Jul 11, 2014

Should Windows users ever clean their registry?

I think making changes to the registry is asking for trouble in most cases. Sure, it can be done, but I view registry cleaners as more of a cause of problems than a source for improvements, especially when people don't really understand what they are doing. Should it ever be done by the “average” user, or is the registry best left alone?

Are registry cleaners necessary?

"The Windows‌ registry is a database that lists all of the configuration settings that determine how Windows looks and behaves. Sometimes, settings that are no longer needed will remain in the registry in case they're ever needed again. There's nothing unusual about this, and this data is small in size.

Some products available for free on the Internet suggest the registry needs regular maintenance or cleaning. Although a registry setting can become corrupt on occasion, in general, the registry is self-sufficient. If you decide to install a registry cleaner, be sure to research the product and only download and install programs from software publishers that you trust."

Personally, I think registry cleaners are generally snake oil, and as you point out, they are often more likely to cause problems than resolve problems. That is not to say that there aren’t some legitimate needs for making changes to the registry. I had a laptop with a rootkit on it that caused registry problems, so that would be one example where it was helpful. Also, a lot of cleaners show tons and tons of “registry errors” that really aren’t errors, they are just registry keys that point to files that aren’t there any more. This is not a big deal. One of the things many people expect from registry cleaners is a faster PC after they use it. In my experience, they are going to be disappointed, because I have never seen that result.  

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