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Windows LogoI believe it was 1998 when my family invested in our first PC. Late by many’s standards, but I was only a nine-year-old kid at the time. Since then, if I had to take a stab in the dark, I’d say I’ve been through about eight different PCs. Some were just replaced by more powerful, newer models. Many suffered hardware failure, because I seem to live in an area prone to lightning strikes and electrical surges. Others, well… we could say it was my fault. You learn how to take better care of a computer as you go through them.

One of the biggest learning experiences is finding out what parts of your computer are sensitive to tweaking. We all have that older relative who seems to think that clicking a button on an installation prompt could result in their entire computer melting. It’s good to be cautious, but not that cautious. If you consider yourself a novice to the Windows platform, here are four areas that I recommend you stay far away from.

Drivers

A driver is basically a piece of Windows software that helps manage a piece of hardware. Your video card needs drivers to function properly. Your mouse might require a driver so that you can customize the wheel’s scroll speed. Your keyboard could need drivers to set up certain media keys.

Keep in mind that it is pretty important to keep your drivers up to date. I’ve put out an article in the past to help MUO readers update their video card drivers How To Safely & Easily Update Your Video Card Drivers How To Safely & Easily Update Your Video Card Drivers Hunting for device drivers isn't such a task anymore, anyway. Most of your Windows drivers will never need to be touched right out of the box. Your video card is in its own sacred territory... Read More , and it isn’t exactly a difficult process. However, putting driver updates into the hands of an automated and third-party program is incredibly risky.

SlimDrivers

SlimDrivers is a really popular tool that does just that. Used with a little discretion and manual babysitting, it can be a really effective tool to keep your computer up to date. But, keep in mind how crucial your drivers are to the functionality of your system. Should a tool like SlimDrivers uninstall your video card drivers and reinstall some set of drivers that isn’t compatible with your system, it could lead to some serious issues.

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Registry

The registry is a database where thousands and thousands of keys and configurations for your system are stored. Already, it sounds like a very touchy area. Think of it this way: every option you tick or setting you select in your Control Panel, or even in a third-party program, is basically just a graphical shell on top of your registry. All of these configurations are being saved as text within the registry. It’s not the most eloquent explanation, but in layman’s terms it’s as close as I will get.

Registry

One of my favorite cleaning utilities, CCleaner, offers the functionality to clean through the registry Optimize Your System To Run At Its Best With CCleaner Optimize Your System To Run At Its Best With CCleaner Over the last two years, CCleaner has changed quite a bit in terms of version numbers...up now to version 3.10 at the time of this writing. While visually the program actually hasn't changed much (it's... Read More . I do not support any type of automated registry sweeping like this. You are unlikely to see significant speed increases Using Registry Cleaner: Does Is It Really Make a Difference? Using Registry Cleaner: Does Is It Really Make a Difference? Advertisements for registry cleaners are all over the Web. There’s an entire industry out there bent on convincing inexperienced computer users that their registry needs fixing, and that, for ten easy payments of $29.95, their... Read More if your registry is tidied up. Moreover, it could lead to an entirely irreparable system if an inexperienced user allows a third party tool to accidentally remove the wrong registry key.

Services

Explaining Windows services is pretty simple. They’re nothing more than a program that operates in the background of your system. One of the first things I do when I get a new PC is sweep through and disable all unnecessary services How to Make Windows 8 Go Faster: 8 Tips For Improving Performance How to Make Windows 8 Go Faster: 8 Tips For Improving Performance Whatever you think of Windows 8 (at MakeUseOf, our opinions are mixed), it’s certainly speedy. Windows 8 boots faster than previous versions of Windows, has lower memory usage, and has a desktop that feels nice... Read More . It’s something I actually recommend.

Windows Services

There are a ton of services you don’t always need. There’s Print Spooler, Bluetooth Support, Remote Registry, Remote Desktop, and more. However, if you go overboard and start disabling services like your DNS Client, Plug and Play, Server, and Workstation, you could face some pretty problematic situations.

The description of many services is a little hazy. If you’re unsure of the finer details of a service, you can always use Google. There are plenty of guides around the web that offer you lists of services that are safe to remove.

Devices

By this, I don’t mean your physical devices. I mean going through your Device Manager.

Device Manager

Many years ago, I had a PC with (I believe) six USB ports at the back of the case. I used just about every one of them. My situation was that sometimes I didn’t need to make use of the devices (be it a webcam or flash drive) connected to that port, and rather than pulling my case out and disconnecting the device physically, I’d disable that device in my Device Manager.

