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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Do I Need a Registry Cleaner?

After some comments I made recently, I’ve had a few folks ask me why I have a problem with Registry Cleaner programs. While there are some very good, professionally done Reg Cleaners, this is just not the type of program I run on my own systems.

Based on my own experience, I haven’t been able to find a real benefit in performance based on removing useless items from the registry. For me, it’s strictly a matter of risk versus gain. While I’m sure most Reg cleaners do exactly what they’re suppose to, the risk of problems due to errors or user misunderstanding are too great.

There’s a myth that humans only use 10% of their brain. If this was true(it’s not), would you want someone cutting out part of the brain you don’t use in hopes it would make the other part work better? The registry is the brain of the Windows operating system. The risk of removing something that is critical is greater than the benefits that may be gained.

I’ve found there are two ways which really make a difference in Windows performance.
One is more memory. When recommending new computers, I usually suggest available funds be put towards extra memory rather than a faster processor.

The second is getting rid of the additional programs that run at Startup. While you may think me biased, I don’t think I’m alone on this one. I’ve been reading a lot of articles recently about crapware or craplets being installed on new computers.

Most tech heads agree on these two, but there’s still some debate about Registry Cleaning and Disk Defragging.

I took a look at some of the claims from Registry Cleaners and they all say pretty much the same thing.
“Problems with the Windows Registry are a common cause of Windows crashes and error messages.”

“By fixing these obsolete information in Windows registry, your system will run faster and error free.”

“By using a registry cleaner regularly and fixing registry errors your system should not only be more stable but it will also help improve your system performance without expensive hardware upgrades.”

I don’t think it’s worth the risk. What do you think?

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14 Comments:

Blogger George, Group Admin said...

I use several difference approaches to keeping my system "clean." I have yet to have any major issues with these tools.

CCleaneR (crap cleaner)
EasyCleaner
PurgeIE
PurgeFox
Evidence EliminatoR


George

11:52 AM  
Anonymous Gus said...

ATF Cleaner
CleanUp
Easy Cleaner
CCleaner

JK Defrag
IOBit SmartDefrag
AusLogics Disk Defrag

just to mention a few of the free "cleaning" tools that many people use.

Browsing popular tech forums I see that there is a 50/50 pro and against using "Cleaners" view.

I have never seen a " tool" which even if it quarantee's it, working alongside the O/S is 100 % free of problems, much more those that clean or repair the O/S.

O/S updates sometimes cause problems!!


Off Topic
---------
Installing and using alongside the O/S various tools, even if that is an anti- * or a firewall sometimes causes problems.

Unfortunately you can not live without a firewall or an anti-*



*virus, spam, spyware
P.S. for Bill: I submit this piece again since I am not sure it was submitted correctly (problem with connection)

11:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill P.
I only use CCleaner as a registry cleaner cause it makes a backup copy of what you delete incase you did take something that you should not have deleted. I keep the back up for a while and if all runs smooth I'll delete it.
I did notice that after a couple of registry cleanings the program
rarely pulls anything out of my registry. I have never had any problems using this program.
To those who do try CCleaner
always use the backup feature to save yourself a lot of grief if you
do delete something you are not suppose to. Bill is right that the
registry is your nerve center of your computer and do one thing wrong and your computer can stop working properly. The old saying is
true if you do not know what your
doing in the computer registry do not fool with it.

John

12:48 AM  
Anonymous Emeryjay said...

I'm very careful about the programs I install. I've used some of the programs cited in this thread. Some work very well and I've gotten mixed results wight registry cleaners. A better approach is to have a lot of RAM and good hardware for the best performance.

Craplets, however, are different. It's software installed by the manufacturers that have no respect for the buyer. I discovered a neat little trick when I purchased my last Dell. Since it was an employee purchase plan, I had to have a written quote.

I read through the quote line-by-line and examined all the "no charge" items. Each one of the craplets had a no charge line along with a product number. I told the rep that all those items had to be deleted or there would be no sale. The PC arrived minus the craplets. The restore disk doesn't have them either.

4:08 PM  
Blogger douchrti said...

I tend to use Registry Cleaners to do needed repairs or to restore a saved registry. I agree though, if its not broken, and you dont understand what its doing, dont touch it.

