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The Count Keys in the Windows Registry
What They Do, How To Understand Them, and How To Remove Them
~~Vic Ferri, WinTips and Tricks

The Count keys are a couple of lesser known and rather mysterious registry keys that are used to log some of your online and offline activity. This leads one to believe that these are "spyware" keys but it's important to realize that these keys are also used by legitimate sources - both online and offline. Installing hardware, software, making system changes and even just rebooting your computer usually adds entries to the Count keys. And even online, many sites you consider trustworthy may add info to these keys when you visit them. Over time, this key can become quite inflated and not even deleting all your History, Cookies and Temp files will clear the Count entries. So even if you do not care about the logging, you may want to clear these keys occasionally as part of your disk cleanup.

You do have choices here - the logging can be stopped or you can easily delete these keys whenever you wish. No utiltities are needed to perform these functions.

Just how many entries your count keys contain depend on how many unique sites you explore and how often you make changes to your system and how much software you install and configure. Having said that, I do not know if there is a limit to how much this key can hold but in my testing I imported over 3000 values into it and they all held. But the norm is usually in the hundreds, though I've heard of some users whose count keys had over 5,000 entries in them. So it all depends.

There really isn't much reliable information on the net about these keys.

So where are these keys?

First, you may have two Count keys which are subkeys of the UserAssist key. These keys are in the same location in the Registry in all versions of Windows:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\ Software\ Microsoft\ Windows\ CurrentVersion\ Explorer\ UserAssist\ {5E6AB780-7743-11CF-A12B-00AA004AE837}\ Count

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\ Software\ Microsoft\ Windows\ CurrentVersion\ Explorer\ UserAssist\ {75048700-EF1F-11D0-9888-006097DEACF9}\ Count

To get to them, click your Start button, then Run. Type regedit and click ok and make your way to keys above.

When you look at the values in the right hand pane, you will see that the names don't seem to make any sense:
i.e.; HRZR_EHACVQY:%pfvqy6%\Yvaxf\Tbbtyr-Tebhcf.hey

That's because the names are encrypted. I really can't tell you why Microsoft chose to encrypt them but I can tell you that the encryption used is a simple text rotation one known as ROT-13 that is child's play to decode. The way this encryption works is by substituting letters - each letter is replaced by the letter 13 positions ahead (and thus the name - ROTation -13).  For example, the letter a becomes the letter n. (bcdefghijklmn = 13 letters), b becomes 0, c becomes p, etc. 13 letters covers the whole alphabet: i.e.;  if the letter is m it becomes z and if the letter is z it becomes m. Numbers and other characters are left as is.  You sometimes see this encryption in newsgroup postings as a method to hide offensive comments and many news readers allow decrypting such messages. In Outlook Express, for example, you just open the message and click Message>Unscramble.

So if we take the above example (which is actually a true entry from a test on my own PC),
HRZR_EHACVQY:%pfvqy6%\Yvaxf\Tbbtyr-Tebhcf.hey  translates to UEME_RUNPIDL:%csidl6%\Links\Google-Groups.url

Still doesn't make the information totally clear but it does make it readable and provides obvious clues as to who put the value in your registry. As you can see in this example, it was Google who placed the value there.  And yes it was placed in the Count key when I went to the Google Groups page.

Once you have decrypted a number of entries, you will notice that most entries fall under one of the categories below:  (but exactly what each category holds is not really clear to me)

UEME_CTLSESSION: (the first value entered always seems to begin with this)
UEME_RUNPIDL: (info after seems seems to reference hard drive files and web pages)
UEME_RUNCPL: (entries are usually added here after clicking on Control Panel icons. The giveaway is CPL - Control Panel appLet.
UEME_RUNPATH: (this category is a giveaway too - RUN PATH - i.e.; run a file such as an exe, com or bat file.
UEME_UITOOLBAR (perhaps for tracking changes you make to toolbars)
UEME_RUNWMCMD (another run command type value)
UEME_UIHOTKEY (hot keys?)
UEME_CTLCUACount: (counting something?)
and these two similar ones, which I do not know the use of:
UEME_UISCUT
UEME_UIQCUT

NOTE:  I created a simple encoder-decoder to simplify ROT-13 conversions. You can download it here.  Then just double click it to open it and paste any ROT-13 code into one box and see the conversion in the other.

Or, if you prefer not to download the file, you can use the online version of the converter here.

Removing Entries

You can safely delete the entire UserAssist key as it will be recreated (whether you like it or not) when you reboot.

To delete the key:
Click Start>Run, type regedit and click Ok to launch the registry editor.
Make your way to this key:
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\
Explorer\UserAssist
Right click the UserAssist key and choose Delete.

Disabling Logging

You can also disable the logging by creating a new registry key and value. No special program is needed to stop this logging.

Here's how:
Right click the UserAssist key and choose New>Key
Name the new key Settings.
Highlight the Settings key and in the right hand pane, right click a blank area and choose New>Dword value.
Name it NoLog Then double click it and enter a value of 1. Done. The effect will take place after you reboot your computer.
From then on, no new entries should be added to your Count keys but some have reported that even after doing this, some entries slip through. In that case, you can use the next tip to delete them with a reg file.

Double Click to Delete

You can also create a simple reg file to delete the entire UserAssist key whenever you choose.
To do that, open up notepad and enter the following lines:

REGEDIT4

[-HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\
Explorer\UserAssist]

Save the file with a .reg extension and place it wherever you find convenient. Double click it anytime you wish to clear all your Count entries. You will get a confirmation message asking you if you are sure you want to add the info to the registry. Click Yes. (Don't miss the minus sign in front of HKEY)

NOTE: If you're a Wintips&Tricks member, you can download the file premade, if you prefer.  If you are not a member, you are more than welcome to join.
Just go to our Files section here:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/WinTips-Tricks/files/
and look for CountDel.reg

Disable Encrypting

If you prefer to keep the logging enabled, you can disable the Rot-13 letter scrambling so that you can make more sense out of the values and dump the need for any decoding utility. To do that, follow the steps for "Disabling Logging" but name the New Dword value NoEncrypt, instead of NoLog and also give it a value of 1.

<<<back to contents

Vic Ferri owns the very popular WinTips and Tricks and Registry Answers. Subscribe to either and receive free Windows and Registry Tips. He is also in charge of the Printing Tips pages at Linda's Computer Stop. Vic has also created a program which allows you to Lock & Hide desktop folders in Windows 9X/ME. Read more and get the free demo here. And, he now offers a service to convert PowerPoint presentations to .exe files which can be viewed on computers which do not have PowerPoint installed.
 

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This page was last updated on Tuesday, September 23, 2008 . copyright 2000 - 2008, Linda F. Johnson, Linda's Computer Stop, ABC ~ All 'Bout Computers. All rights reserved.