Reading online, this is apparently not the best practice. Not only that, but if you make a single mistake and disable the wrong device, you could be in for a heap of trouble. It wouldn’t be cool to accidentally disable your monitor The 3 Quickest Ways to Turn Off Your Computer Screen [Windows] The 3 Quickest Ways to Turn Off Your Computer Screen [Windows] How many times a day does your computer interface emit its glow into an empty room for endless minutes, until the power management kicks in and turns the screen off? Computer monitors consume a significant... Read More , keyboard, or even a disk drive.

Conclusion

The purpose of this article is to draw your attention to some sensitive parts of your system and give you the confidence to deal with them. You should always handle your PC with caution. Treat it the right way and it’ll be sure to return the favor for many years. Get comfortable with your drivers, registry, services, and devices. Don’t trust automated tools to handle them for you. Learn how to manage and maintain them manually. It is a much safer way to take care of your system.

Have you ever had a major problem while fooling around with one of the four parts of your system mentioned here? Let’s hear your story in the comments!

  1. Jack Alexander
    July 9, 2013 at 2:01 am

    And geek and Spanish. I shall engage you in geek: There is a relatively safe way to work with the registry. First you install ERUNT/NTREGOPT. First thing every morning you back up the entire registry. Then you can take a tool called Vilma Registry Explorer to find keys you might want to remove when you have to hand uninstall a program. Those keys are backed up or you can re-start in safe mode and go back to the morning's registry.

    (NTREGOPT comes in the same package a the other and compresses the registry when it gets gaps in it. I also recommend SysInternals 'Page Defrag" to clean up those files during boot. It's amazing what a fragment in those hives can do to screw up your day.

    I, as opposed to the writer, clean my registry with more than one cleaner: First is Free Registry Repair (repair.exe is the install file), next is Marcos Velascos Security (another regcleaner) and Registry Trash Keys finder.

    I don't recommend any other registry cleaners. I know from years of using them that these ate safe.

  2. Eserpess M
    July 8, 2013 at 4:20 am

    I can't wait to see what they come up with next regarding window registry.

  3. Susan B
    July 7, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    I never learn, I have played with things like Slim Drivers and paid the price. System Restore is one of my best friends. I have mostly stayed aways from 'the dreaded registry' though, it makes me quake in my boots.

  4. Lisa Santika O
    July 7, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    I was getting pretty close with registry and services, but fortunately I managed to avoid irreparable disaster. Certainly make one wiser though.
    I once pranked my friend by messing with his registry (of course, I know how to revert 'em), making his shut down unavailable and making some other minor annoyances.

  5. Ion P
    July 7, 2013 at 11:07 am

    I had problems with all mentioned. I made mistakes and I learnt from those mistakes also - that's the good part of the experience.

    • Lisa Santika O
      July 7, 2013 at 3:08 pm

      Yeah. Nothing's better than learning from your experiences.

    • Lisa Santika O
      July 7, 2013 at 3:08 pm

      Yeah. Nothing's better than learning from your experiences.

  6. GF
    July 7, 2013 at 8:13 am

    Windows Registry is a beast. The worst situation is when malware/adware items intertwine with legitimate items of Windows, so if we manually delete those bad items Windows gets compromised.
    Do you know a way to delete those bad items without damaging Windows?

    • emlyn
      July 7, 2013 at 1:09 pm

      if its just one or two values then you should be able to rewrite the defaults, the problem is finding the keys that have been compromised. best bet is just to do a system restore or use a registry backup.

  7. dragonmouth
    July 7, 2013 at 4:49 am

    Whoever invented the Windows Registry should be smeared with honey and staked out in the middle of a fire ant colony. Of all the bad ideas to come out of Redmond, that was the worst.

    • CCIE5125
      July 7, 2013 at 12:14 pm

      Yeah! We should go back to the good old days when every program, service, device driver and Windows component had its own INI file with it's own syntax! It was much easier to deal with.

      • dragonmouth
        July 15, 2013 at 2:41 pm

        Go ahead, make all the snide commetns your little heart desires but no other modern O/S has a Registry. Maybe it's time that Windows and Microsoft joined rthe 21st century. They replaced one arcane and archaic structure (.INI files) with another (Registry). I can just see running Windows 20 and needing CCLeaner or some other Registry cleaner to cleanup the garbage Windows uninstall provcess left behind.

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