Hacking the Context Menu in Vista

Posted: August 22, 2009 in Tweaking, Vista
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What is the context menu? It’s the menu that pops up when you right-click anywhere on your computer. Over the years, these menus have become more and more useful. However, with the extra entries in the context menu, they can become cluttered with options and features that you just don’t need. These next few sections will shown you how you can get your menus back under control as well as how you can take advantage of the new features to make your own context menu entries.

I will start off by removing items from the context menus and then move on to adding and customizing the components of the menus.

Removing items from the context menu

Over time, your context menus can become cluttered with program entries from old programs that you may not use any more. You might experience programs that take over all of your context menus. Compression apps such as WinZip or Picozip always end up adding program entries to all the context menus. I have Picozip installed on my computer and every time I right-click any file or folder, I see five entries from Picozip giving me different compression options. This can be a convenient feature, but if you don’t compress and extract zip files very often, you might not need the added convenience. Instead, you could remove these entries from your context menu, which will give your system a cleaner interface as well as a small performance boost if you have a lot of extra entries in your context menu.

Removing these programs from your context menus can be a little tricky because they can be spread in different places in the Registry. The only way to remove these types of entries is to edit the Registry directly. Follow these steps:

  1. Click the Start button, type regedit in the Search box, and then press Enter.
  2. When the Registry Editor appears, expand the HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT folder. You will now see a list of every file type that is set up on your computer.
  3. If the entry that you want to remove from the context menu appears in all context menus, such as the preceding WinZip example, you will have to expand the * folder. Otherwise, expand the folder with the file extension you want to modify.
  4. After expanding the correct folder, expand the Shellex and ContextMenuHandlers folders. Your registry path should be HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\*\shellex\ ContextMenuHandlers.
  5. Look through the list until you find the entry that you want to remove. Right-click the entry and select Delete. You will find that identifying some of the programs is easy. For example, WinZip is labeled WinZip. However, you may run into some items that are listed using their application/class ID or a vague name. If so, do a Registry search of the class ID (Ctrl+F), which is formatted as {XXXXXXXX-XXXXXXXX-XXXX-XXXXXXXXXXXX}, to find other references that will give you clues to what the ID belongs to. If that does not work, try doing a search on Google to see if that turns up anything.
  6. After you are finished removing all the entries from your context menus, just close Registry Editor and you are finished. Your changes will be in effect immediately.
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