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Windows registry, should I touch it?

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Hi, today while cleaning up my harddrive by deleting things from the add/remove programs list (xp), I noticed heaps of programs I uninstalled ages ago still on the list. It won''t let me remove them. Would deleting the keys for the specific programs from the registry remove them? In that regedit thing there are heaps of "keys" of programs long ago uninstalled. Would deleting them harm my system? The reason I ask is cause on every page of the registry help file it has a warning that deleting the wrong thing can kill the computer. Could someone ellaborate a little on the specifics of the registry? Any info would be great. Thanks, Kate

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Only delete stuff if you''re sure it''s not going to trash something.

For example, imagine if you installed "SuperProg!" and then uninstalled it, you should be safe to delete any keys - unless it''s wormed it''s way in and overwritten some Class registrations.

XP has a rollback option in case of dire emergency; but you should always save any keys (file->export) you delete if you want to be sure.

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Don''t waste your time deleting stuff from the registry manually. The only time you''d think about it would be if you deleted a program manually from the hard disc rather than using the uninstallation (in which case, you''d be better off reinstalling then uninstalling the program anyway).

The stuff you''re seeing is probably quite harmless (hkey_current_user\software or hkey_local_machine\software, maybe?), probably. Many of the keys are simply dummy ones to say whether a program''s installed, or basic settings from when you used the program. Most of it is harmless if you are _sure_ that the program gone from your hard disc.

You do not want to touch parts of the registry if you don''t know what they do, though. Windows stores a _lot_ of info (e.g. associations for given file types, stuff about drivers, class IDs for COM stuff) that is used in day-to-day operation of the computer.

But the most important reason to not bother: it''s inconsequential. Unless these entries in the reg have some bearing on your computer (e.g. files being associated with a program that doesn''t exist) then they aren''t doing any harm. Your time is worth more than this! Leave ''em alone if your computer works. If you must tinker with stuff, get a program to do it the easy way (they exist, and will scan for "orphaned" registry keys).

Don''t fiddle with your computer if it works. Your time is more valuable and a working computer is a priceless commodity.

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Oh, and what I forgot: search on Google for "TweakUI" (it''s part of the "powertoys" collection from Microsoft). This utility lets you manually remove entries from the add/remove list (i.e., gets rid of them visually). It''s safe enough to use.

And this thread should really be in the lounge.

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quote:
Original post by Kate18
Could someone ellaborate a little on the specifics of the registry?
Any info would be great.
Thanks,
Kate


Right, with my last post in mind:

Registry is split up into different sections - some are user specific (and are identified by SIDs or HKEY_CURRENT_USER, HKEY_DEFAULT_USER which are special SID values), and the rest are machine specific.

These are sections can be split into different registry Hives.

A .reg file is normally a registry export that can be re-imported into a registry hive. This is in the form of clear-text and in later versions of reg files unicode (eg a reg file created by the Windows XP regedit cannot be used in Windows 95 without editing).

The hives themselves are stored in binary format and are kept as part of a users profile.

A Key is similar to a folder. The values are kept as type specific string identifier & value pairs.

Use was encouraged at it''s inception to replace ini files, but now ms has gone the other way by encouraging use of configuration files again rather then using the registry. Using config files rather then the registry allows finer grain control over who can see and edit the file via file permissions - where-as with the right knowledge and know-how it is possible for any user to look at any part of the registry that belongs to the user or the machine - as the profile controls only block applications, not the api calls themselves.

The MSDN (msdn.microsoft.com) is the best place to look about things to do with the registry.

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Thanks heaps for the info guys
Exactly what I needed.
I think I''ll just leave it alone. I was just in a cleaning mood and was wondering how much space they all took up because I have hundreds of useless keys. Oh well..
Thanks again

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