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How to Clean Up Your Messy Windows Context Menu

One of the most irritating things about Windows is the context menu clutter that you have to deal with once you install a bunch of applications. It seems like every application is fighting for a piece of your context menu, and it’s not like you even use half of them.

Today we’ll explain where these menu items are hiding in your registry, how to disable them the geeky way, and an easier cleanup method for non-geeks as well.

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Either way, your context menu won’t look like this one anymore…

Cleaning the Context Menu by Hacking the Registry

If you want to clean things up the truly geeky way, you can open up regedit.exe through the start menu search or run box, and then browse down to one of the following keys… sadly the context menu items are not stored in a single location.

Most of the menu items that used for all files and folders can be found by looking at one of these keys:

HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\*\shell

HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\*\shellex\ContextMenuHandlers

HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\AllFileSystemObjects\ShellEx

Items that are specific to folders can usually be found in one of these keys instead:

HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Directory\shell

HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Directory\shellex\ContextMenuHandlers

The context menu items found at these different locations will need to be handled differently, and we’ll explain how, so keep reading!

Dealing with “shell” Items

Let’s take a look at one item as an example… if you browse down to the shell key under Directory you’ll see the items for Add to VLC media player and Play with VLC. Items under the regular “shell” key are usually really easy to spot, and easy to deal with.

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If you want to hide one of these items so that you’ll have to Shift+Right-Click, then you can add a new string value on the right-hand side and name it “Extended” like you can see below:

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If you’d like to disable it instead, but don’t want to delete the key, you can add a new string value and call it “LegacyDisable”.

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And of course, you could just delete the whole key if you really wanted to… but I’d export a copy just in case.

Dealing with “shellex” Items

You probably noticed the other registry keys above that have “shellex” (Shell Extension) in the name instead of just “shell”. Those types of keys will need to be handled differently… for an example, we’ll head down to one of the keys mentioned above:

HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Directory\shellex\ContextMenuHandlers

These items will be a little more tough to decipher… but you can usually figure out an item by the key name on the left, and then just modify the (Default) value by putting a few dashes in front of it, which will disable the item without actually deleting anything.

In this example, I’ve clicked on 7-ZIP on the left, and by putting dashes in front of the value data I’ve disabled that menu item.

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You’ll want to go through each location in the list at the top of this article until you figure out where exactly the offending items are located. At that point, you can use one of the tricks we mentioned in order to disable that item.

Dealing With Specific File Type Items

Sometimes, although not often, the menu items are located on the registry key for a specific file type. In that case you’ll need to first locate the file extension key by looking under HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT for that extension, which will tell you the name of the key that you need to look for.

For instance, if I wanted to remove a menu item for Excel documents (.xls) I would look at this registry key, which gives me the name of the actual key to look under…

HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\.xls

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As you can see above, the actual type of the file is “Excel.Sheet.8″, so I’ll then browse down to this registry key:

HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Excel.Sheet.8\shell

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And now I can use the same techniques as above to disable items under “shell”… remember LegacyDisable and Extended? Yep, those work here.

Cleaning Up the Context Menu the Easy Way

Instead of hacking the registry, you can use two different NirSoft utilities to clean up the context menu. Sadly, some of the menu items are implemented as Explorer shell extensions (like the “shellex” keys we explained above), and some are implemented as regular context menu items (like the regular “shell” keys we explained above).

The first tool we will check out is ShellMenuView, which allows us to manage all of those “shell” key items with an easy to use interface.

Just browse down until you find the offending item, then click the Disable button… which will actually create a LegacyDisable key just like we explained in the manual section above.

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You’ll see that those items are instantly disabled:

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Next, we need to disable those “shellex” or Shell Extensions, using another great Nirsoft utility appropriately called ShellExView. This one works the same exact way as the first utility… just click on the Disable button to remove the items.

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After using both of these utilities for just a few minutes, I was able to get my context menu back to the pristine “new install” state. 

