Orphaned registry keys: What they are and what to do about them

By | November 5, 2011
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Cynthia asks about orphaned registry keys
I’m sure it was in one of my Info Ave. Premium newsletters that you explained how to remove program keys from the registry for programs that have been uninstalled. I did it several times, a long time ago. And now I can’t find the instructions. I looked thru my Volume V and typed it in several different ways but if it was there I missed it. Can you help?

Our Answer

Removing registry keys that were once associated with uninstalled programs is difficult, risky, and time consuming to do manually. Making an error when manually editing the registry can seriously damage your Windows installation. Our advice: Do not attempt to manually remove registry keys that you think may be associated with programs you’ve uninstalled. While many purists will argue that it can be done and they’re technically right, we strongly advise against doing it.

Registry Key and other registry entries which were associated with uninstalled programs are called “orphans”. The best way to prevent having a plethora of orphaned registry entries is by uninstalling software using Revo Uninstaller instead of relying entirely on the program’s own uninstaller, which is what you’d eventually have to to if you use the Control Panel’s remove programs applet.

Normally, when you use Control Panel, add/remove programs (or in Vista, programs/remove programs) applet, the program’s own uninstaller is initiated and subsequently removes the program and some of its associated files and registry entries. The key word here is “some”. And that’s the problem with most program uninstallers. If you install a lot of software and you uninstall a lot of software, over time your registry can become cluttered with a lot of useless, leftover orphaned entries and disassociated registry keys. Over time, the number of these orphaned entries grows and as they do it can become a problem. A bloated registry can slow your computer down, slow your startup and shutdown times, as well as cause a lot of other problems.

Fortunately, Windows XP and Windows Vista are significantly better at handling a bloated, messy registry than were Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows ME. Back in the days of these operating systems we found ourselves reinstalling Windows every few months – Windows either would no longer boot or it became intolerably slow. In fact, we used to, as a matter of maintenance, format and reinstall Windows 98 about every 3 or 4 months. We, like you probably do, install and uninstall a lot of software and that only increases the clutter of orphans in the registry. It’s unlikely that you’ll have the same problems with Windows XP or Windows Vista – there have been some major improvements in the way Windows works and how it handles a bloated registry. Still, computers with too many useless registry keys and orphaned entries can become bogged down, less responsive, and slower than they should be. That’s why it’s important to keep your registry as free from clutter as you can.

Some programs can have hundreds, even thousands of associated registry entries. When you uninstall programs some or most of these entries may be left behind. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude that removing hundreds of registry entries manually:

1. Isn’t fun
2. Isn’t easy
3. Isn’t quick

So, that’s why we recommend Registry Commander . It’s the best registry cleaner and optimizer we’ve found. It can automatically remove many of the orphaned files left behind from uninstalling software. Plus it works to keep your registry smaller and more compact and this will help ensure that your computer will run faster and perform better.

And to prevent the future build up of orphaned entries and keys in your registry, make sure that any programs you uninstall in the future are removed using Revo Uninstaller (free). It takes quite a bit longer to remove a program using Revo Uninstaller than it does using Control Panel, because it scans your registry during the uninstallation process and looks for all the registry entries, registry keys and other files that were associated with the program you’re uninstalling and removes them after the program has been uninstalled. Revo Uninstaller first initiates the program’s own uninstallation routine and then, after that’s complete, runs its own uninstallation scanner hunting down leftover files, folders, registry keys and entries, and removing them from your computer.

Our recommendation is this: Use Registry Commander to clean and optimize your registry. Use Revo Uninstaller from now on, to uninstall programs. This will keep the number of registry orphans to a minimum. The combination of Registry Commander and Revo Uninstaller is the simplest, safest way, to ensure your computer and the Windows Registry will perform as well as they should.. Best of all, it will save you time and aggravation which will give you more time to enjoy your computer doing things you like to do instead of wasting time fixing errors and troubleshooting problems.

3 thoughts on “Orphaned registry keys: What they are and what to do about them

  1. Juanita

    Oops, Your “search & replace” missed one “Registry Mechanic” in the last paragraph.

  2. Cynthia

    I have been using the free Revo Uninstaller for a long time. I love it. I purchased Registry Commander, but at this time I also still have Registry Mechanic. I haven’t decided what I’m going to do on renewal of these two. I no longer care for Spyware Doctor and uninstalled it even before my subscription had expired. It might do the job, but it’s too invasive. Many of my other programs would not run alongside it. But as to registry cleaners, I have to say that at this time, I think I prefer the Registry Mechanic to Registry Commander.

  3. Mary

    In add/remove, I accidently removed I.E. 7, someone told me you can’t do that bc it’s built into the computer.
    Ok, where can I go get it? I just about died….literally, the second I hit the key. After reading about registries getting clogged with other stuff, now I’m really worried whether I can fix this or not.
    I’m going to go back to a previous date and hope that takes care of the problem. The extra money for repair just isn’t there anymore. Thanks Mr. O, starting a savings account for meds is NOT going to be fun. Good grief, I’m sorry I’ve been such a mess this evening.


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