Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Top Tech Tip #2: Leave Registry Cleaners Alone

A few weeks ago I was asked by a reader what my one piece of advice for a non-techie was (Click here to read). That was a good question. A challenging question. Limiting myself to one answer was what I found so difficult.

So today I am going to offer you, Dear Reader, my “Probably The Second Most Important Piece Of Geek Advice For Non-Techies“.

* Leave Registry “Cleaners” Alone *

What happens is this: older computers get slower, and so the owner enters “slow PC” (or, “my computer is slow”, or sumsuch) into a search engine — where they get sold a computer “optimizer”. What this is – usually – is a “Registry Cleaner”, which promises to “find errors” and fix them.

WOT warnings on "speed up your PC" sites

WOT warnings on "speed up your PC" sites

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Here’s the real deal — there are two cases (IMHO) when you actually need a reliable Registry cleaner:
1) You’re an experimental sort and you uninstall a lot of 3rd-party (non-Microsoft) programs; like.. you try every new program that comes along. (And you forgot to use Revo to uninstall them when you’re done.)

2) You have just completed a manual malware removal.

That doesn’t describe you? Leave the Registry “cleaner” alone!

Now, my regular readers will remember my mentioning this before, but for the rest of you, here’s why you want to avoid messing with the Registry: and this happens a lot actually, it can kill your machine.

What?!

Yup. Read the user forums. The odds of this increase if you have more than one User Account on your system. Ask yourself this: do you know what the Windows Registry is? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_registry)

Even if a “cleaning” does not kill your machine, no one can convince me that any Registry cleaner – over the years – has ever actually sped up their PC. And I am certainly not alone in this opinion.

So what should you do to speed up a machine that has slowed down over time? Well, you already have the tools you need to “optimize” and rejuvenate your PC. Please read Four Vital Tools You Already Have… But Might Not Know About. There you will find the answers! And, guess what? They’re free. (Probably why they’re not advertised, eh?)

… and if you’re the type who is not going to click the link and actually read more, and are just itching to download something, well, the safe and effective CCleaner will do this for you for free. As will the free Glary Utilities, or the free Advanced Windows Care, … and you won’t find user forums filled with complains of wrecked systems, if you should use one of those.
Fair enough?

Related: to learn more about speeding up your computer,see Computing 101*

[note: BEFORE making any changes to the Registry, please read (and follow) this Microsoft article: How to back up and restore the registry in Windows]

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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August 19, 2009 - Posted by | advice, computers, file system, how to, Microsoft, PC, performance, tech, troubleshooting, Windows | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

28 Comments »

  1. Glad I came back to this site some new very interesting items which I wanted to know more about. Great work on your site.

    Like

    Comment by GoogleGuy | August 19, 2009 | Reply

  2. Guilt. Guilty as charged.

    I do love Revo for it’s ability to clean out all that leftover stuff from the myriad applications I find myself installing and uninstalling on a regular basis.

    I did find one program that managed to add 28,000+ registry entries. Yes, you read that correctly. I took screenshots as proof and sent them off to the developer saying that I wouldn’t be using his product again (or recommending it to anyone) until he got this fixed. I wasn’t long after he came out with an updated version.

    After that happened I have been very diligent about using Revo to uninstall everything.

    Like

    Comment by gadzooks64 | August 19, 2009 | Reply

    • gagzooks64,
      What a great testimonial for Revo.

      28,000… sheeze!

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | August 19, 2009 | Reply

  3. It’s kind of risky to use registry cleaners for regular maintenance as they may introduce new problems to an otherwise working system. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Still if the system is already messed up and your only other alternative is to spend hours to reinstall windows, it doesn’t really hurt to spend 10 minutes with a Reg cleaner first.

    Like

    Comment by jgoto | August 19, 2009 | Reply

    • jgoto,
      So, if I understand you correctly, you’re saying “only as a last resort”. It is pretty hard to argue the logic there.

      But I will say that if a computer is “so messed up” that you’re contemplating a Windows re-Install, I would be very surprised if running a Reg cleaner proved any kind of real cure.
      Maybe.. it would make it functionally messed up… which is only postponing the issue.

      I would reco going ahead and doing the re-Install. Then, only copy back the files (and reinstall the programs) you really need.

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | August 19, 2009 | Reply

  4. I have one reply for my customers that ask about registry cleaners, or customers that I find such a program on their PC.
    “If you don’t have the ability/knowledge to go through the list of items the cleaner says are safe to remove, and determine if they are in fact safe to remove, then you shouldn’t be using a registry cleaner”

    Like

    Comment by Dave Brooks | August 19, 2009 | Reply

    • 1) Doesn’t produce expected results (at best).
      2) May kill your system.

      … seems like a no brainer to me.

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | August 19, 2009 | Reply

  5. TechPaul,

    The Registry is one of the least understood parts of Windows. On the surface, it appears relatively simple, but underneath the hood, the complexity is well hidden.

    One of the easiest ways to “kill” a system, is removing vital system entries by using a Registry cleaner incorrectly.

    BTW, having used Revo 100’s of times, I would like to point out that it does not remove all registry entries. Virtually every time I use it, RegSeeker will find undeleted entries.

    Great article.

    Bill

    Like

    Comment by Bill Mullins | August 19, 2009 | Reply

    • Mr. Mullins,
      I thank you for your input on these subjects.

      I am going to amend my article because I forgot to put in that before a person makes any changes to the Registry, they create a Registry backup.
      I have said that many times before, but…

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | August 19, 2009 | Reply

  6. I’m (unfortunately) still running Win98SE on an old Compq PIII. I’ve had all kinds of problem that resulted from some of the “free” crap software I’ve tried and regretted. Fortunately, the only “fixes” I’ve tried were the ones you mentioned: CCleaner and Glary Utilities! I guess I got lucky.

    Rest assured that when I’m able to upgrade to a newer version of Windows on a more powerful PC, I’ll remember what you’ve said here before I load it up with crap too. I just can’t resist! :-)

    Like

    Comment by izaakmak | August 19, 2009 | Reply

    • izaakmak,
      Thank you for your comments.

      If I may, on something that old, I would seriously think about Linux.

      Microsoft stopped issuing security patches for that OS in 2006.. while the cyber-criminals and malware writers keep perfecting their craft.

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | August 19, 2009 | Reply

      • I know next to nothing about Linux. Since I always think I’m going to be upgrading “any day now,” I’ve never even consider an alternative. It is ironic, since I’ve never been a big Microsoft fan. The primary reason I try out so many downloads is my hatred of the stuff that came with the OS. :roll:

        Like

        Comment by izaakmak | August 19, 2009 | Reply

        • izaakmak,
          I had to go to look up :roll: in the Urban Dictionary, as I had never seen that one before (I don’t “tweet” nor “text”, so I am rather lingo challenged)..

          Def: “Basically a smiley that’s rolling his eyes. Generally used to mean that you’re ironic, or more rarely, to mean you’re beginning an epileptic crisis.

          Yes.
          Well, I would suggest taking a look at Kubuntu. You can run it from inside Windows, or from a “live CD”, without actually installing it — so you can give it a test drive.

          No, it is not Windows. No, you there’s not a ton of titles for Linux (but there’s a lot). Yes, there’s a learning curve. But Linux is getting to be quite “user friendly”.

          Like

          Comment by techpaul | August 19, 2009 | Reply

          • My WordPress settings are set to automatically translate things like :roll: into the proper smiley. I’d just assumed yours was too. I’m not very lingo savvy myself. Half the time, I still have to open the support page to make sure that I’m typing in the right thing! :-)

            I think I’ve heard of Ubuntu, but not Kubuntu. Frankly, the fact that Linux has so many flavors scares me a bit. But the test drive idea sounds pretty cool! I’ll give it some thought. Thanks.

            Like

            Comment by izaakmak | August 19, 2009 | Reply

            • isaakmac,
              Kubuntu is basically Ubuntu with a different “skin” (UI), so the Taskbar is at the bottom — where Windows users expect it to be.
              But I will say this, it is a general consensus that first-time Linux folks try Ubuntu as their first.. um, “contact” with the system. Once your familiar with it, then you can browse the other “flavors” to find the one you like best.

              The “test drive” is one of the really ‘kewel’ things about Linux, but it does perform slower than a real install that way.. so don’t judge its speed by the test “live CD”.

              Like

              Comment by techpaul | August 19, 2009 | Reply

  7. install and uninstall many programs. yes, i resemble that.
    revo and cc are my friends.

    Like

    Comment by g | August 19, 2009 | Reply

    • g,
      Safe. Effective. Free.

      (As a fan of the quaint concept formerly known as Privacy, I frequently run CCleaner. Sweep away those ‘crumbs’.)

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | August 19, 2009 | Reply

  8. […] A “must read” article at “Tech-for Everyone” […]

    Like

    Pingback by A Windows Registry Tech Tip… « What's On My PC | August 19, 2009 | Reply

  9. Thank You for this article i didn’t know about the dangers of software lke this agan thanks for the info

    Like

    Comment by frank scahill | August 20, 2009 | Reply

    • Frank,
      Sorry. Your comment must have slipped by me. I appreciate your support.

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | August 29, 2009 | Reply

  10. What is the best registry cleaner in you opinion?

    Like

    Comment by David | October 8, 2009 | Reply

    • David,
      Did you read the article?

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | October 8, 2009 | Reply

  11. I think that RegCure is the best in the filed… And I don’t agree with you about the dangers of software like this.

    Like

    Comment by Mike | October 8, 2009 | Reply

    • Mike,
      You are certainly entitled to disagree with my opinion.

      I hope you will always have terrific results with reg cleaners and never a problem.

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | October 8, 2009 | Reply

  12. Thanks for the information about Revo Uninstaller. I just installed the software and ran the first scan. Sure enough there was a lot of junk on the harddrive even though I have a one month old computer.

    Like

    Comment by GeraldGreene | October 16, 2009 | Reply

    • GeraldGreene,
      Revo is one of my Top 10 programs an has been for years. I mainly use it to make sure that a program I want gone is all-the-way-gone, as Windows Add/Remove Programs and even the app’s own Uninstaller will typically leave items behind.

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | October 16, 2009 | Reply

  13. Thanks for the information about Revo Uninstaller

    Like

    Comment by Registry Optimizer | February 23, 2010 | Reply

    • “R.O.”
      I am glad I could assist.. but, sorry, I don’t allow your type of linkbacks.

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | February 24, 2010 | Reply


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