In my last post I asked the question “What do you think of Registry Cleaners?” and the community spoke. At the time of writing this there were 164 responses and after taking out the discussion comments (where they didnt say one way or the other), here are the results:
CCleaner. Glary Utilities also got a few mentions.
Those who said No consider registry cleaners as modern day snake oil or find its just better to work on the specific issue rather than a scattergun approach.
Those who were unsure typically hasn’t really been proven either way or they are unsure of any speed improvements after using one.
Lets look a little deeper into each answer:
Yes, I use registry cleaners
The registry is a large and complex database of information and there is no doubt that after a while there will be many entries left behind by applications that have since been removed. Less entries means a smaller registry and therefor makes it load faster right?
I spent some time looking for a study from a reliable source on the performance improvements of registry cleaners, but I couldnt find any. I could definitely find many sites talking about the benefits of a registry cleaner, but those sites are either directly selling a registry cleaning product or its a third party site that is making a commission for every registry cleaner product they sell.
One of the few trusted sources I could find was from Mark Russinovich’s blog. Mark is a widely recognized expert in the Windows operating system internals as well as operating system architecture and design. You might have heard Mark Russinovich before as he is the creator of Process Explorer and Autoruns.
On Marks blog, he said:
A few hundred kilobytes of unused keys and values causes no noticeable performance impact on system operation, but I figured it was natural for a Registry cleaner to be an essential part of running a tight ship for the anal retentive systems administrator.
So reducing the size of the registry by removing unneeded entries probably wont speed up the system, as Mark said, removing these entries would only reduce the size of the registry by a few hundred kilobytes.
But what about the contents of the registry keys? not so much the amount of space they take but the fact they are referencing a missing file? I expect there would be some speed improvements there, but I really couldn’t find any data from reliable sources proving this.
Wikipedia had something to say about it. While you cannot ever fully trust Wikipedia due to the fact that it is volunteer based, it is usually pretty good.
Metrics of performance benefit
On Windows 9x computers, it was possible that a very large registry could slow down the computer’s startup time. However this is far less of an issue with NT-based operating systems (including Windows XP and Vista) due to a different on-disk structure of the registry, improved memory management and indexing. Slowdown due to registry bloat is thus far less of an issue in modern versions of Windows. Defragmenting the registry files (e.g. using a Microsoft-supported tool such as PageDefrag), has likewise been de-emphasized due to this increased efficiency, and is largely an automated process under Vista.
Are Computer Technicians following old information? Are we doing something we have always done but never actually tested it on a modern system? The comments left in the previous article were overwhelmingly in favor of registry cleaners, so there is definitely something there.
No, I dont use registry cleaners
Much of the hate towards registry cleaners seems to have been caused by the many questionable products out there with advertisements saying that “You have 1000 critical errors with your registry. Press OK to fix it now”.
This is known as “Scareware” and even if you believe in good products like CCleaner, you can understand why people believe that registry scanners are modern day snake oil with this kind of advertising going on.
Some of the nay sayers also mentioned that most technicians dont fully understand the Windows registry and unless you know what you are doing, you cannot trust an automated program to do it for you. This is good advice. If you use a registry cleaner such as CCleaner or Glary Utilities, take a look through the list of what it is going to do and untick things you arent sure about. Dont use it indiscriminately and before you do any work with the registry, always back it up beforehand with something like ERUNT.
I am not sure
Some of the “I am not sure” responses said they do use registry cleaners but cannot see any obvious speed improvements, but it doesn’t hurt to do it anyway.
Other “I am not sure” responses said they weren’t sure because there aren’t any studies to back it up so they cannot make an informed decision.
In conclusion, the majority of the commenter’s do use them and when they do its usually CCleaner. I am personally in the “Not sure” camp since I haven’t seen any research to prove it one way or the other. The only time I dive into the registry to do something specific like a registry tweak or removing remnants of Malware, but thats about it. Anyway, a big thank you to all who commented!