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Posted on Apr 16, 2013 in PC Maintenance, Troubleshoot Windows | 0 comments

Do you need a Windows Registry cleaner? Our article gives you the facts behind these tools

There’s certainly no shortage of Windows Registry cleaner utilities available on the internet today. In this article we’ll take a hard look at the business of ‘fixing’ or ‘cleaning’ registry errors, but before we do that, let’s take a brief look at what the Registry is and what it does.

What is the Windows Registry?

the Windows Registry Editor

The registry is a large and complex database, even before installing any third party software.

The Windows Registry is a database for storing program settings and options for Windows operating systems. It is stored on your computers hard disk and is accessed very frequently while you work with your PC. Ever since Windows 3.1, the Windows Registry has been used to store settings and options for Windows and for software and hardware you install on your computer. Before the Registry, Windows used .ini files to store configuration information for individual applications and for system settings. These were simple text files that went along with each program, storing configuration data. As Windows became more widely used in corporate settings and on bigger networks, it became obvious that a central, standardised database of configuration information was necessary in order to make the system administrators job more bearable. Although having separate configuration files for individual applications makes it easer to back-up and move programs between computers, managing configuration data in a central database makes a lot more sense on a modern, multi-user operating system.

Windows is a complex, powerful operating system. A typical Windows Registry database contains thousands of entries, or keys. Most new software you install to your PC also adds keys to the registry too and unfortunately, uninstalling software does not always remove these keys. Because of this, the Windows Registry can become large and littered with old and unused data. Although it is possible to edit the Registry manually, searching for unused keys is time consuming and impractical. To speed up the process, several companies now market “Registry cleaners” which claim to optimise the Windows Registry and remove unused data. On the surface, this might seem like a good idea, but do these utilities really work and are they worth the money?

Do I need a Windows Registry cleaner?

 

Registry cleaner claims

Just a few of the claims that the vendors of Registry cleaners make, with little or no proof to back them up.

Over time, the Registry does accumulate a lot of old, redundant data. Wouldn’t removing this data be beneficial? While there might be some small performance gain from removing unused keys, this needs to be balanced against the possibility of Registry damage. Unfortunately, there is no 100% foolproof way for a Windows Registry cleaner to know that a Registry key is no longer used or needed. Frequently Windows Registry cleaning utilities have removed keys that were believed to be redundant, only for the user to find that they were needed, perhaps weeks or even months later. At Top-Windows-Tutorials.com, we’ve seen this happen while testing Registry cleaners on the PC’s we use here.

Perhaps the risk of cleaning the Registry is worthwhile if it improves the performance of your PC, or helps to troubleshoot problems. If this was the case then it would be worth the risk, however, Registry cleaning is unlikely to yield any kind of measurable benefit at all. Most companies who market Registry cleaners make all sorts of claims about how the software will drastically improve the performance of your computer and prevent system crashes. However, it’s virtually impossible to find any tangible proof of Registry cleaners improving system performance or reducing system crashes at all. Certainly in our own tests, there seemed to be little benefit to running a Registry cleaner. The cleaners we tested never fixed any crashes nor did they have any noticeable effect on system performance. Usually problems associated with corrupt or missing Registry entries are too specific in nature for a Registry cleaning utility to fix. In these cases, it’s normally enough to simply reinstall the program that is malfunctioning.

Are any of the Windows Registry cleaner utilities worthwhile?

We’ve received several e-mails from companies who wanted us to promote their Registry cleaning or fixing product here on Top-Windows-Tutorials.com. However, the answer to such offers will always be “No”, unless these companies can produce some evidence to show that Registry cleaning has any measurable benefits on system performance. If you still want to clean your Registry, in spite of the drawbacks we’ve mentioned here, there are two utilities you may wish to consider.

PageDefrag By Mark Russinovich

This is an advanced disk defragmentation tool that can defragment the Registry and also the virtual memory/paging files on a Windows computer. The actual contents of the Registry are unchanged when you run this software, but accessing the Registry may be quicker after defragmenting it.

RegCleaner 4.3

This Windows Registry cleaner tool allows you to selectively delete entries associated with software that you may have already uninstalled. It is no longer supported however and has been replaced with the commercial JV16 Powertools Suite, which we do not endorse.

References and further reading

Ed Bott – Why I don’t use Registry cleaners
Mark Russinovich – Registry Junk: A Windows fact of life

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