• My Essential Geek's Geek's List

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    My essential geek’s list, in no particular order:

    • Classic Shell is a MUST HAVE, not only for improving the start menu but for invoking a number of other configurable desktop tweaks.
    • O&O ShutUp10 is good for getting back some control over privacy.
    • Winaero Tweaker gives some good control over appearance and behavior.
    • Sphinx Windows Firewall Control offers security and unprecedented ease of maintenance. It’s commercial software but not horrendously expensive.
    • Aero Glass for Win 8+ brings back translucency and even rounded corners, but it’s very geeky to get running. It’s donationware/shareware.
    • Irfan View is a great desktop image viewer. It even does color-management properly if you set it to do so.
    • BowPad is a nice free text editor.
    • WizMouse handles some gaps in routing mouse events to windows hovered-over.
    • ShellFolderFix is cool for positioning File Explorer windows where you left them last.
    • Process Hacker 2 is what you always hoped the Task Manager could be and then some.
    • Tortoise SVN is awesome if you’re into developing software or changing files and want to keep track of changes.
    • MalwareBytes AntiMalware free version is a nice extra malware scanner. The subscription version may be worth having, but I don’t use it that way so I can’t say.
    • ShellExView by Nir Sofer for managing what’s augmenting File Explorer on your system.
    • Scanner by Steffen Gerlach is neat for seeing your disk usage overview as a series of concentric pie charts.
    • FastPictureViewer Codec Pack (commercial, but cheap) makes it possible to see proper thumbnails for pretty much any kinds of images, including all digital camera raw files.
    • Folder Options X by T800 brings you the ability to tweak File Explorer in some nice ways.
    • Send To Toys by Gabriele Ponti brings something to the File Explorer context menu that I can’t live without: Send To > Clipboard As Name.
    • Beyond Compare compares lots of different kinds of files and folders, and is another I couldn’t do without. Commercial but not terribly expensive.
    • 7-Zip File Manager for looking into all kinds of compressed archive formats.
    • Passmark PerformanceTest (commercial) for doing occasional testing to ensure performance is optimal, and its big online database is fantastic for trying to figure out how various computer hardware platforms perform.
    • HWMonitor for looking at temperatures.
    • grepWin is a good search tool that is flexible, quick, and rigorous.
    • Visual Studio 2015 Community Edition fully featured and free software development environment that can even be used legally for commercial products by a small business.

    This is just off the top of my head. There are probably more I’m not thinking of. I’ll edit this as I remember them.


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    • #95220

      A few more..

      CCleaner (Portable) – is an easy to use, safe, well-known drive cleaner with other additional features including a conservative registry cleaner, startup manager and more.

      CCEnhancer – Script generator for CCleaner to access additional settings.

      Wise Registry Cleaner (Portable) – Registry cleaner with additional settings for system speed tweaks and SSD drives.

      Been using these for years.

      No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created IT- AE
      • #95261

        Out of curiosity, what benefit do you feel you get from a registry cleaner? I’ve never thought much of them myself, and have never felt the need to run one. My systems run as efficiently as ever, for all the years they’re needed.


        • #95262

          The registry entries that are not in use are ignored.
          Just a nice way to get rid of obsolete entries, but otherwise it is only cosmetic.

          2 users thanked author for this post.
    • #97372


      I only remove obsolete reg entries once I have uninstalled a program, especially if it’s a legacy program with older installer types.

      In this particular utility, there are lazy optimizations for SSD’s and System performance on the second tab, which saves a considerable amount of time tweaking the system to achieve speed and responsiveness, doubles up nicely.

      Therein also lays a registry defragmenter tool which, optimizes the registry that becomes fragmented over time. Registry fragmentation is overlooked by a lot of techies and you’d be surprised at the registry percentage reduction if this hasn’t been done before.

      NOTE: Edit the utility settings within first before using to preserve privacy, settings etc.. and block the executable via firewall rules. There is a PUP (flagged by MBAM) within it, in the form of it’s own mini-browser but, will be blocked via firewall rule already in place.

      Don’t remove the PUP as it breaks the utility, yes I’ve tried 🙂

      Some of these geek essentials go without saying really but, are used most in our systems.

      MS Services, MSconfig, Task Scheduler, GPedit, Firewall and Regedit

      The holy grail of Windows geeks 😉

      No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created IT- AE
      1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #99467

        On my workstation (running the same install of Win 8.1 continuously since 2013) I don’t think I’ve seen any performance degradation due to registry fragmentation nor leftover entries, so I don’t believe I’ll be running a registry cleaner / defragmenter any time soon. I’m a bit obsessive about tweaking, but more so about stability than anything else.


        Without ever having run a registry cleaner, as far as I can tell everything on my system is still as snappy as the day I installed it.

        • IE starts up and shows my home page in 0.4 seconds.
        • AskWoody.com shows in the browser in 1.4 seconds.
        • MS Word starts and shows me a blank document in 0.6 seconds.
        • File Explorer starts and shows me the root of C: in 0.4 seconds.
        • The only application I notice the startup time for is Photoshop CC: 4 seconds.
        • A CMD window starts instantly (I can’t measure any delay).
        • DIR C:\Windows\*sRGB*.* /S takes 4 seconds.


        Can you describe something that happens more quickly after registry defragmentation? I’m not talking about the theory of fragmentation, but something noticeable and measurable in practice.


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    • #99515

      I like WinZip. There are three features of WinZip that I benefit from:
      * Shrink your files to smaller sizes.
      * Package a bunch of files into one zip file. Convenient when emailing files.
      * Encrypt your files with password protection. Essential when emailing sensitive information.

      Group "L" (Linux Mint)
      with Windows 8.1 running in a VM
      1 user thanked author for this post.
    • #109111

      Out of curiosity, what benefit do you feel you get from a registry cleaner? I’ve never thought much of them myself, and have never felt the need to run one. My systems run as efficiently as ever, for all the years they’re needed. -Noel

      I regularly use the free version of CCleaner in order to remove outdated registry entries in order to reduce registry bloat which both takes up memory and which slows down registry access, and to clean up my web browser profiles before periodically making backup copies of my web browser profiles.

      I deliberately configured the free version of CCleaner to not launch on startup, and I disabled system and active monitoring since in my opinion, cleaning the registry should only be done when the user specifically desires to do so. I never run CCleaner within 15 minutes after bootup since some processes which check for and install updates for installed programs might run during this time period. This also includes antivirus programs which may download updates during this time period. So instead, I preferably run CCleaner just before rebooting my computers in order to remove the built up junk from the registries. Registry bloat can and will slow down any Windows computer.

      If you have never used CCleaner to clean up your computer’s registry, then you should note that when you use CCleaner to scan for registry issues, CCleaner tunnels down to the deepest nested levels within the registry which contain outdated data, and then marks these deepest levels within the registry for deletion. The user would then delete these outdated registry entries. After doing so, the user will then run the same CCleaner registry scan again, and then delete the outdated higher up registry entries. The user then repeats this process until CCleaner no longer reports any registry issues. At this point, the registry should no longer contain any outdated registry entries for uninstalled programs, unless the user didn’t manually delete leftover folders after previously uninstalling computer software, yet which were created during the installation of the now deleted computer software.

      In any event, keeping the registry clean really is quite helpful in terms of maintaining the overall speed and performance of Windows. Nothing is as fast as a fresh install of Windows. Yet keeping the registry clean by removing all registry bloat (outdated registry entries) not only improves the overall performance of Windows, but also makes it faster for AV software to scan for, identify, and repair corrupted registry settings which were set by malware.

      On a final note, NEVER run CCleaner or similar registry cleaners if you suspect that your computer is infected with viruses or malware! Why? Because many AV programs and AV removal tools specifically look for new or altered registry entries which indicate specific types of infections!

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      • #109129

        I regularly use the free version of CCleaner in order to remove outdated registry entries in order to reduce registry bloat which both takes up memory and which slows down registry access…

        Improving performance sounds like a great reason, but my problem is that I’ve never been able to actually measure any of that supposed slowdown myself, so I’ve not been able to justify the possibility of corrupting or destabilizing something.

        I’m using the “if it works don’t fix it” philosophy, and so far that’s been working out well for me.


        I’ve embarked on some objective testing of CCleaner. Early results imply that there may actually be some small practical performance gains to be had on systems that have been in use for years. I’ve done some basic testing so far on both Win 8.1 and 10 test systems. CCleaner claimed to find and remove 1,000+ registry issues with each one. Notably the Win 10 system AFTER being “CCleaned” is still not as efficient as the Win 8.1 system before application of the software.


        • #109136

          CCleaner is so much more than a registry cleaner.  I have been using it on demand only, and generally ignore the registry.

          My general plan is to use it to cut the weeds that accumulate regarding temp files, recycle bin, internet cache, internet history, cookies, download history, clipboard, Adobe Flash, recently typed URL’s, recent documents, custom files and folders, etc.  You can also manage your startup programs, browser plugins, and scheduled tasks.  Also locate duplicate files, secure delete files, wipe drive free space.

          My favorite feature is cookie whitelisting, where you can set the cookies for sites that you want to keep, and the cookie cleaner deletes the rest!!!

          I think the concept of registry bloat affecting performance is a myth for today’s modern computers.

          What I will say about the registry is that unfortunately, due to some bad programming by third parties, not all application installers/uninstallers are created equal.

          Some uninstallers may leave a mess behind that can only be fixed with careful manual registry editing or a clean Windows install.  The potential for software conflicts with the remnants of past installs does exist.

          I cringe whenever I see a web support site moderator tell a newbie to run the registry cleaner and then re-install his misbehaving application.

          I imagine that a power user who knows what they are doing, who carefully backs up the registry entries first, can use the CCleaner reg cleaner to assist with navigating the entries, before resorting to a manual search and destroy mission with regedit.

          But I definitely would not run a registry cleaner on autopilot with a daily schedule or whatever, LOL!  I remember completely destroying a couple of Win95/98 machines with registry cleaners back in the day!

          Windows 10 Pro 22H2

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        • #109137

          I use CCleaner to clean out the registry every now and then. I don’t install a whole lot of software, but it’s nice to get all the unneeded stuff out of there. I still use it because I have noticed a difference after running it when I exclusively used XP up until the end of last year. It does seem to keep old systems running faster for longer in my experience and does affect boot time if there’s enough clutter in there. Besides, it can’t be a good thing to have a huge pile of entries in there that are no longer needed for anything. It’s just more unnecessary work the PC has to do.

          I actually just ran it this morning and the only things that ever come up are entries left over from uninstalling software. I have never once had the registry become corrupted or damaged in any way from doing this, but as I mentioned, I have certainly noticed speed improvements if there was a lot of stuff to remove. If I’d never noticed any real difference or benefit, I would have stopped using it a long time ago. Clutter is never good on a PC. Oh, and it’s also an outstanding temp file etc.. cleaner. Does an outstanding job. It really is a nice little utility.

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      • #109119

        ^^Well said. I too use utilize the application.

        @Noel. Do a Export of your registry and time it.. Install Ccleaner and run the registry “Scan for Issues” as instructed by GonetoPlaid. Do an Export of your registry again and test/compare speed and file size.

        Out of curiosity can you elaborate on the yellow entries in you’re photo? Are they still there after running the Ccleaner registry scan/fix?

        • #109284

          I honestly don’t care how long it would take to export the entire registry.

          What I do care about is system and application performance.

          I’m in the midst of doing some objective testing, using activities I often actually do (starting various applications, doing software development activities) to see not only whether a “cleaned” registry might make a difference, but also how things like running or not running SuperFetch, running or not running Windows Defender or MalwareBytes, etc. affect the times.

          Watch this space for the objective results. I hope to be done today, but I don’t know if I’ll pull it off.

          Unless I see something well under the run to run variations I’m already seeing, I won’t be running any tool that alters my registry any time soon.

          Edit: Those yellow items in Autoruns appear to be leftovers from the version 1703 in-place upgrade. I will check what happens with them when I run CCleaner.

          Edit 2:

          OK, I’ve had a chance to objectively test Win 10 Creator’s before and after a CCleaner “clean sweep” (registry and file cleanup). My test system is a VM for which I can restore a snapshot in just a few seconds, so I am free to hammer away at it. I did the whole 9 yards just to see what would happen.

          First, the yellow entries noted did NOT go away after the run:


          Second, I was able to measure a noticeable across the board improvement in the times to do various real-world things, and also some improvement in File Explorer access to the files on the disk. The file cleanup was no doubt responsible for some of that, and I’m going to do more detailed testing to get to the bottom of just what operations have caused an overall about 20% improvement in responsiveness for a system that’s been through all the upgrades since the pre-releases of Windows 10.


          Interesting, very interesting.


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          • #110100

            ^^Thanks Noel^^ anon~ April 18, 2017 at 3:39 am #109189

            I’m very please you prep’ed a VM to do these test. To clarify, the performance was with Ccleaner No AV, and a run on the (registry parsing?)

