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Registry cleaning is a bit of a black art. There's no real consensus on cleanliness, and different programs will often return different results.
Let's say you download the so-called top two registry cleaners. You perform a scan with the first, and allow it to clean the errors.
Now you use the "other" cleaner, run a scan and it shows hundreds of errors.
Back to the first, scan again and it still shows zero errors.
I'm beginning to think these cleaners are all made up and only show errors until you purchase the product. Once you do so they then show that they "did their job" and that your computer is in great shape after the scan.
What's your take?
I have mixed feelings about registry cleaners in general, and one reason is that there are indeed less-than-reputable companies who are indeed doing things much like you suspect, and worse.
However there are several very legitimate products, and guess what? You'll get different results between them as well.
The reason may surprise you.
First, I need to be up front and let you know that some of the companies that create and sell registry cleaners and optimization programs are occasional direct (i.e. non-Google) advertisers here on Ask Leo!. I say that up front to hopefully avoid concerns that I might be influenced by them, and to allow you to make your own decisions well-informed.
Ads that show up in the Google ad blocks are, largely, out of my control, but I only accept direct advertising from companies that I believe are relatively reputable.
But that doesn't imply that I think that their products are always necessary.
In fact my stance on registry cleaners is pretty clear: 99% of the time I don't think they're needed at all.
So, why might different registry cleaners return different results?
In short, because there's actually no definition of what it really means for the registry to be "clean".
Oh, there are some obvious things, like perhaps references to files and software that no longer exist. But the bottom line is that the registry is such a complex collection of data that it's nearly impossible to encapsulate all the rules of what can and cannot be cleaned, what's safe to remove and what's not, into a single cleaning program.
This concept of "safe" is also a very important difference. It's not always obvious whether a particular cleaning action will, in fact, be safe and not have unintended side-effects. Many registry cleaners will allow you to specify how "aggressive" they are to be, and others simply select a particular level of what they feel is reasonable.
Neither are wrong, but neither can be completely right either. It's just not that simple.
And it's another source of differences between the different products.
The model of telling you what's wrong for free but then charging you to fix it is, in fact, a legitimate sales approach. Unfortunately it's also abused by various malware and other companies to occasionally scare you into buying things you don't need, or worse, installing malware on your machine.
So how do you tell what's what?
In my opinion it's all about reputation. Do a little research and see what independent (and again, reputable) third party sites report on various tools. See what discussion groups say. Even my article that says that registry cleaners aren't typically needed includes a couple of recommendations.
To further complicate matters, purveyors of malware and disreputable tools appear to be very good at deception. Take care that you aren't reading "planted" testimonials, watch out for "sound-alike" product names, and other scams.
But the bottom line is that as long as you take care to find and use reputable products, and follow their instructions, taking care to always backup first, you should be fine.
Even if the reputable products give different results from each other.
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