Don’t Believe The Hype: Registry Cleaners Don’t Make Windows Faster

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do registry cleaners workMuch advice has been given on how to keep your computer running smoothly, as well as how to fix it when it has become slow. We have even published a Windows on Speed guide, written by yours truly. One thing that hardly ever makes Windows faster, however, is cleaning the registry.

The often repeated tale, that registry cleaners can improve a computer’s performance, is a myth. The unfortunate truth is that registry cleaning can cause serious issues. The potential damange can range from money wasted on a registry cleaner, time wasted on cleaning the registry, an issue caused by ‘cleaning’ registry files that were actually important, and in the very worst case to a corrupted registry and a computer that will take forever to boot. None of this is worth a theoretical and in the best of cases minimal performance increase.

In a similar article, Chris has elaborated on what the registry is and what registry cleaners do. He has done an excellent job at showing you why registry cleaners by design cannot hold up to what they promise.

I am going to look at the hype around registry cleaners from a slightly different angle. What is it that actually does slow down a Windows computer and how does the registry play into this, if at all?

do registry cleaners work

Let’s look at three of the key causes for a slow computer that could theoretically be improved by cleaning or otherwise optimizing the registry.

1. Disk Fragmentation

When your hard drive fills up with data, and when files are edited and deleted, disk fragmentation cannot be avoided. While the NTFS file system does give priority to storing data contiguously, i.e. in one single piece, it sometimes has to make exceptions. For example if you start editing a file that is tightly embedded within other files with no space between them, Windows has no choice but to write whatever you add to the file to another location on your hard drive, i.e. the file gets fragmented.

Fragmentation slows down your computer because Windows has to fetch all the different parts of a file from multiple locations on the hard drive and stick them back together while loading them into RAM. Only when this process is completed, you can see the respective file.

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do registry cleaners really work

So does fragmentation affect the registry? Yes, but not really. Even if registry files are fragmented, reading them doesn’t cause a significant loss in performance because the registry is loaded into the RAM when Windows boots and can be accessed instantly while Windows is running.

This brings us to the next point…

2. Maxed Out RAM

By far the biggest factor in slowing down the computer is lack of free RAM. What takes up most of the precious RAM space, is running software. When all RAM space is exhausted, Windows removes inactive RAM data and writes them to virtual RAM, i.e. storage space on your hard drive.

Now when this data is needed, it is copied back to the RAM, but only after something else was removed. These operations cause a significant delay.

do registry cleaners really work

So we just established that the registry takes up RAM space. Wouldn’t it thus make sense to clean it up and keep it smaller, so it doesn’t take up so much RAM? Theoretically, yes. In practice, however, the amount of space you can save by removing a few hundred registry entries is minimal, so it won’t make a difference.

You can, however, achieve significant improvements by either upgrading your RAM (if possible) or by closing software you don’t need and preventing it from launching along with Windows.

3. Bad Registry Entries

So finally, we have reached the registry itself. Yes, bad registry entries can cause performance issues. However, under normal circumstances this should not happen. Moreover, newer versions of Windows protect the registry from fatal events, such as a crash during a database update, by keeping two levels of log files. During system boot, the registry can be repaired or reinitialized in case serious damage occurred.

General use issues, such as occasionally installing bad software, can of course not be avoided. If you want to do your registry good, remove and don’t install crapware, set up a sandbox to test software before installing properly, and if you do have to uninstall, use a tool like Revo Uninstaller to properly remove program files from your computer, including the registry.

Recommended Registry Cleaner

So what if you are 100% sure that you have an issue that can be addressed by cleaning the registry? Well, at least use a trusted tool and don’t waste any money on it. A PC maintenance tool we highly recommend is CCleaner and it contains a registry cleaner. Although we endorse this tool, we do not recommend to use its registry cleaner on a regular basis. Be sure to use it with care!

do registry cleaners work

Did registry cleaners ever cause you issues or have you seen them improve your computer’s performance? We would love to hear about your experience!

Further Reading on How to Make Windows Faster

Image credits: Binary Vortex via Shutterstock, Snail on Keyboard, Snail on RAM via Shutterstock, Snail on RAM via Shutterstock

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Comments (69)
  • CappnRob

    Cleaned my registry with CCleaner one day… and now the computer runs slower. Especially videos. :(

  • Sattesh

    I somewhat disagree with this. I run the registry cleaner(Ccleaner) after uninstalling any software. It removes registry entries that the program uninstaller “forgets” to remove. I don’t see much difference nowadays with my newer PC, but back when I was using an ancient computer(~ year 2000), running the registry cleaner once in a while really did speed up my PC. It even fixes some errors sometimes. I remember having a weird error message pop up every time windows boots, and after scratching my head for some time, a quick registry clean fixed my problem. That being said, aggressive registry cleaning( using premium software) can be dangerous I agree. Once I had some weird missing file error keep popping up, after a program uninstall, and I ran a registry cleaner I used to use(forgot the name), and windows had to be reinstalled. That happened once. So for me, the good outweighs the bad.

  • Zaid Mark

    I also use registry cleaners sometimes CC Cleaner and sometimes Registry Recycler It is right that most people believe registry cleaners do not enhance the performance of computer. I think what matters here is which software you are actually using. Only reliable registry cleaning software can help you get your PC optimized.

  • Gary

    I’ve used a few registry cleaners, including Ccleaner for the last few years off and on. Each time I have used CCleaner to clean the registry, I have suffered OS problems, errors, glitches etc and eventually had to reinstall.
    I do manual editing where I really need to now, almost entirely a simple search for software titles and publishers that I’ve uninstalled and apart from that I leave it well alone.
    I disagree entirely with the view that ‘cleaning’ the registry is valueless. I have quicker boots, fewer problems and no freezing, hanging or other issues since I started the manual cleaning.

  • Jeremy Winters

    The last time defrags were really needed were with XP. If you have Vista, 7, or 8 reg cleaners are only going to damage your computer over time not speed it up. I tried a few of the top ones, and what happened well, they play around with your computer, lie to you, and will eventually drop your OS and boot manager from your main HDD. Why? Because in modern times these “tools” do not have one important thing needed to properly fix it, and what is that? It is called the source code! I warn you do not buy into any of this as your OS will fix its own problems! The only thing you need is your OS’s manufacture’s antivirus! Say you are on vista, 7, 0r 8 right? Just install Microsoft Security Essentials, and run deep scans! Your OS has tools that will fix itself, and if you are required to do manual things a dev will be happy to help you…just contact them…seriously, do you want a 3rd party company you’ve never heard of touching files that your computer needs to run? I wouldn’t….your OS since 2006ish has been able to optimize itself, and the reason most likely you have speed issues aren’t due to what those things claim! For example it is most likely short memory on the HDD due to over storing, so uninstall some things, or buy an external HD, get as much ram as possible, replace, the CPU I wouldn’t really overclock it, replace the HD with a larger faster 7200 RPM one, or scan with your antivirus I suggest once again Microsoft Security Essentials. If you are running too much at once then you’re slowing down as you are using way too much VM. Another thing if you are complaining about your net speed clean up your cookies, your history, don’t overly tab browse, um check your up and download speeds, and upgrade your net, update your router and/or modem’s firmware…all of this will give you a speed boost.

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This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.