            I’m studying your info graphic and was wondering if you can explain (enumerating all files under C:) and what that entailed.. brief as possible ~ never heard of an app doing that. Why did it take longer and why are there more files w/ the CC’er no AV?

            … in the last couple days I took a windows 8.1 iso and did a clean install over my pc that has been brought from Vista, beta 8, 8 w/media center, 8.1 pro, to 10 ~ back to 8.1.
            It has seen a lot of mileage.

            Boy do I feel relieved.  I’ have a 10 gig sysimage and the thing will do a Malewarebytes full scan in under 2 mins.  And yes I had to open my router up to ActiveX to get the 183 updates. I just to make you all laugh: I have not done any CC/reg scanning.

            One last tidbit Noel. Have you’ve heard of the Ccleaner add on called “WINAPP2.INI“? Deeper penetration of scan-able programs to find liter.

            Thanks for your time and steadfast delivery of pertinent images and benchmarking.

    • #109140

      The items from your list that are definitely on my A-list are the Sphinx W10FC (free version working great here), Malwarebytes Free, and 7-Zip.  🙂

      I will need to check out some of the others on that list I have never heard of.  That’s an accomplishment considering I’ve been on Windows since DOS, LOL!  🙂

      As I already mentioned, I really like CCleaner free for it’s non registry related attributes.  The developer, Piriform, also provides a couple of other useful tools for free.  Very user friendly and nice UI’s.  Speccy is good for drilling down into your system specs, and you can export the info in text format to send to a support person if necessary.  And the Recuva utility lets you locate deleted files on your hard drive.  Handy stuff!

      I would also say that there are a lot of great tools in Sysinternals free suite, but the standouts are Process Explorer (task manager on steroids), TCPView (see what you are connecting with), and Autoruns (view and enable/disable startup programs, scheduled tasks, services, drivers, etc)

      Nirsoft has a couple of goodies in the BlueScreenView (breaks out your blue screen crashes) and AppCrashView (review you windows error reports from app crashes).

      WinDirStat, lets you see a tree view of folders/files in order of space used for any drive on your system.  Great for general system cleanup, and answering that age old question, where did all my disk space go???

      Windows 10 Pro 22H2

    • #109174

      I am with Noel here. I am very doubtful that cleaning the reigstry does much to improve performance, just like having  75 percent of your disk filled with data compared to 50% doesn’t make any difference in performance. Searching through the registry is probably not a bottleneck for application performance.  I would be very curious to see someone actually does a before and after test on real world performance of apps, not just on exporting the registry itself. If you copy your 75 percent of hd to another hd, yes it will be longer, but if you ask windows to load one of the files, be it on the 50% filled system vs 75% filled, I doubt there will be a perceptible difference, as the seeking won’t be critical in there. After all, the registry is like a big file full of text, not a complex database full of rules and integrity checks. The bloat in there is text, not huge data not used with tons of space taken and waiting to be reclaimed. Windows probably have more useless bloat in other places than there, like where it keeps a copy of each video card driver versions ever installed. Now talk about useless space lost.

      That said, I too think that CCleaner is quite nice and I might use it sometimes to clean some bloat when in quick need of disk space on someone else machine. However, I am always a bit worried the registry cleaning part might break something by mistake.  In any case, if you need to clean the registry to feel your computer is clean, I certainly wouldn’t do it more than one or two times a year. My work computer is still as fast as when I installed it and I never cleaned the registry in almost 7 years.

      • #109199

        And I would generally recommend making a full system image before touching the registry …

        Windows 10 Pro 22H2

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      • #109189


        The real world test you speak of would be to see if we could rid ourselves of errant line items in this depiction.

        Just for kicks, I did a full export 177MB and opened it in Notepad++
        Couple seconds later I scrolled to the bottom 1,500,000 lines down. Noticed that the status bar on Notepad++ shows this as a …. wait for it…. keep waiting..

        MS INI File

        So those of us with Windows for Workgroups can appreciate at least Microsoft’s efforts to honor the hierarchy.

        Trim reg file often, but it is mine and I have sysimages.   Would not do this on a corporate machine ever!  Would not/do not hesitate to do this on PC’s that I am familiar with knowing the software and the user personally.

