Technology in terms you understand. Sign up for the Confident Computing newsletter for weekly solutions to make your life easier. Click here and get The Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet — FREE Edition as my thank you for subscribing!

Do “Fix All Your Windows Problems” Utilities Work?

Question: I have a number of knotty problems with error messages at present and there are several programs on the net which “guarantee” to fix them. When the offered free scan is invited, they always come up with lots of faults which they will only fix if you subscribe. My usual reaction is that it’s all a con to get subscribers, but is this true in all cases or are there some programs which really are the cure-alls they claim to be?

To quote the old aphorism: “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

I’m sure there are good programs out there, but like you, I’m very skeptical. Beyond skeptical. Downright suspicious, even.

As a result, I’ve never purchased such a program. Instead, I’ve tackled my problems head-on, lived with them, or, if things are bad enough and unsolvable, reformatted and re-installed.

But there are some ways to at least stack the deck in your favor if you want to try one or more of these types of tools.

Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!

Step one: you know this is coming

Before you buy, before you try, before you even download — back up. And by back up, I mean take a complete image backup of your machine.

Seriously, these types of programs and services are often chock full of malware and/or potentially unwanted programs (PUPs). It’s not at all uncommon that the results are so disastrous a reformat and reinstall is the only remedy — unless you have a backup image you can restore to.

Snake Oil!The intent needn’t be malicious. Some tools are simply poorly written or make overly aggressive changes. While recovery can be possible, sometimes restoring an image backup is the fastest and most practical solution.

Now that I’ve scared you, let’s look at the possibility that a utility might actually work.

Glorified registry cleaners

Many “fix everything” tools are nothing more than glorified registry cleaners.

One alternative is to just start with exactly that: a registry cleaner. While I don’t use one often, I have been happy with Macecraft’s JV16 Power Tools, as well as CCleaner. I discuss registry cleaners in more detail in my earlier article, What’s the Best Registry Cleaner?.

Both of these packages include additional tools that can be useful when dealing with a balky system. CCleaner, for example, while primarily about cleaning unneeded files from your system1, also includes a more extensive application uninstall tool, the registry cleaner, and additional utilities for maintaining your hard drive. JV16 includes startup analysis, an uninstaller, and assorted security and privacy tools.

Depending on the problems you’re experiencing, those types of tools might be enough.

Check reputation

When evaluating a specific tool, I search for stories and reviews.

If you find recommendations or awards from recognizable sources, that’s a good sign. Popular technology news sites periodically review and rate software packages. Positive reviews from tech support sites similar to Ask Leo! are also a good sign.

The nice thing about a credible review is that it legitimizes the utility somewhat as well. If, as just one example, gives a utility a review — even if that review is less than stellar — chances are the utility, and the company, are legitimate. Unless, of course, the review says otherwise.

Beware of fake reviews. Anyone can publish anything that looks like a glowing review. They can even fake award banners and ratings; check out any claims and trace them back to the source. Many of the “best <whatever>” or “<whatever>” sites are fake comparison and rating sites designed to specifically promote one of the packages they list. Be very, very skeptical.

Check discussions

I also check discussion forums or support sites. If the support site for the program is full of only negative comments, I’d beware. On the other hand, if you find a lot of “this product saved my machine” comments, or even just neutral comments and product suggestions, things might be looking up.

Once again, you need to beware of planted comments and postings. I get them here on Ask Leo! all the time – individuals with a vested interest attempting to push a product plant fake positive comments extolling its virtues2. Particularly if you see exactly the same comment in several places, get suspicious.

And with that very caveat, I’d love to hear from you. If you have a favorite utility for repairing Windows issues, please let us know in a comment. Yes, I have to reserve the right to remove spam, so make sure you’re only making a personal, legitimate recommendation.

If nothing else, it might provide a good starting point for folks to investigate and evaluate.

Right after they back up, of course.

Do this

Subscribe to Confident Computing! Less frustration and more confidence, solutions, answers, and tips in your inbox every week.

I'll see you there!

Podcast audio


Video Narration

Footnotes & references

1: It was originally called “Crap Cleaner” for a reason.

2: We try to weed them out and treat them as spam, but there’s no guarantee we’ll catch them all.

33 comments on “Do “Fix All Your Windows Problems” Utilities Work?”

  1. I to had a problems with errors popping up. I found a program that solved my issues and the best thing was that it was FREE. It’s called CCLEANER. This my help you with your problem and it may not, but the price is right, before buying a program, try this one.

