6 Ways to Clean the Windows Registry

Ways To Clean The Windows Registry Featured

Since most of us don't dive into the registry editor often, you probably don't have any idea if you need a registry cleanup or not. However, over time your registry collects broken, outdated, and even missing registry keys that hurt your PC's performance. You may even get the occasional error message. With the use of Windows tools and some third-party tools, you can clean the Windows registry quickly. These methods work on Windows 11 as well as Windows 10.

Also read: How to Take Full Ownership of Windows Registry Keys

Causes of Registry Errors

If you're not experiencing any issues right now, you might not think cleaning the registry is important. But, as you install and uninstall apps and hardware, new registry entries are created. This includes Windows updates. However, they're not always cleanly removed when you uninstall apps and hardware or make other system changes.

This leaves your PC looking for the hardware and apps that go with those keys. The more that builds up, the more likely you are to experience issues. Cleaning your registry every few months helps prevent this.

Back Up Your Registry

Before you perform a registry cleanup, it's always a good idea to back up your registry just in case something goes wrong. While the methods on this list are usually safe, it's better to be cautious, especially if you opt for the manual method.

  1. Press Win + R and type regedit to open Registry Editor.
  2. Select the "File" menu and choose "Export."
Ways To Clean The Windows 10 Registry Manual Export 1
  1. Select a location and a name for your file. Also, select "All" for your export range to back up the entire registry. If you're changing a specific branch, you can just make a backup that branch.
Ways To Clean The Windows 10 Registry Manual Export Save

It's a good idea to store your backup on a flash drive or external hard drive just in case something does go wrong during the cleanup.

If you need to restore the backup, open Registry Editor again and select "Import" from the File menu. Select your file and you're done.

Also read: How to Troubleshoot Windows Detected a Hard Disk Problem

1. Use Disk Cleanup

The simplest way to clean the Windows registry is to use the inbuilt Disk Cleanup utility, which is also great for cleaning excess files from your hard drive. It's not for the registry, but it can finish removing leftovers from apps and drivers. When it removes these files, the corresponding registry entries are often deleted too.

Open Start and type "disk cleanup." Select the Disk Cleanup result that appears.

Ways To Clean The Windows 10 Registry Disk Cleanup

The tool runs a scan automatically. When it's finished, click "Clean Up System Files." The tool runs a second time, giving you some additional options to scan for.

Ways To Clean The Windows 10 Registry Disk Cleanup System

Check any options you want. You can actually check them all. Just make sure you don't have anything in your Recycle Bin that you want to keep first. Press OK to clean your system.

2. Using DISM

DISM, which stands for Deployment Image Servicing and Management, is a built-in Windows tool used for repairing update and system errors. It can also help repair issues related to broken registry entries. While it's not a full registry cleaner, it can improve the health of your registry.

  1. Open Start and type cmd. Choose "Run as administrator" under Command Prompt.
Ways To Clean The Windows 10 Registry Cmd

2. Enter the following at the prompt:

DISM /Online /Cleanup-Image /ScanHealth
Ways To Clean The Windows 10 Registry Dism

The scan finds and cleans up errors. These won't all be related to your registry. The good part is this can help your PC run better by fixing issues you didn't even know you had.

Also read: 6 Ways to Check Hard Disk Health in Windows

3. Use CCleaner

CCleaner has been a popular PC cleaner for years. From deleting cookies and temporary files to helping manage startup options, it does a little bit of everything, including cleaning your registry. What's even better is that you can make a backup of your registry before cleaning it, which is a good idea.

Ways To Clean The Windows 10 Registry Ccleaner

While premium options are available, the free version is all you need. You can run the tool by right-clicking on your Recycle Bin or opening it through the Start menu.

4. Clean With Wise Registry Cleaner

Wise Registry Cleaner is a free, lightweight tool to clean the Windows registry. It offers three modes, though Fast Scan typically works best for most users.

Ways To Clean The Windows 10 Registry Wise

A premium version is available, but the free version handles almost everything you need. The premium version does offer scheduled cleaning. If you stick with the free version, just make a note to use it once every few months.

Also read: How to Clean Up and Make Space on Your Windows "C" Drive

5. Use Auslogics Registry Cleaner

Auslogics Registry Cleaner has a long history of helping to keep registries cleaner. The free version provides basic scanning, which is often enough for most users. However, you can upgrade to the premium version for notifications and deeper scans and cleaning.

Ways To Clean The Windows 10 Registry Auslogics

You get to review all entries before deleting anything, giving you full control. However, the tool will only pick safe entries to delete.

Also read: How to Defrag Your Windows Hard Drive

6. Manually Clean the Registry

If you're comfortable using the registry and know exactly what you need to remove, you may not need a registry cleanup. Manual removal of entries is a good option if you've installed several different programs or apps to try and want to make sure they're not leaving traces behind in your registry.

  1. Open Registry Editor pressing Win + R and typing regedit. Confirm that you want to open Registry Editor.
Ways To Clean The Windows 10 Registry Manual Regedit
  1. Either navigate to the key you want to delete or search for related keys by right-clicking any folder and choosing "Find." Normally, you'll find keys related to apps and programs in the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, HKEY_CURRENT_USER, and HKEY_USERS folders.
Ways To Clean The Windows 10 Registry Manual Regedit Find
  1. Right-click any key or folder and select "Delete" when you find what you need to remove. The exact keys and folders will vary greatly based on what you're trying to clean up. Remember, this is final and you can't restore what you delete without recreating the key. Consider taking screenshots of what you're deleting just in case you need to add the keys back.
Ways To Clean The Windows 10 Registry Manual Regedit Delete

Also read: 4 Ways to Restore Deleted Files in Windows

Frequently Asked Questions

Are registry cleaners safe to use?

Overall, registry cleaners are safe, but only use reputable cleaners. Some are just malware in disguise or they promise to speed up your PC only to slow it down, just like phone cleaner/booster apps.

If you're not sure if a registry cleaning tool is safe, scan the URL and app download URL through VirusTotal. You can also use your favorite search engine to search for "is cleanername safe" to see how other users feel about it.

When should I clean my registry?

Most users don't need to clean their registry often. In fact, you may never need to clean it outside of using Disk Cleanup every month or two.

If you tend to install/uninstall apps often or your system is getting progressively sluggish, it's a good idea to clean your registry after every two or three apps you install and remove.

For instance, if I'm testing apps for Make Tech Easier, I'll clean my registry after going through 8-10 apps in a session. Then, I don't clean it again until I've tested another batch.

Is it safe to delete registry keys if they include the name of an app I've uninstalled?

Usually it is safe to do this. However, only delete registry keys if you're certain they're not tied to anything else on your PC. For instance, a file extension that's associated with an app you've removed might also be tied to an important Windows system app or process. Overall, if you're not certain, don't remove an entry. It takes a lot of excess in your registry to start slowing down your computer.

Are there other ways to optimize my registry beyond cleaning it?

Absolutely. Registry hacks give you more control over your registry's function along with making changes to your Windows experience. For instance, you can add your own options to the context menu. Try out these useful Windows registry hacks to see what you can accomplish.

Image credit: Unsplash

Crystal Crowder
Crystal Crowder

Crystal Crowder has spent over 15 years working in the tech industry, first as an IT technician and then as a writer. She works to help teach others how to get the most from their devices, systems, and apps. She stays on top of the latest trends and is always finding solutions to common tech problems.

Subscribe to our newsletter!

Our latest tutorials delivered straight to your inbox