        • #109264

          It could become troublesome should you be able to remove all ‘file not found’ lines in Autoruns with a Registry tool, there are a number of legitimate 3rd party drivers/Services/exes (and at least one MS/Sysinternals file, iirc) that are created dynamically (‘on the fly’) as the software is started: they don’t exist in the filesystem until then and are removed when the software exits.

        • #109521

          The real world test you speak of would be to see if we could rid ourselves of errant line items in this depiction.

          CCleaner didn’t do it, but of course those lines in yellow can be deleted manually right from Autoruns, or the tool could be used to start the Registry Editor on the areas with errant keys.

          A good question before leaping into action is: What harm do they do by being there?


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          • #109560

            Your testing above was interesting and only validates what I already found to be true by using it for all these years; it improves system performance.

            With regards to the registry, I have used CCleaner to clean out my registry for YEARS and have never done backups of the registry. Reckless perhaps, but I’ve never had an issue (ever, not once in all my years with Windows have I ever had a registry corruption or anything like that) not even when the program was way back in the 1.x versions of the software. I will say that I never allow it to fix issues automatically and prefer to go through each entry and delete it manually so I know exactly what I’m deleting. If I don’t know what something is, I don’t do anything to it though I have never had that problem.

            Recently, the only things it found were related to MKVToolNix which is just a video editor I was messing around with. It left behind about a dozen registry keys that were now useless, so the question then becomes is this supposed to happen? Is uninstalled software supposed to leave all kinds of garbage in the registry and if not, why shouldn’t it be removed? I will say that those who aren’t irresponsible about installing third party software willy-nilly probably have nothing to worry about over the long run, but there’s still going to be garbage in the registry that shouldn’t be there at all.

            When I used XP and had just found out about CCleaner in my search to find an easier way to clean out all the temp files on my PC which I kept up with pretty well, I ran it for the first time on the registry and it found a LOT of stuff in there. My PC was old and slow (no malware or adware though) which led me to try it and after the first reboot, my PC booted faster and ran smoother in every aspect. Ever since then, I’ve kept it around though I don’t clean the registry that much; maybe once every 2-3 months and I never let it delete registry entries on it’s own. It is always done manually so I know what it’s deleting.

            Anyway, I don’t foresee any problems with the registry becoming damaged. I’ve been using it since I had that old PC that was going on 10 years old that was in such bad shape that I had to keep the cover off the side because the processor fan stopped working and was waiting as long as possible before I replaced the whole thing a long time ago. If it could make that thing run faster at all, it must be doing something right. So, I’ve been using it through three PC’s now including this one and have had zero problems/all benefit from it’s use.

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            • #109598

              Your testing above was interesting and only validates what I already found to be true by using it for all these years; it improves system performance.

              The first set of tests on my VMs seemed very encouraging, BUT…

              When I escalated the testing to my hardware system (workstation) that’s been running Win 8.1 (and used hard) continuously since I installed it in 2013, guess what I found?

              Doing the same sets of operations as on the VM before and after on the hardware system and I measured no appreciable/noticeable performance differences.


              I can only guess that because it’s my main hardware system I’ve been more careful with it, whereas I’ve done more installs/uninstalls and done more testing with my VMs. Also note that my Win 10 test VM has been through several in-place upgrades.

              The tests after the CCleaner registry and file system cleanup (and a reboot) on my hardware system are shown in green in the following screen grab. Note that the disk performance test always varies fairly widely, probably because it’s a very high performance I/O subsystem and the test is on the system volume, which is occasionlly used for other things by coincidence during the testing (and which would affect the outcome of the test).


              At this point, even though I did measure some positive results on some of my systems, I really cannot recommend “registry cleaning” purely for performance reasons. I suggest you avoid doing so unless you specifically know you are experiencing problems because of leftovers from uninstalls. The risk of breaking something outweighs the potential reward. NO registry cleaner software can possibly know if a particular database entry is needed. It’s making decisions based on what it finds in other entries and what the author knows of common practices.

              Also note that I have not yet done enough testing on my hardware system to tell whether anything’s broken. I only tried the registry cleaning on it because:

              • I tested thoroughly in VMs first.
              • I have a great set of backups and all the skills to restore the machine to working order if something goes wrong.


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    • #110535

      Xsearch is my  fav search tool for windows.

      Tiny program that does the job well for me.


      I also like a tool called Unhider.(Google : Unhider.exe 2008 softdesigner)

      A utility that can help you to find and unhide any hidden window after explorer crashes and you lose some  minimized  sys tray icons.


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