Do I Need a Registry Cleaner?
My computer seems to get slower and slower. A friend told me I need a registry cleaner. Will that really help? If so, where can I get a good free registry cleaner to do the job?
Cleaning the Registry
The short answer is: Yes, your computer will run better if you occasionally clean your Windows system registry. But first, let's define exactly what the registry is...
In layman's terms, the Windows Registry is a hideously complex ball of string, rubber bands, duct tape and bailing wire that's supposed to keep track of Windows system settings, your hardware configuration, user preferences, file associations, system policies, and installed software. In slightly more technical terms, the registry is a database in which Windows keeps track of relationships between hardware, software and the operating system.
It was supposed to be an improvement on the collection of simple text-based INI files that stored Windows configuration settings, but too many pocket protectors got involved in the design and the result was an over-engineered, over-complicated mess that makes Windows much more fragile and harder for users to maintain. Since it is a single point of failure, problems with the Registry can make a Windows system slower, less reliable, unbootable, and in extreme cases can only be fixed by reinstalling the operating system.
That's why you need to use a registry cleaner every once in a while.
Oh, That Waxy Buildup!
It's not uncommon for the registry to grow very large over time, which tends to slow down the computer's startup and can make it unstable. You can end up with lots of unnecessary registry entries that are created when you install or remove software and hardware on your computer. Sometimes an "orphaned" registry entry can confuse Windows during startup and cause a delay. In general, slimming down your registry will make Windows run faster.
The REGEDIT command will allow you to view and edit the registry, but if you don't know what you're doing under the hood, just put down that wrench and back away slowly. You can do a lot of damage to your system by flailing about with a registry editor. Specialized programs exist to examine the registry, compare what's in there to what's really on your system, and either correct or delete erroneous entries.
REGCLEAN is a utility program included in Windows 95 and Windows 98. This program is no longer officially supported by Microsoft, but some users report that it works fine on Windows XP systems. However, I don't recommend that it be used on XP, because the structure of the registry is different in XP than it was in earlier incarnations of Windows.
RegSeeker is a highly rated (and free) registry cleaner that I like. RegSeeker is an aggressive cleaner, and in some cases may delete registry entries that are needed. Some RegSeeker users have reported that using a RegSeeker exclusion file can prevent it from making erroneous deletions.
Another popular free registry fixer/cleaner is CCleaner, which does some additional things like cleaning up your browser's temp files and deleting unneeded files. CCleaner has a reputation for being less aggressive so may be a better choice for non-expert users who want a free registry cleaner.
Uniblue RegistryBooster is not free (US$29), but seems to be the most advanced tool in the class. Some 3rd-party tests have shown that it improves both boot time and application launch time. In the past, I've read about people with problems uninstalling the Uniblue Registry Booster software after downloading a trial version. To my knowledge, the company has resolved those problems. If you are a non-techie, I'd recommend this tool over the others.
There other registry cleaners available, some free and some not. If you want to play the field, read some reviews by reputable sources like CNET or PCWorld before you install. If you're not careful, you can get an adware or virus-laden registry cleaner wannabe that claims to do the job, but will have nasty side effects. See my companion article Free Registry Cleaners for some others that have earned good reputations.
A Few Caveats...
Before using any registry cleaner, I highly recommend that you create a System Restore restore point, and even better, do a full registry backup with the ERUNT utility. In some cases, aggressive registry cleaning can remove entries required for some programs to operate.
I should mention that technology experts have differing opinions on the value of registry cleaners. Some adamantly claim that they cannot possibly improve system performance. Others say they might help a little, but point out that in some cases they can cause damage as well. And of course others believe they can offer significant benefits. I tend to be in the latter camp, but recommend caution when using a registry cleaner. Choose the tool that suits your level of technical expertise, and do your preparatory backups.
Making Windows Faster
I should also mention that there are lots of other things that can cause your computer to bog down. Viruses, spyware, a hard drive that needs defragmenting, and other factors can contribute to the problem. In my article Make Windows XP Run Faster! I share my special recipe to clean the icky goo out of your computer's pipes, so Windows will start quicker, run more reliably, and go faster on the info-superhighway.
Posted by Bob Rankin on 29 May 2008
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Do I Need a Registry Cleaner? (Posted: 29 May 2008)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved