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Registry Cleaners - Good or harmful to your PC?

It is only natural that we all want our PCs to be in good working order, improved system performance, so that is exactly how programs are advertised to entice. They say things like:

           •      PC crashes? Get registry cleaner to repair it!
           •      Fix registry errors!
           •      Improve PC performance!
           •      Have your computer running like new!

These might sound really good but are not necessarily true. The scanners don't always deliver what they claim to do, at times quite the opposite.  I have seen reports where after using a reg cleaner the user could no longer open any files, Control Panel buttons are missing, browser is broken, errors pop up, and in some cases the system can no longer boot!

Despite that, in the Virus & Spyware zone I sometimes see posts suggesting a registry cleaner to fix PC crashes and registry errors, and techs/"experts" recommending the use of a registry cleaner as part of their virus cleanup routine.

Using a registry cleaner might be okay for an advanced user who knows exactly what he is doing. But for an inexperienced user who just like to scan and click the "Fix all" button without making sure that those entries being deleted are really redundant can have a disastrous result.

The risk of removing a critical entry is greater than the benefits you hoped to gain when using one of these tools. If you are not careful, a registry cleaner can mess up your registry big time, and a messed up registry is a broken Windows.  A registry cleaner has the potential to make your PC unbootable.

Is it necessary to clean the registry?

In my opinion, no. It is not necessary to clean the registry because a system with a bloated registry will perform just fine, and cleaning it will not make much difference in performance speed.  I have used Registry Mechanic, JV16 Tools and TuneUp Utilities until I started noticing that I was having more problems than ever before. When I started checking, these tools were actually reporting redundant entries of programs that are still installed in the system, so that was the end of using these tools for me (if you are an advanced user, it is better to remove those redundant entries manually yourself, at least then you know exactly what entries you are removing. Otherwise, leave them alone).

Apart from that, any redundant entries there won't do any harm and cleaning the registry will NOT make your PC faster. In fact, you could be doing your registry a disservice by deleting those redundant entries because the registry will become fragmented. You should also know that searching in a fragmented database slows down your search.

Don't take my word for it, read what Mark Russinovich(Co-Author/Founder of Winternals and Sysinternals) wrote about registry cleaners.

In his blog, when Mark Russinovich was Asked:

"Hi Mark, do you really think that Registry junk left by uninstalled programs could severely slow down the computer? I would like to 'hear' your opinion."

He wrote:

"No, even if the registry was massively bloated there would be little impact on the performance of anything other than exhaustive searches....”
“...I haven't and never will implement a Registry cleaner since it's of little practical use on anything other than Win2K terminal servers and developing one that's both safe and effective requires a huge amount of application-specific knowledge."

Based upon the numerous reports, testimonies and personal experience, in my opinion, a registry cleaner is of little practical use but the risk it poses is too big to be ignored. Cleaning the registry will have no effect on your system's performance, yet, there is a very good chance it will make your system unreliable.
So next time you use a registry cleaner, make sure to doublecheck those entries before deleting them, or think about whether it's even worth the risk in the first place.

I hope you find this article helpful.

Comments (15)


Thx for the article, very informative. I have added "registry cleaners" to the dont do list


DatabaseMX (Joe Anderson - Former Microsoft Access MVP)Database Architect / Application Developer
Top Expert 2007

I use CCleaner, but ... I don't have anything in the 'Registry' section checked.  It does a great job of house cleaning a lot of other junk - all at one time.


Yep, registry cleaners are bad in the wrong hands, and not very useful even in the right hands.

I use the advice from Jerry Honeycut: Backup first, change later. (always)

Any modification to the registry is potentially dangerous, and should be handled with care.
Top Expert 2007


I still use CCleaner now and then but just for cleaning temp files not for cleaning my registry.

Also if your PC is infected make sure you don't run CCleaner(or any temp folder cleaners) just yet in case one of those rogues that move files to the temp folders is present in the system.

Windows XP/Vista Recovery - Desktop icons missing - Empty Programs files

Thank you guys for your comments and input.
ValentinoVBI Consultant
Most Valuable Expert 2011

+1 for the Russinovich reference :)

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