Take care,
Doug Woodall
SpywareBiz.com

3:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Easycleaner has yet to wreck anything I've used it on (literally 1000's) and cleans up unnecessary junk.
Eusing, effective but sometimes damaging, use for more serious diagnostic work.
The generic cleanup tools like Clean Disk Security and ATF Cleaner, no pproblems, use regularly.

11:20 AM  
Anonymous Derek said...

I ran a registry cleaner a couple years ago. Then I started getting a few fatal errors (I think i or j with numbers) and my system would shut down. Then I got a new computer, with truckloads of memory.

2:28 PM  
Blogger gburn said...

A registry cleaner did far more in the way of speed improvement than any defrag did. There wasn't that many choices in the early days when I first used one and I lucked out on the first one called "Registry FirstAid" by RoseCity software. It would find a variety of registry errors that it said could go and I let it. It always made a photograph of registry first before doing the run. I have "never" had a problem with what it has removed. Everything still works and is still connected as before...printers, scanners. I would try other R.C. that would either find the same ones(as though they came with the program) or they would go into super fine detail(noting the dotting of "i's" and the crossing of "t's".) Found no real benefit to that kind of detail. However, what registry First Aid did, you can "hear" because the computer does not click as much(if at all) searching for things, and there is no trip ups.
Yes, I do use CrapCleaner too. And its RegCleaner finds its own reg files to eliminate. I find all these cleaners amazing in that respect. Whether they find 26 errors or another finds 625 errors, in that respect; it makes me wonder.

6:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, cleaners will have little at best perceptible increase in performance. However ram only makes difference if the user has under 512mb in XP or under 2gb in Vista. The way Windows is programmed, it will *always* prioritize using swap space (HDD) over ram. The reson behind this is to facilitate programs *loading* faster. This makes an OS feel crisp and fast. There is a way to technically alter this but it doesn't make windows NOT use swap and doesn't really seem to improve performance much. You can look up this registry setting on winguides.com. But what you say about removing programs loading on startup is dead-on. There's 3 places where the computer stores startup programs. 1 - The Startup folder under Programs, 2 - Registry : HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run

3 - Services under "Administrative Tools". 2 and 3 are advanced and if you don't know what you're doing you can FUBAR your computer something fierce! Use with caution...

2:15 AM  
Anonymous justgreenleaf said...

I've been using a program called Registry Mechanic for about 4 years. It's a paid program, and has to be renewed once a year. When I first ran it, I found quite a few problems. Since then only a few at a time. It seems to work well, and has caused no difficulties in the overall computer operation.
I also run Crapcleaner from time to time, particularly if performance slows down. It definitely helps clean and speed up everything. One caveat:it has multiple choices for settings. Choose carefully, as some things you don't want to remove.

2:42 PM  
Anonymous ArtKns said...

There are many tens, if not over a hundred, places that startup programs and services are invoked. Get AutoRuns from System Internals (http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb963902.aspx) by Mark Russinovich and Bryce Cogswell for an eye opener.

I agree with Bill. Registry repair would be correcting bad or inconsistent entries. This would require a registry analysis of the registry structure bordering on AI, far beyond any reg "cleaner". Scanning & deleting orphans is not repair - it is just window dressing (pun unintended but welcomed!).

5:30 AM  
Anonymous Frank (Montreal) said...

The only 3 programs I consistently rely upon are WinPatrol, Microsoft Security Essentials and WinASO. The main reason I use WinASO is just to remove all the junk left behind from many programs I have installed and uninstalled over the years.
Bill, on a personal note, after so many years of using WinPatrol, thank you!. But I must confess, I have been using the free version but will go to your plus version soon...just upgraded to windows 7 and want to extend my gratitude...

11:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think registry cleaners are not needed. Seems strange how newbies and average users use reg cleaners and how much faith they entrust into using the reg cleaners and at the same time knowing diddly squat what the registry is really all about.

I used to have quite a few ranging from ccleaner, AWC, Tuneup Utilities, Wise, and etc and honestly, when I was using those programs, I didn't have a clue what the entries meant, and I'm sure most others didn't either but the big shiny 'Clean' button is enough for them to click on it thus making them feel 'purged' and 'clean'.

In all my time using the reg cleaners, I could not see any benefits in using them and no solved problems either. I think to many, using reg cleaners give them an effect of feeling 'clean', a classic case of administering a placebo.

11:53 PM  
Anonymous computer technician perth said...

in 20 years of fixing computing problems I have never used a registry cleaner, but many of my clients do.

7:24 AM  

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