System Cleanup Tweak Guide Win9x/2000
Posted: July 27, 2000
Written by: Keith "Farrel" McClellan
It's been over a year since I took the time to write the original System Cleanup tweak guide for Windows 98, and some things have changed in the realm of computing since then. Even major companies have started to put some real time into their registry cleaners (previously they were simply an 'extra feature' they added to bulk up their packages), and some of them are shaping into useful products (finally). However, you can still do a better job with a little bit of time and come free programs that are available on the Internet. I have written this guide with both Windows 9x (including Millennium) and Windows 2000 in mind, and as such we won't be using all of the same programs that I described the first time around, but some of the more notable ones are still around for your 'cleaning enjoyment.' And trust me, cleaning is one of the Tweak3D's staff's favorite past times - particularly when the women are in those French maid outfits.
Now, you might be asking, what exactly will this do for you? Well, as you may very well know, it is very difficult to keep a Windows installation running well for a long period of time (particularly a Windows 9x installation). This guide will prescribe a way to keep an installation clean and hopefully help avoid a painful and arduous reinstallation of Windows - it can even remove some of those annoying Windows quirks that pop up during regular use. Sounds useful, huh?
There are several pieces of software you are going to need to perform this procedure. Here is a short rundown and description of what each program does, along with a download link for each:
Clean System Directory [http://www.ozemail.com.au/~kevsol/sware.html#clnsys] - I have yet to find a better program for cleaning out the unwanted and unused DLLs from the /windows/system directory. It does an excellent job of determining file associations and whether or not the program is needed anymore - and it should be in any system cleaner's bucket of soapy water.
Regclean [http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/release.asp?ReleaseID=18924] - As was stated earlier, Regclean is still the king of the hill when talking about speeding up and automating the registry cleaning process. The latest version, 4.1a, catches most of the various 'errata' entries in the registry that programs 'should' be cleaning out when uninstalled, but aren't cleaned. It isn't perfect, but it's better than doing the whole thing by hand.
Regedit - This program is included along with Windows and will be used to manually delete registry keys that are no longer necessary. It will also be used later to compress the registry to compact any unused space within the file. Of course, this manual stuff isn't for everyone, so if you aren't comfortable with playing around the 'slow' way, you can always skip the regedit specific steps.
Disk Cleanup - This program, which is also included along with Windows, will help speed up the process of cleaning out general temporary files and the like - things that you should probably be doing on a regular basis but aren't necessarily following through on. There are better programs for this out there, but they all cost money - and real tweakers don't spend money.
Step 1 - Crap Removal
I know, this is a pretty general topic, but I'm referring to extra files and icons that you no longer need. The first step in this is to move all of that extra junk off of your desktop. You will want to delete any icons that you don't frequently use and move any files to their own dedicated miscellaneous directory on your hard drive (mine's called 'junk'). The next step is to go through and remove any temporary files that are residing on your computer. Now, you could do this the manual (a.k.a. hard) way, or you could do this the easy way and use the Disk Cleanup program (I don't believe this program is available in Win2k - you will need to do this manually).
Under the Disk Cleanup tab, allow the program to remove the temporary Internet files, the downloaded program files, the recycle bin, and the temporary files. Under the more options tab, remove any unnecessary Windows components and any other applications that you no longer need. Then click ok to finish the operation. To do all of this manually, you will need to do the following:
- Clean out the temporary Internet files using Internet Explorer
- Use the Control Panel remove extra Windows Components and unneeded installed programs
- Empty the Recycle Bin
- Delete the Windows Temporary files directory (be careful when doing this - particularly in Windows 2000)
The final part of this step is deleting any other extra files on the hard drive that are no longer needed. This means deleting any downloaded programs that you no longer need, as well as going through and removing any old data files that the program uninstallers didn't catch. That means going through and deleting any old save games and the like from the program files directory, as well as removing any of those now un-needed uninstall files.
There is another part to this, and that is removing all of the extra files from the root directory. If you are running Windows 9x, you can remove all but the following files:
* - Deleting these files when Find Fast is installed on a system can cause the system to refuse to boot. You can, however, safely delete them if (1) you use the Find Fast applet in the Control Panel to do it, or (2) if you remove or disable the program before deleting them manually. Weird bug, huh?
