Free Registry Cleaners
I've heard conflicting stories on the effectiveness of registry cleaners. Do they really help? If so, which registry cleaner do you recommend?
Do Registry Cleaners Really Work?
Most computer professionals agree that occasional use of a registry cleaner will help your system run better. The Windows system registry is a database that Windows uses to keep track of system settings, and the relationships between hardware, software and the operating system. But the more you use your computer, the more you install and remove software over time, your registry will grow larger and more complex.
This can result in error messages during startup, and can even slow down the computer or make it less reliable. So the idea is that slimming down your registry, getting rid of erroneous and obsolete entries, will make Windows run faster and more reliably.
Specialized programs called registry cleaners will examine the registry, compare what's in there to what's really on your system, and either correct or delete erroneous entries.
Free Registry Cleaners - My Recommendations
There are LOTS of free registry cleaners floating around on the Internet. Some are good, some are lousy, and some are little more than thinly veiled spyware or viruses. Here's my list of free registry cleaners that are known to work well, and are free of any adware, spyware or other nasties.
- One free registry cleaner that I always recommend is the venerable CCleaner, which in addition to cleaning up the registry, will remove cookies, scrub your browser's temporary files cache and delete unneeded files. CCleaner is a better choice for non-expert users because it's less aggressive. It also offers an option to clean the registry automatically when you start up your computer. When installing CCleaner, there's a checkbox on one of the installation screens that's pre- selected to also install the Yahoo Toolbar. Be sure to uncheck that box unless you really want that toolbar.
- I've also heard that Wise Registry Cleaner does a good job. There's a free version, and a PRO version that claims to further improve your PC's performance by optimizing the registry.
- Other freebies that have been highly recommended to me include Glary Utilities, and Comodo Registry Cleaner.
- RegSeeker is a popular registry cleaner that's been around for quite a few years. RegSeeker is an aggressive cleaner, and actually cautions you against using it if you're not familiar with the Windows registry. I recommend that you use the automatic backup feature before deleting any registry entries, because in some cases RegSeeker may delete registry entries that are needed. Look for a RegSeeker "exclusion file" to reduce the likelihood that it will make any erroneous deletions.
- Uniblue RegistryBooster is not free (US$29), but I mention it here because from what I've heard, it's the best of breed. Some independent 3rd-party tests have shown that it reduces startup time as well as application launch time. This is the one I'd recommend for non-techie users who don't mind spending a few dollars.
All of these should work well with Windows XP, and some work with older versions of Windows. So what about Vista? As far as I know, the registry is not structurally different in Vista. So any registry cleaner that works for XP should also work on Vista. RegSeeker, CCleaner (and possibly others) explicitly say they do work with Vista.
A Few Caveats...
As I mentioned earlier, over-zealous registry cleaners can sometimes erroneously remove registry entries that are needed for some programs to run. I've even heard from one user who said that a registry cleaner rendered his system unable to boot up, requiring a re-install of Windows. So before using any registry cleaner, I highly recommend that you use System Restore to create a restore point. If something appears amiss after rebooting, you can undo the registry changes by reverting to the saved restore point. Even better, use the ERUNT (Emergency Recovery Utility NT) which will make a complete backup of your registry and restore it if needed.
I should also mention that not everyone agrees on the value of registry cleaners. Some techies claim that registry cleaners cannot possibly do anything to improve the performance or reliability of a Windows-based computer. Others say they might help a little, but point out they can cause damage as well. And of course some people rave about the benefits of using a registry cleaner.
As my science teacher used to say, the proof is in the pudding, or rather the eating thereof. So I tend to be in the latter camp. I've experienced significant performance gains after registry cleaning, and I hear from so many users who say that using a registry cleaner DOES make a noticeable, measurable difference in performance. But still, I do recommend caution when using a registry cleaner. Choose the tool that suits your level of technical expertise, and do your preparatory backups.
For some additional information on the Windows Registry, see Do I Need a Registry Cleaner? Post a comment below to tell me your opinion on registry cleaners...
Posted by Bob Rankin on 17 Dec 2008
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Free Registry Cleaners (Posted: 17 Dec 2008)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved