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Registry scanners often report hundreds, if not thousands of issues. Should you fix them, and if so, which? I recommend fixing none of them. Or all.

I ran a registry cleaner on my machine, and it reported over 700 errors! How do I know which ones are safe to clean?

As I've discussed in an earlier article, I believe that registry cleaners are only marginally useful. One reason is that they rarely actually help anything.

Another reason is that it's all too easy to needlessly panic when you see the long list of issues they present.

That's not to say they aren't sometimes useful, but knowing what to do next in your situation ... well, that's not all that easy. It depends on the registry cleaner, actually.

Here's what I do...

I take an all or nothing approach to registry cleaning.

Most of the time I simply don't run one. At all. And to date, I've never encountered a problem that using a registry cleaner would have solved for me.

I honestly believe that 99% of computers out there simply don't benefit from registry cleaners.

Which is the "nothing" in my all or nothing approach. In your case I would actually not have run the cleaner, and I'd ignore the "errors" if I did run it.

Note that I put errors in quotes. The fact is the majority of what a registry cleaner reports as needing cleaning are not errors at all. Most issues reports are what I'd call "inefficiencies" - entries in the registry that are unnecessary, but otherwise harmless. Yes, removing them might speed up your computer by some miniscule, but unnoticeable amount.

Given that so many of the so-called "errors" are in fact benign, I'm extremely comfortable ignoring all of them.

I honestly believe that 99% of computers out there simply don't benefit from registry cleaners.

But what if, for some reason, you really, really want to clean the registry? As I mention in that earlier article, perhaps this is a last step in attempting to address some kind of problem your machine is having. Or perhaps the tool you're running promises not only to clean, but to "boost" your registry's performance? Fine.

  1. Make sure your computer is backed up.

  2. Let the cleaner clean them all.

Yes, all of them. Again, 99% of the time, it'll be just fine to do this. And yes, it's possible that something cleaned or boosted will resolve some kind of problem you're having, or perhaps your machine will speed up a little bit.

Or perhaps you won't notice a difference at all.

The fact is that various issues reported by registry cleaners are too numerous for most people to track down and know what to do with individually. There are just too many, as you've seen with your 700+.

So if I run a registry cleaner, and it finds issues, I let it fix them all. And then I run it again, because fixing some issues can expose other issues that can also be fixed. I mean, if you're going down the path of fixing 'em, you might as well be thorough.

One important note: please pay attention to step one: backup. Some small percentage of the time a registry cleaner may step on something important. You should be backing up your data and machine regularly anyway, but this is an important time to make sure.

Finally, all this assumes a "decent" registry cleaner. There are hundreds of tools out there that claim to clean, optimize, defragment, boost or whatever your registry. Many are the modern day equivalent of snake oil, and can even be dangerous. Recommended cleaners include:

  • EasyCleaner - a free solution

  • JV16 Power Tools - this is the package I purchased and includes several additional helpful utilities. If I'm going to use a registry cleaner, it's this one.

There are also many registry cleaner comparisons out there, including Langa Letter: Testing 10 Windows 'Registry Cleaning' Software Packs which lists several additional alternatives.

Article C2893 - January 9, 2007 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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6 Comments
Alistair Mitchell
January 13, 2007 3:21 AM

Dear Leo,I run a registry cleaner called Max Registry Cleaner and it does Quite a good job.It also creates a Back up of the registry each time before any deletions take place,but so far i havn't had to use the back up.
The mane reason i use it though is when i uninstall some programes it generally leaves behind dozens of entrys in the registry which can
conflict with similar programes i install.
For instance I had a programe on my computer called Winfast TV 2000XP Expert.Which played TV and FM Radio on my computer.I decided to delete that programe and install later software Winfast DTV2000H,which allowed me to play High Defenition
digital tv Etc on my computer.But before the new programe would install i had to get rid of all references to the old one on the registry otherwise it just wouldn't install.so in this instance and various others my registry cleaner was very usefull saving me alot of work doing it manually.Neither of these programes is very easy to install and i had problemms getting the FM Radio to work at all.I eventually discovered i had to install a separate programe off the installation disk Winfast PVR.Although there was nothing mentioned about that in the instruction manual.Its still not working properly as i can only receive about a dozen FM stations although i
have a good outside antenna atatched to the card and the old one received almost unlimited FM stations.So if anyone has any exprience of this kind of problem help would be appreciated.
Thank you Alistair Mitchell.

Kathleen
January 13, 2007 1:27 PM

I regularly use CCleaner downloaded free from www.cnet.com downloads. The interface is easy to use and it also lets me "see" (and uninstall) applications that don't always show up in the Control Panel. You do have to be cautious though as some that show up there are parts of such things as HP all-in-one software tools.

Leo A. Notenboom
January 14, 2007 11:19 AM

And for the record, regardless of how I typed it in my link, the link to JV16 goes to Macecraft and the legitimate product.

Josh
January 16, 2007 1:30 PM

u could replace the registry hive files off of xp disc but thats a bit complex and the effect is basically the same as a reformat (data is still present just all pointers to data in registry are gone) by replacing the hive files from the win xp disc you'd be back at square one with no errors - do i recommend this fix, nah just clean it you should be fine *backup stuff 1st*

and leo i agree 99.9999 pct of things automated registry cleaners find are harmless knowing how to remove entries from run and runonce manually is more worthwhile then any of these peices of software will ever be, why? cause its something that actually comes in handy.

Charles Tilley
August 20, 2009 7:57 PM

I downloaded and installed Glary Utiltes and did a "one click maintenance" and over two thousand registry entries were found. I allowed the program to "fix" the problems. Then I saw the option to "defrag" the registry. Again,I allowed the program to proceed. The very next morning,I could not boot into Windows (a "hal.dll." file was missing).I could only boot into Ubuntu. If it weren't for the dual boot option, I would have nothing. Also, I didn't create a backup. I ended up buying another refurb laptop. Windows XP Pro SP3 costs $200-$300 alone(the program).I couldn't fix the problem through Linux,I could browse the web but Linux is hard for me to work with. The point is,I've learned my lesson. LEAVE ALL THESE FREE REGISTRY CLEANERS AND "OPTIMIZERS" ALONE,they are a waste of time to even read about.

annavi
May 26, 2010 9:23 PM

Sir, in my system i was opend run and entred regedit but do not open,it says regedit has been disabled by admin,how can i sove it.

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