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Go forth, and clean your context menu clutter! And yes, this works the same in all versions of Windows.

Download ShellExView from nirsoft.net

Download ShellMenuView from nirsoft.net

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 11/19/08

Comments (41)

  1. Chris

    Thanks

  2. Scott K

    Good job, very handy.

  3. Danny

    Thanks, this is excellent information! I’ve used ShellExView in the past, but I greatly appreciate the detailed education about what’s going on in the registry that your geeky section gives.

  4. Ian

    So, what’s the point to disable TortoiseSVN shell integration? That pristine windows context menu looks bad!

  5. Brazilianboiii

    Great! Is there a file we would download instead thoes saves a little more time.

  6. thesun

    whats the difference between shellexview and shellmenuview?
    do we use both or can we just use one to delete the menu items

  7. Aaron

    Nothing I do–and I’ve tried a lot of different methods–gets rid of Paint when I right-click, Open with… on an image. Any suggestions?

  8. Howard

    on my VISTA I also have the following SHELL key:
    HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Folder\shell

  9. jd2066

    @thesun:
    ShellMenuView manages static context menu entries that are added to a file types shell key.
    ShellExView manages Shell Extensions including Context Menu handlers that give you dynamic context menu entries.
    Dynamic context menu entries are ones with sub menus, custom icons and ones that change depending on the selected file, like “Add to zip selectedfile.zip”.

  10. CD

    Excellent tip.
    As always, GEEK rocks!

  11. Watcher

    Another Tool you can use:

    * Fast Explorer 2008 – http://thesoftpro.tripod.com/downloads/fe/index.htm

  12. AnotherJoe

    No, no, no!!! Just get StudioZai Menu Organizer. A free little program that makes modifying context menus a breeze. Right click on any folder or file, and at the top of the menu you will see “Organize This Menu”. All items appear. Check the appropriate box and the item is removed (or added). I have no interest in Studio Zai, but it simplifies an issue that troubles/frustrates many.

  13. BookwormDragon

    Is there a way that I can make the “Copy as Path” option appear on the rightclick menu as well as the shift-rightclick menu in Vista?
    I use it all the time, and it would be nice to be able to eliminate the “oops, didn’t hold shift down while clicking” step in the process.

  14. Carl

    Isn’t there a way to REORDER the context menu? I don’t want to hide or disable
    items, I just want to change the order they’re displayed .

  15. Graham

    Great tip! Thanks!
    Question:
    1. do the programs you’ve mentioned work with Vista
    2. how do I add an executable to the “new” section of a context menu, e.g. add “MS Document” to the “new” menu.

    Thanks!

    Graham

  16. Sam

    Great info!! Thank you very much you have helped me greatly!

  17. derek

    IT doesn’t seem to work (shellexview and shellmenuview) the context menus remain the same

  18. Clayton

    I want to echo Carl’s question – I can remove them, that’s fine, but what about re-ordering or re-grouping (removing/adding the horizontal rules) Is there any way to do this?

  19. AnotherJoe

    ShellEXView is the solution. Just go back and forth between the right-click options (click on a file or folder on your desktop to see what you have), then find them under “Context Menu” and “disable” in ShellExView. I had a problem with my computer freezing when right-clicking on certain kinds of files, e.g., PDF, and this took care of it.

  20. Cindy

    Here’s a way to modify the “send to” part of the context menu. If you go to folder options, “view” tab, and check view hidden files and folders, you can then go to your c drive and into documents and settings and into your user name and see the send to folder. I used it to create a shortcut to my second hard drive. Don’t forget to change folder options back to “do not show hidden files and folders”

  21. kusumakc

    Thanks. I’ve now installed Shellexview and using it. It is really easy to use, and useful too.

  22. Phil

    Does anyone know how to disable context menu items for a SPECIFIC item? I’m running Windows 7 and I’ve put the recycle bin on the taskbar; I’d like to get rid of the majority of the context menu items but only for the recycle bin on the taskbar.

