Help File: Registry Cleaners and Special Characters

By Rob Pegoraro
Sunday, August 2, 2009

Q My old PC has really slowed down. Can you recommend a registry cleaner to speed it up?

A I wish I could do so with any great enthusiasm.

The Windows registry -- a fiendishly complex database of software settings -- can slow down a PC when too many uninstalled programs' leftover registry entries accumulate. But registry-cleanup tools have issues of their own.

If something goes wrong during a registry-cleanup session, you can be left with a broken or inoperative system. If you avoid that fate, overly aggressive defaults can cause other issues: One program I've recommended before, the free CCleaner (, will zap some useful Internet and system data unless you adjust its settings.

And even if you do everything right in a program such as CCleaner or the also well-regarded EasyCleaner, you may not see much of a speedup for your troubles. Try one of those programs if you're desperate, but proceed cautiously and don't expect miracles.

How do I type special characters like the copyright symbol that don't appear on the keyboard?

The easiest way is to copy them off a Web page or a document, then paste them into whatever you're working on. But you can also use tools in Windows and Mac OS X to generate these characters.

In Windows XP, go to the Start menu's All Programs menu, select Accessories, then System Tools, then Character Map. (In Vista, type "character" in the Start menu's search box.) Select the character you want, double-click it, and click the Copy button to have it ready to paste elsewhere.

In OS X, go to the Edit menu of most newer programs and select "Special Characters . . .," then copy the character you want.

Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or Visit for his Faster Forward blog.

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