  2. I like CCleaner. I don’t like this claim “Fix all your Windows Problems”. I think this sort of claim is impossible to achieve owing to the complexity of Windows and the huge possible range of problems that can occur.

    For an extreme example, take a defective keyboard. It could be that for whatever reason whenever a user presses a certain key, some funny thing pops up on the screen. Would such a utility really be able to detect such a thing. In practice – of course not.

    Tread with extreme caution. The best diagnosis for computer problems is going to be humans in a technical support forum, with appropriate skill & expertise to tackle the problem in questions.

  3. Probably one of the best “Fixit” utilities would be Norton Windoctor, it’s part of the Utilities suite of Norton Systemworks. I’ve been using it for years including the earlier Norton 3 version for Win98/ME. I’ve run it on friend’s machines which have become really sluggish and out of sorts, found and fixed lots of problems the most being over 600 on one machine.
    I’m sure there are lots of people who will agree with me.
    Try it.

  4. The Norton products are probably the best solutions to fix registry problems but with the drawback that they are quite expensive. There are many other freeware and shareware products that help clean the registry as well. Its better to go with a shareware product thats been tested and reviewed.

    Try this site for shareware registry fixing software:

    Freeware and Shareware registry fixing tools

  5. I used CCleaner too i must say that this pogram is a HERO for your Computer heheh :D and the best is hes FREE so try it :)

  6. Try a visit to PC Pitstop, and run their tests. They now offer software to purchase to fix some of the issues, but generally also tell you how to fix it yourself.

    I use EasyCleaner as a registry cleaner, and it seems to work fine.

  7. I’ve been using TuneUp Utilities for sometime and it has served me well. It won’t solve “all” Windows problems, of course, but it’s helpful in many situations.

  8. while writing with nero an error occured and then my dvd drive stops detecting dvds.. i had tried all the troubleshooting tips like regedit,uninstalling driver, i formated the os (win7).but no use.. it is detecting cd… what to do? plz help me

  9. Leo said:

    Beware of fake reviews. Anyone can publish anything that looks like a glowing review. They can even fake award banners and ratings; check out any claims and trace them back to the source.

    If there are any award banners in a website for any product, purportedly from a reliable website like PC Mag etc, click on the banner. If it doesn’t link you to that website, you can be pretty sure it’s a fake.

  10. Hi Leo,

    I am aware of being slightly off-topic to the subject, of “fix all” software, but the subject on my problem rarely come up, as it is completely different; so, forgive me for intruding. The topic is different but not entirely irrelevant, and important to writers of unusual stuff, which irritates the mainstream readership and the governments.

    I have a permanent problem with hackers of a state-sponsored actor that most probably cannot be completely resolved so easily and I do not see it as a problem any more, but battle against them with all available means, Malwarebates being one of them, my best warrior so far.
    But, while it fends off the malware that the state-sponsored actor send to me as a gift. Every time it lets me know, in a quite prominent style, with a Malwarebate’s banner that it blocked a website as it was a malware hidden within; while it displays its notification, I am not able to work, as it covers a part of my work. If their notification would have been smaller it would not bother me, but as it is, I must wait every time until the hackers stop attacking me.
    Is there anything that I could do, so that the notification shows up behind my work; maybe some trick with settings?

    Thanks in advance. And thanks for helping me before, good man.


    P.S.: I am afraid to contact Malwarebites as my computers have been redone from the scratch so many times that I have exhausted their patience with asking a new activation number.


    • You could try switching to a linux distro like Kali. It keeps shifting IP addresses etc and makes it almost impossible for an attacker to find you. Or use a sandbox — do all of your online work through a virtual machine so that you can just wipe it and reinstall. Do all your normal work without an internet connection. Or, use a second machine for all of your online work and put Kali on it.

  11. Good info … I had to reinstall Windows due to a well-known “registry cleaner” … I have C Cleaner to clear the browser cache and junk cookies, but have not used its registry cleaner. The registry cleaner seems designed for advanced users — it has several settings for removing different types of reg keys, and I’m not advanced enough to know which of these selections is safe. Since this article endorses C Cleaner, should it be assumed that all options on its registry cleaner are safe to check and items found safe to remove?

  12. Here are the programs i use: -malwarebytes anti-malware (the paid version, since i work from home)- ccleaner – jetclean – systemninja – hijackthis – windows all in one repair for really bad system issues. All are free except for the version of malwarebytes

  13. I’ve been using Advanced SystemCare for years. Between Advanced SystemCare,Avast and Malwarebytes and Spybot Search and Destroy, things have been good. BTW, these programs are free.