  23. Brandon

    Is there any way to rename the delete command in the context menu? I’ve looked all over google but as you can imagine it’s very hard to word it properly so it will come up with the correct results.

  24. Chris

    So I was having a problem with my windows explorer crashing any time I right clicked an exe file. This is a huge problem with thousands of threads online of people with the same problem. I followed your advise (the easy method) and fixed my problem! After two years of explorer crashing, I can finally use my right-click in windows. Thank you.

  25. Kodsworth

    Thanks so much for letting us know about these. I’ve been wanting to clear stuff off my context menus for years.

  26. Chirag

    Thanking You in tons and tons
    =D

  27. zepe

    Is there a way to rearrange the position of a certain item? For example, I rename a lot of files and Delete is right next to Rename so I have to be careful not to click on the Delete button. I’d like to reposition the Delete button to a different location.

  28. dan

    i dont understand a bit of it but its very interesting !!

  29. Izzle

    This one is Firefox specific but it does the trick.

    https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/710/?src=api

    Menu Editor 1.2.6
    by Devon Jensen, Nickolay Ponomarev

    Customize application menus:

    Rearrange or remove menuitems from the main context menu (right-click menu) and main menubar (File Edit View etc.)

  30. Justin

    Pretty sure this isn’t “hacking”.

  31. RichardC

    Tried the manual hack to kill the AddToPlayListVLC per your instructions. Didn’t work.

  32. ConcernedGuy

    Hello, i downloaded the shexview.zip and my antivirus, Webroot, tagged it as a suspected “App\nirsoft-gen” hacking tool. “Hacking tools are malicious software that is used to harm a computer” Anyone have an idea why this happened? It tagged it twice, once as a zip, (then i extracted everything in it), then once as a .exe.

  33. jolin

    I think an easy to keep your Computer from Running Slow is to install a PC protector or cleaning, according to my personal experience, Tuneup360 is good choice, and your computer takes only 30 sec to start up if you have it!!!

  34. pokemon

    this works great. Thanks a lot!

  35. Anon

    Great post. After I decided to use this plus Right-Click Enhancer. I cleared almost everything out of the shellmenuview. As it stands its a good mix of good UI and full options/control. However, It would be nice if they had some smarter sorting methods. Also they also need the ability to make changes to properties, make copies, etc – I guess I could do it manually.

  36. sirmusta

    Good way to change “send to” programs is in path “shellink:sendto”

  37. anil sapre

    Thanks for the information, but my problem is different.
    In my PC when I open My Computer it shows all drive as per partition + shared doc folder.

    The problem is when I click to open any drive, it automatically open in ACDBrowser and if I uninstall my ACDBrower it open the drive in Search option.
    My shortcut menu(right click) to open any drive is :
    ACDBrowser
    Search….
    NPAV Scan (my antivirus – net protector)
    Open
    Explore
    ___________________________
    Sharing and Security
    and so on…..

    So, please help me to rectify this problem.

  38. Neil Katz

    ShellExView worked like a dream. I had just installed Norton Internet Security 2012 on my Win 64 bit PC. Knowing this, I tried disabling this first and the problem disappeared.

  39. zepe

    The issue that bugs me the most in the Context Menu is that Delete and Rename are right next to each other. I do a fair amount of renaming of files and invariably I’ll accidentally delete something wheen I want to rename it. I don’t want to delete either, so is there a way to separate the two?

  40. toad

    @ thesun……
    ….you must use both to see all the possible entries.
    As the article explains, some entries are in a different structure than the others.

  41. toad

    @ ConcernedGuy …..
    ……..This is normal. The Anti-guys look at “behavioral” heuristics of an object; meaning, if it can diddle the registry…it might be used maliciously.

    The user (you) must decide if it’s a good diddle or a bad diddle.
    In this case, it’s a good un.

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