows Registry directly. What it will do instead, however, is remove remnants of software and hardware that didn’t completely uninstall, among other things. In turn, this will likely force Windows to remove the lingering Registry entries associated with them, preventing a host of problems in the process.
If you want to learn more, check out our piece discussing the Disk Cleanup utility as one of the best ways to clean Windows.
3. Use the Registry Editor
Finally, you can remove the invalid, damaged, or corrupted entries by using the Registry Editor. However, this tool is only safe if you know the exact entries to delete.
To do that, follow the steps below:
- Press Win + R to open Windows Run.
- Type regedit in the text box and hit the Enter key.
- Right-click the key (in the left panel) or entry (in the right panel) you wish to delete and click Delete. Take note that deleting a key will also delete its associated entries.
How this works is simple. Let’s suppose you wanted to clean invalid Registry entries left over by programs that didn’t completely uninstall. You’d go to the following key in the Registry Editor (you can copy and paste the text into the tool’s address bar at the top) and delete them:
If you’re too afraid to delete anything in the Registry yourself, have a professional do it for you.
Keeping the Windows Registry Clean
Normally, you shouldn’t have to do anything about the Windows Registry, as many of the bad entries won’t cause any problems. But in the few instances that they do, you can use the methods mentioned above to clean them out.
And if you have to use the Registry Editor to clean up the Windows Registry, be careful not to accidentally mess anything up.