Skip to main content

Clean up your Windows Context Menus

Context Menus - Menus that appear when you right-click on a file, folder, shortcut or link.

File utilities, various freeware programs, and other applications add commands and submenus to some of your context menus to make using the programs easier. Unfortunately, the more this happens, the more cluttered and less useful your right-click menus become.

Some utilities that add commands to the context menus also provide easy ways for you to customize or remove the items. This is the best and safest approach to tossing context-menu junk. If no such option is available, you can usually alter the menus in all versions of Windows via the Registry.

With your backup in place, select Start, Run, type regedit, and press . At the top of the tree in the left pane, double-click HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT. This Registry key contains data on file types, including the context menus associated with each. To trim items from the right-click menu for folders, navigate the tree diagram on the left to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Directory\shell. Double-click shell to see additional keys. Each key corresponds to one command on the right-click menu for folders. You won't see Windows' built-in commands for folders (you can't remove those); but you should see folders for commands that have been added by other applications.

Back up this portion of the Registry in case you change your mind later or make a mistake. With the shell key selected in the left pane, choose Registry, Export Registry File or File, Export Registry File. Find a suitable location for your backup file (don't worry; it will be small), give the file a name, and make sure that Selected branch is highlighted. Click Save, and then select the key corresponding to the menu command you want to eliminate. For example, to remove the 'Scan for Viruses' menu command installed by McAfee VirusScan, select the VirusScan key and press (or right-click it and choose Delete). When you're done, select File, Exit to close the Registry Editor. The next time you right-click a folder, the extra command will be gone. If you change your mind, locate the Registry export file you created earlier, right-click it, and choose Merge. Click Yes and then OK to acknowledge the process.

Some commands that appear when you right-click a folder aren't part of the Directory key but instead are part of the Folder key--specifically, they're a subbranch of HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Folder\shell. So, for example, if you installed the utility TreeSize that I discussed in last August's Windows Tips column, and now you don't want its command to appear on the context menu, export a backup file of the HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Folder\shell folder, as explained above. Then select and delete the treesize key.

To remove similar commands for other file types, follow a similar process, deleting the appropriate key inside the shell key for the specific file-type key. Unfortunately, finding the right file-type key isn't always easy. One method is to open Windows Explorer (or any folder window), select a file whose context menu has commands you want to remove, and press - to see its context menu. Note how the command appears.

Now return to the Registry Editor, and select HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT to begin the search there. Choose Edit, Find and type the name of the command that you want to remove. Make sure that Data is checked in the 'Look at' section, and click Find Next. If you're lucky, you'll find the command within a key in the shell key of a given file type. File-type keys usually contain the extension in the name--for example, "txtfile" for files with the .txt extension. That should tell you if you're on the right track. As before, export the parent key (such as the shell key) for any keys you delete, in case you make a mistake and need to undo the damage. Then select the key nested within shell and press .

See full story here - Remove Unsolicited Junk From Your Context Menus