Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
System and registry cleaners often report wildly differing results. The reason? Sales tactics and no clear consensus of what it means to be clean.
I have a couple of good cleaning programs to protect my computer (which are usually recommended by you!). But occasionally, I get suckered into running a 'free trial' of a program (like a registry cleaner). I may have just run my cleaner and have been given a clean bill of health, but when I run the 'free trial', I invariably get hundreds of errors. Why?
It really, really, really depends on the utility that you're running.
But, ultimately, this type of behavior is what leads me and many others to not recommend entire classes of registry and system cleaning utilities.
It's not just a few bad apples that spoil the entire bunch; in this class of utility, it's often difficult to find an apple worth biting into at all.
The most common reason why you'll see free trials reporting lots of errors is simple: they want to scare you into purchasing their product to clean up what they supposedly found.
I say "supposedly" because the most disreputable scanners aren't above reporting "problems" that aren't even there. Thus, when you do purchase the program, they find that all's well presumably because of their exceptional technology; in reality, the utility did nothing.
That's not to say that there aren't utilities that actually do clean things up - there most certainly are. But many of those that I've seen are still not above overstating the risk of what they find and clean up. For example, some may claim that having 1,000 cookies is a serious performance and security risk. In my opinion, it's neither. Buy into their rhetoric and you'll be convinced that you need to purchase their product to clean it all up, which they then do.
Which brings up the second problem with these cleaners.
Ask 100 tech pundits about this topic and you'll get 100 different opinions.
The same is true for the creators of system cleaning software. Even among legitimate programs, a wide variety of opinions exist about what is and is not something worthy of cleaning and what can be cleaned safely.
The net result is that you could run one program to completion, have it report that your machine is 100% clean, and then immediately run another that might report that it's riddled with cruft.
And there's no absolute measure of which of them is "right".
There just isn't a formal definition of what it means for a machine to be "dirty". Oh, there are common things that most would agree could be considered dirt, but once you stray out of that fairly safe, common area, things become unclear quickly.
And even on those items that everyone might consider technically "dirt", you'll also find a variety of opinions about whether there's any value in cleaning it up.
The biggest single piece of advice that I have here is to resist the temptation to try the latest and greatest system cleanup utility or registry cleaner's free trial. At a minimum, only run tools that you've heard of and that have a good reputation from people you trust.
If you've never heard of it and the only words in support are from the tool's own site or advertisements, walk away.
The potential for harm or just wasting your money is too great.
Besides using only trusted tools, my single biggest piece of advice is simply this: don't go trying to fix problems that you don't have.
Put another way, I ignore cleanup utilities entirely until I'm actually experiencing and fighting a problem. Only then will I consider using a utility - and even then, I'm still more likely to target the specific problem rather than use a more general purpose "fix everything" utility.
But that's just me.
As I said, there are many opinions on this. If you do elect to invest in a cleanup utility, I strongly suggest that you do the research first to find out if it's worth what you're about to pay for it.
While it's possible that it can be, often times, it simply isn't.
(Oh, and make sure to backup first before running any cleanup utility - just in case.)
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