  14. I use Windows Repair available from Used it many times and never had a problem with it. I always follow their recommended actions to the letter and wouldn’t be without it now.

  15. I use jv16Power Tools at least twice a month. I am done with CCleaner for many reasons. I also know that Microsoft doesn’t recommend using a registry cleaner, but my question has always been and remained: How does one get rid of all the junk files lurking in the registry? — e.g. uninstalled software left overs —to name just one example. Microsoft is not going to do the cleaning for you.

    • My position is simple: there’s RARELY a need to clean that junk out. It typically has almost zero impact on your system or performance. (BTW: the registry doesn’t contain “files” — it’s a database that contains information, nothing more. Some of that information points to files on your computer.)

      • Thanks Leo for correcting me about “files” in the registry. More to the point, the database that contains information with its left overs after uninstalling a software is there for a purpose (tracking or what not…). I just don’t like it. Maybe, that doesn’t impact your machine at the very beginning, but after a while (4 to 5 years) there’s got to be some unforeseen consequences spacewise or otherwise.

        • There’s surprisingly little, to be honest. Yes, it can happen, but by far for the vast majority of users and machines there’s no impact that you would notice.

  16. I’ve been using Wise Care 365 Pro (paid version) for years. The first thing I do when I have a problem is do a Wise Care scan. It usually takes care of the problem, in fact, I cannot think of a time when it didn’t.

  17. I have used Advanced System Optimizer for years and it runs automatically every Saturday morning. Since using this tool I never had any computer issues at all.
    Maybe I am just lucky but, judging by my experience, I can recommend ASO

  18. My problem is not with third party programs to “fix and clean” my computer, but with Avast and AVG. I use a free version of each one on two different computers. I want these two programs to only scan for malware, etc. But after the scan is done, they show that I have broken registry problems, garbage that should be deleted, outdated programs and drives that need updating, and more. I want Avast and AVG to check for malware only and I never allow them to “clean up” my computers. of course they probably want me to purchase for doing this. Is it a good idea to allow Avast and AVG to do this? If not, is there a way to stop them putting a guilt trip on me for not taking care of my computer?

    • I’d say the advice in this article applies to Avast and AVG as according to your comment, they are registry cleaners as well as antimalware programs. It seems like they are trying to up sell you on a paid product. I’d shy away from letting them clean my registry as registry cleaners often do more harm than good.

    • This is the kind of behavior that, honestly, would have me looking for different solutions. If this is Windows 10, it’s built-in Windows Defender is enough, in my opinion.

      • Thank you, this is exactly what I thought, and I have looked for different solutions. First solution, getting rid of Avast and AVG.
        Just needed an expert opinion, thanks.

  19. I use ZoneAlarm for antivirus and malware, but I use other programs to detect malware ZoneAlarm doesn’t detect. IOBit has a program called Advanced SystemCare that I run about once a month with constant minor cleanups on demand. They also have a neat uninstaller that I use. Occasionally, I’ll use CCleaner, IOBit Malware Fighter, and SpyBot.

    Previously, I’ve used a program whose name I can’t remember and Symantec’s CleanSweeper. CleanSweeper did a good job of uninstalling, although it took a lot of processing power. On a 486, it took about two or so hours to analyze an installation of Office 97. For my laptop, I tried a utility that I can’t remember the name to that reset various settings in the hopes it would fix Windows Update problems. It eventually got fixed, but I don’t know if that utility did it.

  20. I bought my Windows 10 machine from a local company who maintains some large company’s machines. They recommended I install “Avast”. They have a free and also a purchased suite. I used the free for a while, now I have purchased a basic suite. There was some mixup (probably mine) re what/when I purchased/paid, so they extended the license for a comparable period to make good on the problem. They answered one or two email queries, notably in regard to the mixup. So I think their product and customer service is good. Being a non-professional I can only say the tools include virus and malware scans, registry, junk, disk space, etc manipulation/cleaning tools. Never had a problem. And yes, I am a backup fanatic, having started as a professional programmer in 1975 (retired now).


Leave a reply:

Before commenting please:

  • Read the article.
  • Comment on the article.
  • No personal information.
  • No spam.

Comments violating those rules will be removed. Comments that don't add value will be removed, including off-topic or content-free comments, or comments that look even a little bit like spam. All comments containing links and certain keywords will be moderated before publication.

I want comments to be valuable for everyone, including those who come later and take the time to read.