Using Registry Cleaner: Does Is It Really Make A Difference?

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registry cleaner reviewAdvertisements for registry cleaners are all over the Web. There’s an entire industry out there bent on convincing inexperienced computer users that their registry needs fixing, and that, for ten easy payments of $29.95, their computers will be much faster. That isn’t true.

The Windows registry is a massive database containing hundreds of thousands of entries, and a registry cleaner might remove a few hundred at most. This is great if you’re obsessively compulsive about removing useless database entries, but you won’t see any difference in performance. What you might see is a new problem because the registry cleaner swept away something important.

What’s the Registry?

The Windows registry is a database that Windows and its applications store their settings in. It contains hundreds of thousands of entries. Some of the entries may be slightly outdated — maybe you’ve uninstalled a program and it left a key or two behind, or maybe a there’s a file extension with no associated application.

registry cleaner review

What Registry Cleaners Do

Registry cleaners scan your registry for these outdated entries and offer to remove them. Because there are so many registry entries to go through, they’ll sometimes also remove useful registry entries, causing you problems. The Web is full of stories from people who have run a registry cleaner and encountered problems.

In a best case scenario, a registry cleaner will remove a few hundred unnecessary entries and reduce the size of your registry by a few kilobytes. This makes no different in perceptible performance. But you’ll still see shady advertisements like this one all over the Web:

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registry cleaner

A registry cleaner that claims to improve performance by removing a few hundred registry entries is like a file system cleaner that offers to improve performance by removing a handful of small configuration files.

registry cleaner

Above: These “problems” are not actually problems.

Using a Registry Cleaner

If you must use a registry cleaner, you don’t have to pay anything. Using a free registry cleaner, such as the registry cleaner included with the respected CCleaner utility (which we’ve covered in the past), is good enough. In fact, you’ll probably have better results with CCleaner than many of these fly-by-night companies. And by “have better results,” I mean that CCleaner is less likely to break things. Any performance increases will still be unnoticeable.

registry cleaner

Eusing Free Registry Cleaner is another free option.

 “Optimizing” the Registry

Registry cleaners also claim to optimize your registry, defragmenting it for faster file access. At first, this sounds great — your registry is constantly being used, so surely defragmenting it will offer improvements in speed, right?

Wrong. Or, at least, not really. The registry is loaded into your computer’s RAM when it starts, so you won’t see faster registry performance as a result of this.

If you really want to defragment your registry, you don’t need a registry cleaner. Microsoft offers an official PageDefrag utility for Windows XP. Windows 7 or Vista users will need an unofficial utility like Auslogics Registry Defrag. Auslogics Registry Defrag dramatically overpromises the imperceptible performance boosts you’ll get from running it, but at least it doesn’t tamper with your registry. And at least it’s free.

Use one of these utilities if you want. But I’ll warn you now: You won’t see a difference in performance.

But Microsoft Had Their Own Registry Cleaner!

This is true. Microsoft once provided a free registry cleaner named RegClean. It hasn’t been supported since Windows 98. In fact, Microsoft removed it from their website because it caused so many problems.

windows registry cleaner

If registry cleaning was so important, Microsoft would have rolled it into Windows, or at least updated their utility. Microsoft has been integrating useful system utilities into Windows for a long time: automatic defragmentation, firewall protection, anti-spyware, and even antivirus, with Windows 8. They’d integrate a registry cleaner if it was helpful.

Where Are the Performance Tests?

Here’s the thing: We computer geeks love squeezing every drop of performance out of our systems. People benchmark all sorts of software tweaks and hardware overclocks and create performance graphs that show adjusting one setting makes a certain game 1% faster.

If registry cleaners really worked, there would be serious, independent performance tests that showed the performance increase after running a registry cleaner. But there aren’t. If you find a test, it was likely produced by a registry cleaner company or an affiliate site that gets paid when you buy a registry cleaner. If you disagree with this post, let’s see some reputable performance benchmarks.

registry cleaner review

Above: Not an actual scientific test. But I bet you can’t find a better chart.

The Verdict

Here’s what it comes down to:

  • Registry cleaners offer no perceptible increase in performance.
  • Registry cleaners can break things.
  • Even if registry cleaners don’t break anything, using one wastes your valuable time and (perhaps) money.

If you’re looking to increase your PC’s performance, there are real steps you can take instead of buying the snake oil on offer. In fact, we’ve got an entire free guide to speeding up your computer, and registry cleaning isn’t involved.


Image Credit: Man Selling Elixir via Shutterstock

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Comments (45)
  • Gopcpro

    Best Free Registry Cleaner & Windows Optimizers

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  • Chris

    Registry cleaners are good to get more than one use out of 30 day trial software. Uninstall after it expires, run a cleaner, reboot, and then voila! You have another 30 days. FYI.

  • shaurya boogie

    Where can i get this tool?

  • Ben

    Looks like the performance improvements I think I get are all in my head!

  • Count

    All this may be true for average home user, but did you ever try to clean a school computer ? The mess a bunch of kids can make in a week can only be matched with their rooms, but cleaning it ? Nooooo. Programs of this kind can save you hours of work. When somebody just erase program or even whole folder just try to manually clean registry and see where it gets you. Brocken links, moved files, “temporary” internet settings, Ugh don’t remind me, It’s regular nightmare. I tried most of them and yes they should be used with caution but in some cases they are indispensable. Using good uninstaller that would clean up most of leftovers from uninstalled programs is in my opinion best way to avoid need for extensive clean-up afterwards. On the same note, cleaning after Norton, Kasperski, Nero, is at best just as hard. In all extreme cases like that those cleaners can make perceptible difference at boot time and in responsiveness of the OS. So , back up registry ,uninstall programs properly clean registry as per usage and sometimes defragment it ( found few fragmented up to 50 % , believe it or not ). Just like everything maintenance is half of healthy system.

    • Chris Hoffman

      Yikes. There has to be a better solution. I remember when I was in high school, the computers in the computer labs all had Deep Freeze on them — when the computer rebooted, it would revert to a snapshot of its previous state. All changes were temporary, so students couldn’t do any lasting damage. That’s better than a registry cleaner — running a registry cleaner, uninstalling software, repairing deleted files, scanning for malware — that’d practically be a full time job! I don’t envy you there.

    • The 24

      Deep Freeze sounds a useful preventative measure to take. I simply feel that a properly configured network with the appropriate permissions in place would safeguard from any problems users could cause.
      I recall that at my school, the only changes we could make were within our personal folder on the network; which amounted to little more than a place to save homework, essays and the like.

      Oh, and may I thank you Chris for this article. I plan on sharing this with a few select people. This should curb the unusual looks I get when I criticise registry cleaners (even the free and relatively safe ones such as included with CCleaner) as little more than a waste of precious time and potentially worse still – money.

    • Chris Hoffman

      Yup, a locked down network might make more sense these days. The computers with Deep Freeze had Windows 98 on them, I think — it was a few years ago. Windows 98 isn’t meant to be a multi-user operating system.

      And thanks, The 24! It really is unnecessary – at best. I mean, if there’s a specific problem it can be fixed, but the focus of a registry cleaner seems to be on “cleaning” stuff rather than fixing real problems. Still, if someone’s going to use a registry cleaner, best they use CCleaner.

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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.
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.
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