My free registry cleaner list is one of the more popular software lists on my site. With so many scam registry tools out there, no wonder so many look for a true freeware program to solve their Windows Registry woes.
But are there really problems that build up in the registry that need fixing? Are registry cleaners the solution to most of my computer issues? The answers to those questions might surprise you.
"Do I need to run a registry cleaner on a regular basis?"
In case you missed that, the answer again is: No.
Contrary to the online advertising pitches, the bad information from your neighbor, and perhaps your own belief prior to this moment, registry cleaning is NOT a computer maintenance task. I can not be more clear on this topic.
Years ago, registry cleaners were more often, and more correctly, referred to as registry repair programs because that's what they do - they repair certain kinds of issues in the Windows Registry that cause a very short list of computer problems.
"If I don't need to clean my registry every day/week/month/year then what do I need a registry cleaner for?"
Registry cleaners can be useful tools to solve certain kinds of problems in the registry, like those created when a program doesn't uninstall correctly or a malware infection isn't cleaned up properly.
Interestingly, the most useful parts of modern registry cleaners are some of their features that have nothing to do with the registry at all. Registry cleaners have morphed into overall "system cleaners" of sorts, removing not only the unused registry key here and there, but also MRU lists, temporary files, browser download histories, and more.
And while we're talking about it: no, you also don't need to regularly clean out those other areas of your computer either. While that data might take up space, it's not often a lot, nor does it usually cause any problems by simply existing.
"How do I know if the problem I'm having with my computer can be solved by a registry cleaner?"
Chances are it can't be.
It's starting to sound like I hate registry cleaners, doesn't it? Not true. I just don't want you to get the slightest impression that registry cleaning is a panacea for your computer's ills.
The only relatively common problem that registry cleaners are good at solving are error messages at Windows startup about missing files. Even in that case, using a registry cleaner is just one of many useful troubleshooting steps to try in that situation.
A registry cleaner will not fix a computer startup problem. A registry cleaner will not fix a Blue Screen of Death. And, ironically, a registry cleaner will not fix any issue that Windows actually reports as a registry issue like registry corruption, a missing registry, etc.
"My favorite registry cleaner says it fixes LOTS of problems in the registry. Is that not true?"
Most registry cleaners "do" a lot "stuff" in the registry, but I'd argue that most of that "doing" is fixing problems that simply don't exist.
The long list of issues that your registry cleaner will show you, and then impressively delete in just a few seconds, are mostly registry keys that point to files or other items no longer on your computer. That fact alone does not indicate a problem. You could fill the Windows Registry with all sorts of unnecessary extra information and you'd never know.
The documentation with most legitimate registry cleaners will admit that the value of removing these entries is simply a "smaller registry." However, many stretch the truth a bit in just the next sentence, saying that a smaller registry means a faster computer. In fact, speeding up your computer is often one of the highlighted benefits of regularly running a registry cleaner.
As far as I'm aware, however, there's no evidence that a smaller registry has any positive effect on computer performance. While I suppose a drastic decrease in registry size could have a small impact on how fast Windows does certain things, the small amount of unnecessary data a registry cleaner will remove has but a tiny impact on your registry's size.
"But cleaning my registry speeds up my computer, right?"
Wrong. See the last few paragraphs in the previous question.
"OK, maybe registry cleaning is overrated. But what's wrong with running one every day/week/month/year, just in case?"
A few reasons come to mind:
- Letting an automated tool remove registry keys, especially ones not really causing problems, is risky.
- It's a waste of your time.
- It's a waste of your computer's resources
Actually, I'd go beyond overrated and say unnecessary. Why would you want to do any sort of maintenance that's unnecessary?
"Are commercial registry cleaners better than free ones? Do you recommend anything other than free cleaners?"
I have yet to find a commercial registry cleaner that comes close to the features, safety, and speed of any of the top several freeware registry cleaners in my list.
In most cases, you get what you pay for. In the case of registry cleaners, however, it seems that free is best.
"CCLEANER ISN'T FREE!!!"
Yes it is. (I have actually gotten emails with the above statement in ALL CAPS!)
CCleaner, in case you don't know, is the registry cleaner that I most frequently recommend and I can assure you that it's 100% free.
Unfortunately, one or more other not-so-free programs masquerade as CCleaner, often times in large banner advertisements on some websites, tricking at least some people to download their program. After finding lots of "problems" and maybe infecting your computer with some malware, it demands that you pay-to-fix.
The poor victim them searches for more about CCleaner, finds me, and... well, here we are.
Just be sure you're downloading CCleaner here, direct from Piriform, the only maker of the software.