In the Forums...
Posted: September 25, 1999
Written by: Keith "Farrel" McClellan
It has been a few months or longer since you last made a clean reinstall of your OS. The overall performance of the computer is beginning to suffer, a product of unused DLL's cluttering up the system folder, and the overall obesity of the registry files which Windows does a terrible job of managing. A feeling of dread is clouding over the workspace in which the computer resides. It's time to reinstall the OS. But wait! That painful process of deleting the Windows directory, reinstalling the operating system, and then having to reload all of the applications and games CAN be averted. What follows is nearly a miracle of nature, a renewal of life into a drooping computer.
This so-called miracle is a combination of several things. The first step in this process is a system directory cleaner called Clean System Directory. The way this program determines if a DLL is used is by scanning all of the programs on the computer and look for references to the DLLs. Because this is not a surefire way to make sure a DLL isn't used, the program simply moves the files to a subdirectory within the system directory, and recommends that the user wait several months before deleting them from the system entirely.
The second step entails moving or removing other useless files to speed up your system's boot time. Did you know that having extra files in the root directory slows down your boot time? Well, it does - and we're going to fix that problem.
The third step is a set of three - yes, I said three - registry cleaners. Why three? Well, each of these programs search the registry differently to determine which keys can be safely removed - and in some instances, they even remove different types of unnecessary keys.
The first, and most notable of the programs, is the new version of Microsoft's very own RegClean. This is probably one of the best little pieces of software that is in the "shoulda but didn't make it into Windows 98" department. It is a totally automated registry cleaner that allows the user to undo the changes if the removal of a key causes a problem with a program. As the (only) totally automated registry cleaner in this guide, it is also the least customizable. There is no way to choose which keys are and aren't removed. However, RegClean does such a good job of determining unused keys, that this shouldn't be a problem.
The next program in the guide is called EasyCleaner. This program is moderately automated; you have to select which keys you wish to delete, but you can use the shift and ctrl keys to select many at once, a feature that the next program doesn't have. However, there are a few bugs in the EasyCleaner interface, as the user may need to run the program repeatedly before it will clear out all the unused keys. Generally, it should be run consecutively until it no longer detects any unused keys.
The last program in the registry cleaning section is called Cleanreg. The least automated of the three programs, it is also the most comprehensive. It appears to catch 95% of the unused keys of the other two programs combined, and normally I would recommend to most users to only use this program; however, it has no automation at all, so each key has to be deleted separately. This takes a LONG, LONG time, so running the two other programs is definitely to the benefit of the user.
The fourth, and last step, in my miracle speeder-upper program, is compressing the registry. It removes duplicate keys from the system.dat, user.dat, system.da0, and user.da0 registry files. This can shave up to 2 MBs off of a computer's registry, which decreases startup time and generally makes the computer more responsive. It is during this step that the process for cleaning up the system differs between Windows versions. For the original release of Windows 95 and Service Pack 1 (denoted by an "a" in the version number) will need to go through one extra step to patch a bug in Regedit that does not exist in OSR 2.1 and above, or in Windows 98.