Registry cleaners are widely available. When do you need one? Why? What's the best registry cleaner if you do? In general, a registry cleaner isn't needed and when it is, shouldn't be used frequently.
There is no “best” registry cleaner.
There are a wide variety of opinions on registry cleaners and PC cleaning tools. Many people believe that they’re valuable and important tools to keep your system running smoothly.
My opinion’s a little … contrary.
It’s rarely needed
I rarely use a registry cleaner. In fact, I’ve never actually felt that I’ve needed to use a registry cleaner. Usually, I only run them to experiment with the cleaner, not because I felt my system would benefit.
And I definitely install and play with random things on my machine on a regular basis. That kind of “playing” is exactly what most registry cleaning advocates would say lead to issues with the registry. And yet … I’ve rarely had issues and when I did, running registry cleaners weren’t part of the solution.
My fundamental belief is that the best registry cleaner is no registry cleaner at all.
Running a registry cleaner is a risk
In my experience, most computers don’t benefit substantially, if at all, from a registry cleaning. And some actually get worse.
Unfortunately, I also get reports of situations where registry cleaners have made things worse, often much worse. I’ve heard from individuals that have had to completely reformat and reinstall Windows after running a registry cleaner that did much more harm than good.
When to run a registry cleaner
So when is registry cleaning appropriate?
I would identify two cases. When you want to:
- Speed up a very slow Windows, but only if nothing else has really helped.
- Resolve Windows or applications crashes, but only if nothing else has helped.
In both cases, I consider it one of the last resorts because while it might help, it’s just not that likely to help much.
Before you begin, back up first; take a full system image. That way if something goes wrong as a result of the clean-up, you can safely restore your machine to a point in time before the damage was done.
Safe registry cleaning
There are those that disagree with my position.
And, to be honest, while there are the occasional horror stories like those I just mentioned, most of the time registry cleaners don’t do any damage. They may not do any good, but reputable ones aren’t going to harm your system unless there’s some other kind of underlying problem.
Because you can’t tell whether your situation is going to be one of those “mostly OK” scenarios or a total disaster, it’s important that you take care to always back up properly before your begin.
Which registry cleaner should you use?
So if you’re going to use a registry cleaner, which one should you use?
There are plenty of tools out there, that’s for sure. I’ll recommend two:
- CCleaner, the Windows cleanup utility has a registry cleaner as well. Run “Analyze” and you’ll be able to see the changes its about to make.
- Macecraft’s JV16PowerTools, a commercial solution that includes not only a registry cleaner but an entire suite of useful maintenance utilities.
I’ve used both of these tools on an otherwise clean and working copy of Windows 8 and had no issues.
Regardless of which registry cleaner you use, please backup first. You can’t have too many backups.