Manually Cleaning Your Windows Registry

So… you registry is in shambles, is it?

Or maybe it’s just bogging down your computer.

Either way, we can fix it.

I do have to warn you though, manually repairing a Windows registry is not for the faint of heart. It’s very time consuming and carries an extreme risk of damaging your computer.

There’s no “undo” option.

Of course, we’ll make sure you have a backup in case anything does go wrong, but there’s always the possibility of getting completely locked out of your computer and not being able to load that backup.

And even if you do everything right, you’re almost guaranteed to miss more than a few entries.

If you’re at all uneasy about doing the steps in this article (or value your time), I recommend using a software application to handle this for you.

Ok, with that out of the way, let’s get our hands a little dirty.

1. Launch the Windows Registry Editor

All versions of Microsoft Windows come with a built in registry editor. It’s not the easiest to find, however, because of the reasons already mentioned.

To launch the registry editor, follow the directions below for the version of Windows you are running:

  • Windows XP (or earlier): Click Start, click Run, type regedit into the text box, then press Enter on your keyboard.

  • Windows Vista & Widows 7: Click Start, type regedit into the search box, then press Enter on your keyboard.

  • Windows 8: Press Ctrl+Alt+Esc on your keyboard, select File > New Task (Run…), type regedit into the text box, then press Enter on your keyboard.

Once you have completed this step, you should have the registry editor opened and ready to use.

2. Make a Backup of Your Current Registry

Alright, before we make any changes, we need to make a backup of your current registry. This is extremely important because there is a good chance you’re going to break something.

Fortunately, this step is an easy one (but restoring a backup isn’t always easy).

  • Select File > Export…, choose a location to save your backup file, give it a File name, and press Save.

Double check to make sure the file did actually get saved. It’s also be a good idea to make a copy of that backup for extra protection.

3. Browse and Remove All Unnecessary Entries

Next comes the fun part! (sarcasm)

See all those folders in the left hand pane? You need to expand them, drilling down as deep as you can go, and look for any entries from programs that you are sure you have uninstalled.

Can you see how long this is going to take? That’s why most people recommend using a software application to do this for you.

If you want to save some time (but not be as thorough), you can limit your browsing to the following directories:


As you’re browsing through all these entries, if you come across something you aren’t sure about, either look it up online or leave it alone.

You can also search for program references you have removed by pressing Ctrl+F.

This is really all you can do to when manually repairing your registry unless you know the exact entry that is causing problems.

Chances are, there are thousands, even tens of thousands, of outdated and corrupt entries. And it’s next to impossible to catch all these on your own.

A registry scanning application will check every single entry and cross reference it with files on your computer, catching and repairing 99% of errors.

5. Exit and Reboot Your Computer

Did you finish going through all those entires? Ok, good.

Now you’ll want to quit the registry editor, reboot your computer, and hope nothing went terribly wrong.

Or, you could just avoid all of this hassle and have a software application fix or remove just about every corrupt entry in there.