What is Windows Registry and How it becomes Cluttered ?

You keep reading in web articles, magazines and hear it from computer geeks that the registry has to be debugged and cleansed of junk to keep the computer’s health in check. The registry comes off as such an alien and technical term that most users try to keep their distance from understanding it and try not to explore the functions it performs. This component of the Windows acts like its life and soul, so it will only be beneficial in the long-term to understand its functions.
This post will therefore cover two main topics:

What is the Windows Registry and what functions does it perform?
How it becomes cluttered?

  1. What is the Registry?

The Windows Registry is a database that stores system settings, configuration settings for installations, user preferences, information on hardware and many more things. All programs whether Windows based or third party applications make use of the registry while processing tasks. The registry is continually referenced to access profile and settings of users, application settings and information on hardware/ports that are in use.
The registry will define relationships between programs and configure how the startup, taskbar etc work. The information in registry is stored in the form of help files and .dll (Dynamic Link Library) files which facilitate in interfacing the executable (.exe) file with the device. The registry editor can be accessed by typing the “regedit” command in Search or Run box.

How the Windows Registry becomes Cluttered

In brief terms registry is composed of keys and values. Registry hives store keys, keys have subkeys. All keys have a value. There are about 5 most common registry hives (abbreviated as HKEY).

  1. How the Registry becomes cluttered?

The Registry clutter is a condition in which disorganized data stuffs up over time. In a freshly installed copy of Windows, the clutter is not considerable enough to affect performance. As most of the systems today are protected by Antivirus and Antispyware, complete corruption of Windows to warrant re-installation is less frequent. Hence the same Windows is used for years and therefore accumulates broken links and leftover files in the registry. The more the registry is cluttered, the more loss in speed will be observed. Following is the list of reasons that cause registry clutter:

When multiple software are installed and removed over time, they leave some amount of redundant, useless links and files behind. As uninstallations increase, clutter spreads.
An incomplete installation (one that is done without an uninstaller) will leave more traces of broken and unwanted files in the registry.
A fragmented registry will also bring down a computer’s performance. Empty spaces and sectors will increase the time taken to address the registry (Similar to how a fragmented disk slows down performance, read the article The path to performance loss; How a computer loses speed)
Viruses, malware, trojans generate embedded keys. These will cause registry errors and reduce performance.

The undesirable clutter and errors in the registry will cause crashes, error messages and screen freezes. In order to avoid the glitches, always use a registry cleaner software, this will blow a new life in the Windows registry and make your PC run faster.

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