The official home of It's Geek to Me on the web!

Issue #317: August 18, 2013

Q: Are there truly any software products that can “clean the registry”, etc. which require only an initial purchase and not a continuous contract and endless pop-ups to get to buy more and more products?

– Edward K.
Santa Rosa Beach, Florida

A:  I love questions like this one, Edward, because it’s one of those kind of issues that affects almost all computer users, but for some reason a lot of people just don’t think to ask.  Then there are the people who think they already know the answer, but might just find they’re mistaken.  So thanks for a great question, and here goes.

For those who might not fully understand the term, the “registry” in question is the Windows Registry, which has been around since Windows 3.1.  Over many years, and many versions of Windows, the registry has grown to play a critical role in many important aspects of Windows, from controlling the software and services that automatically start when Windows starts, to storing configuration data for various programs, to tracking certain files that are shared among multiple applications, and much, much more.  Nearly every program that is installed on your system makes entries in the registry, and upon being removed, many, if not most programs leave all kinds of garbage behind in the registry.  Over time, the registry can appear to become bloated, and it is a common assumption that a fat, bloated registry is widely responsible for computer slowdowns.

And so, we come to the part about cleaning the registry.  It is important to define just exactly what you mean by “clean” in this context.  If your expectation is that some 3rd-party program is going to go into your registry, analyze it, and be able to identify all the keys and values for every one of the millions of programs in existence, and then understand and act upon the ones that it deems “don’t belong there” for whatever reason – your expectation is exceptionally unrealistic.  What you’re more likely to experience by running so-called registry cleaners is unexplained software errors that were caused by “cleaning” some registry values that the cleaner didn’t know were actually necessary.  This can apply to Windows itself as well as to installed programs.  After all, at its core, the registry is nothing more than a giant database of inter-connected values, and each value that is removed (no matter how well-intentioned) increases the risk of corrupting programs, or the operating system itself.

Even if using a registry cleaner was not potentially hazardous to your system, you need to weigh the potential benefit you could get from one.  There are thousands and thousands of necessary values in the registry, and even if a so-called cleaner could safely remove a few hundred of them, how big of a performance boost do you think this would give a computer?  In an online forum I read a comment that I rather liked.  It quoted a poster named Jabarnut on a thread at DSL Reports’ Software Forum, in which he likened registry cleaning to “sweeping out one parking space in a parking lot the size of Montana.”  Many people will swear they can see a performance improvement after a cleaning, but all the objective studies that I’ve read on this topic (which use actual performance measuring tools rather than gut feelings or subjective observations) say that any performance increase is negligible at best – certainly not worth the risk of damage to your system that can be caused by a registry that has had the wrong keys “cleaned”.

Leave a Reply

April 2024

Search the site


Copyright Notice

All content on this site is Copyright © 2007-2024 by Jeff Werner – All rights reserved.