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Imposing, But Worthwhile
The Windows registry is a difficult tool to use at first. Microsoft has not put much effort into making it easy to modify, and understanding how to work with it means developing an understanding the vocabulary that is used by the registry and getting a grasp on the basic structure of the registry. Without knowing the vocabulary and structure of the Windows registry, any attempt to clean of modify it is going to be difficult.
Fortunately, BrightHub offers a wealth of information about how to clean and modify your Windows registry. This information ranges from basic to quite advanced, and using this information you should be able to get a grip on just how the Windows registry effects how the Windows operating systems operates.
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Understanding the Basics
If the Windows registry is completely foreign to you, then you're going to have to brush up on your general knowledge of the registry so that you have an idea of how to interpret the information it presents you.
At its core, the Windows registry has a hierarchical structure, and is made up of Hives, Keys, and Values. There are five Hives, each of which contains Keys and Values that have to do with a specific portion of your operating system's functionality, like the user interface or the way the operating system deals with system hardware. The Key and Values are where you will find the actual information which modifies functions. Further details can be found in articles dedicated to the registry structure. It would be a good idea to look over this information so that you can understand the basic functions of what you see in the registry.
It is also advisable that you become familiar with backing up your operating system and practice taking notes of information you may have changed. This is important because the information in the registry is critical to how the operating system works, and so if you make a mistake you may render your installation of Windows unusable. Creating a system restore point will save a lot of heart-ache if you make an error.
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Cleaning And Modifying
Periodically cleaning the Windows registry is important to maintaining system performance over the long term. This is because virtually all software that is installed will add or modify values to the registry, and those changes are often not cleaned up well by the un-installation software - and if you simply deleted a program rather than un-installing it, than there probably was not any clean-up done at all. Over time, redundant and unused information can pile up, forcing Windows to constantly shift through unnecessary information. If you want to start cleaning your registry, then BrightHub offers resources that can help.
Modifying the Registry is not necessary for most users, but it can be extremely useful. Many users of Windows take it for granted that Windows is going to behave in certain ways at certain times. For example, most users probably assume that Windows must restart after you've installed Windows updates, or that the loading screen must always be the one which Microsoft prescribed. This is not the case, however, and BrightHub offers several articles that can help you gain the skills needed to become proficent in modifying the registry. Modifying the register to add features is also possible - for example, it is possible to modify the Windows registry so that an old Zune can be used as a Windows hard drive, or you can change your registry to increase the security of Windows. There is a nearly infinite number of subtle ways that a user can modify Windows through the registry, but starting with these Brighthub articles will help you get your foot in the door.
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If It's All Too Much
Learning how to clean and modify the Windows registry can be very useful, and adds another tool for the advanced user who is interested in keeping his PC in tip-top shape. However, learning how to clean and modify the registry manually isn't for everyone, and can be particularly difficult for users who don't have a basic familiarity with modifying software or with Windows more advanced features.
But if you don't wish to or can't learn to work manually with the registry, you're not out of luck - you'll simply have to pay to have a program do it for you. There is a wide array of programs available that can help keep your registry clean without a big hassle, and BrightHub can offer some recommendations. There are also some freeware programs that can do the job, although those opting for freeware should be wary of malware and spyware, which sometimes rides on the backs of helpful programs.