If you are running Windows 2000, however, you will need to be a bit more careful - but luckily, Windows 2000's file protection will stop you from deleting anything that is extremely important - but still, make sure you keep a backup of any of the files you delete and you have a working boot disk handy just in case you need to copy the files back to the root directory.
Step 2 - Taking up Where Windows Lets Down
Since way back in Windows 3.1, programs other than the ones that are supposed to have been depositing various files in the system directory. Even now, almost 10 years later, rogue programs have yet to learn their lesson and continue to deposit .dll (dynamic link libraries) in the system directory to stifle and choke the OS. Even uninstalling the original program doesn't remove the files in the system directory, because they 'could' be used by more than one program. However, there is a way to determine which files in the system directory are no longer needed and remove them easily, and it's called Clean System Directory. It searches your computer for file associations that tell the program whether or not the files are needed any longer. It even backs them up for you - just in case. When you download and run the program, make sure you select all of the drives that have installed programs, otherwise the program might remove files that are necessary for those programs to run. The program will even search the registry for associations, so don't worry about your CD driven programs not working after using the program. Just make sure you don't delete the backups of the removed files for a few months just in case there is a problem.
Step 3 - Cleaning the Registry
There are two steps to take when cleaning the registry. The first is to use a program called Regclean, by Microsoft, to automatically clean out the errant entries in the registry. The program is definitely something that they should have put on the Windows CDs. And although this program was originally developed for Windows 9x, it is fully compatible with Windows 2000 - so fear not. And if you do run into a problem, you can always merge the backup registry file into the registry to fix the problem. Run the program at least two times before continuing on to the second part of the registry-cleaning step.
There are two registry keys that you need to search for errant program entries: Hkey_Local_Machine/software and Hkey_Current_User/software. Under these keys you are looking for developers and programs in which you are sure you have uninstalled all of their products. If you don't recognize the name, or you aren't sure you've removed all of the company's products - don't delete the keys. And just to be sure, you should export the keys to a file (using the Registry Export File command) before deleting in case you need to restore the key at a later time (maybe you deleted something you shouldn't have?).
Step 4 - Compressing the Registry
Windows 98 and Windows 2000 (however, not Windows 95) will automatically compress the registry when there is 500 Kb of wasted space in the registry files - however, I am of the opinion that that threshold is too high, and the process is disabled if automatic registry scanning is disabled during startup, so I will give the instructions on how to manually compress the registry. Please keep in mind that it can be very difficult to manually compress the registry in Windows 2000 and it might be advisable to allow Windows 2000 to compress the registry on its own. If you are still running Windows 95, you will need to follow some extra steps due to some problems with the included copy of regedit for Windows 95.
Windows 95 users: Download both FixReg and a new version of Regedit before continuing.
Windows 98 users: No extra files necessary.
Windows 2000 users: No extra files necessary, but there is no guarantee it will work. Continue at your own risk.
Restart the computer in command prompt mode and run the following console commands:
Smartdrv (Win9x only)
regedit /e all.reg
regedit /c all.reg
Then restart your computer. If you are running Windows 95, make sure you run the Fixreg program on the all.reg file you created to include certain keys that the Win95 regedit program doesn't include. You can then delete the all.reg file.
When you are cleaning up your computer, there are some other things you should do at the same time. Personally, I'd look at the System Startup Tweak Guide and look into cleaning out your start-up files. Also, another thing to look into would be to try some other registry cleaners, including but not limited to the ones includes along with the McAfee and Norton suites. There are also some free ones available (including the ones that I mentioned in the original system cleanup guide over a year ago) that catch a few more bad keys then regclean does. The reason they aren't recommended in this revision of the guide is because they aren't 100% compatible with Windows 2000 - and that was an important criteria I had when working on this guide. That doesn't mean that they shouldn't be used, just that I wanted this guide to be as universally useful as possible.
Hopefully, this guide has helped your system run faster, leaner, and generally just better. Performing these steps can remove some of those Windows 'quirks' that pop up from time to time, and generally lengthen the life of a windows installation - even a Windows 2000 installation. Windows 2000 might be a much better OS than Win9x in various aspects, but it still has its problems and it does die every once and a while. As always, if you have any comments or questions, feel free to email me.
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