If you look at typical badware like Antivirus Suite 2010, ThinkPoint, or Smart Engine Antivirus, one thing you’ll notice about these fake antispyware programs is that they all make changes to the Windows registry. Some add new registry values, some alter existing ones, and the worst badware can completely wipe out registry entries that are crucial to your PC’s functioning.
Even when you successfully remove a virus, worm, or fake antispyware program, it can be hard to return the registry to its original state. If you’re Windows-savvy, perhaps you backup your registry on a regular basis, but how many of us actually do that? I write about badware daily, and I even I forget to back up my registry.
Unfortunately, even if you do a good job of avoiding badware, the registry does degrade over time, and you’ll never get your computer back to its original pristine state. Still, there are some things you can do to clean things up and extend your PC’s lifespan.
Option 1: System Restore
Even if you don’t backup your registry, the good news is that most Windows systems have a System Restore feature that can basically take your computer back in time to an earlier, more healthy state. If you’ve recently been attacked by badware, you might want to do a system restore as soon as possible. By default, restore points are usually deleted after a few days (and they’re usually made when Windows automatically updates), so don’t wait.
You should be able to find your System Restore feature in your Start Menu, under Accessories -> System Tools. All you have to do is follow the prompts, and it’s pretty easy.
Option 2: Other Windows tools
There are a few other built-in Windows features you can use to restore repair your registry and keep your computer running smoothly, including:
- The SFC/SCANNOW Command: This may sound complicated based on the name, but all you have to do is open a command prompt from under Accessories in your Start Menu (you might want to right click on it and choose “Run as Administrator” so you don’t get blocked within the command prompt), then type sfc /scannow and press Enter. Then, wait for the process to complete. It will probably take a while. Essentially, this feature sorts through all the files and registry entries on your computer and fixes any corrupt items it finds.
- Repair Install: In Windows, a Repair Install is sort of a less dramatic version of a complete system reinstall. While it doesn’t get rid of user accounts, data, programs, or software drivers, it does reset sounds, services, visual effects, some device drivers, custom themes, and some Windows updates. If you don’t mind losing these things, consult these official Repair Install instructions from Microsoft.
- Startup Repair: If your computer is acting funny after a badware attack, it could be because your system is not starting up properly. You can try fixing this through the Startup Repair feature of Windows. All you have to do is insert your recovery disk (nothing will be lost in this process), restart your computer, wait for the System Recovery Options screen to appear, and choose Startup Repair when prompted. You’ll then be guided through the relatively quick and simple process.
Option 3: Non-Windows Programs
There is a whole slew of programs that promote themselves as registry repair tools. Many of these programs aren’t free, and some don’t actually do much of anything, so make sure you know what you’re getting into before you download one of them. We haven’t tried every registry repair program out there, but one that we’ve found to be pretty effective is CCleaner. CCleaner is completely free, and it makes registry repair almost too easy. Frankly, it’s probably not as effective as the built-in Windows tools, but it’s hard to tell. Anyway, since CCleaner is free and doesn’t come with the bloatware that other registry cleaners will foist upon you, it can’t hurt to give it a try.