Software

Five free Windows registry cleaners to keep your system running smoothly

If you decide to use a registry cleaner, make sure you choose one that's reliable and safe. Here are some excellent options.

Along with viruses and malware, the registry is the Achilles Heel of Windows. From within that hierarchical database, the operating system can be rendered unbootable, slow, or problematic. So it behooves the admin (or the user) to keep the registry as clear of errors as possible.

Here's the problem. With rampant and careless software installation, the registry gets mucked up quickly. And when the registry gets mucked up, bad things happen. Aside from being fastidious with your software management, you can use various tools to help keep the registry clean and free from errors. There are tons of registry cleaners out there, some of which do what they promise. Others are snake oil or worse. Here are a few apps you can trust to handle the job and keep your registry as clean as possible (without manually running a fine comb through every entry).

1: CCleaner

CCleaner is my go-to cleaner. I know it gets a lot of flack for having to be run multiple times (to fully clean the registry), but it always does the job, and never have I seen CCleaner render a system unbootable or worse for wear. One of the things I like most about CCleaner (aside from the fact that it will also rid your machine of temporary Internet files) is that it will always prompt you to back up your registry before you run the cleaning tool. CCleaner is also a mid-level cleaner, in that it does not go too deeply into the registry, so you don't run the risk of breaking your machine.

2: Comodo System Utilities

Comodo System Utilities is another product with more features than just registry cleaning. This tool will dig a bit deeper than CCleaner but is just as safe. Comodo is one of those companies that's not nearly as well known as it should be. Its products are always topnotch and affordable. The System Utilities tool is free, so you can't go wrong. This registry cleaner should be considered more of a deep cleaner. Once you've run it, you should experience a much-improved system. And like CCleaner, I've never seen Comodo System Utilities brick a PC.

3: TweakNow RegCleaner

TweakNow RegCleaner works with Windows XP, Vista, and 7 and does a fantastic job of removing obsolete registry entries. Although not as deep a cleaner as Comodo, TweakNow RegCleaner is one of the fastest registry cleaners you will ever use. If you're looking for a mid-level cleaner and speed is the name of the game, TweakNow is what you want. TweakNow RegCleaner will also clean up traces from Web browsing, clean Windows temporary files, compact Google Chrome and Firefox database files, optimize Windows settings, and optimize network settings.

4: Wise Registry Cleaner Free

Wise Registry Cleaner Free offers a unique restore feature that most other registry cleaners don't have. With this feature, you can restore back to the previous registry state with the click of a button. Wise Registry Cleaner also offers registry defrag, scheduling of tasks, registry backup, and free technical support. Of all the free registry cleaners, Wise Registry Cleaner Free should be considered the Mac Daddy of them all. One nifty feature: If you double-click a registry entry (after scanning), Wise Registry Cleaner will open that entry up in the Registry Editor, where you can manually edit or delete it.

5: AML Registry Cleaner

AML Registry Cleaner is more of a power-user registry cleaner (though not to the level of manual editing) and offers added features, like keyword search, the ability to add your own junk file removal, and the ability to see all startup applications. AML Registry Cleaner finds quite a lot more keys for removal than most other cleaners. This, of course, can be considered both good and bad. For me, this is one of those tools I use when low- and mid-level cleaners can't find junk entries causing problems with the registry. But beware: With the power this tool offers, you can run the risk of breaking the registry. So as you would do with all registry cleaners... back up your registry before you do anything to it or with it!

Your favorite?

There are plenty more registry cleaners available. But these are the tools I used more often than not and they've always been a huge help in getting a system running in a much faster, more reliable state. Do you have a go-to registry cleaner not mentioned here? If so, what is it and why do you prefer it?

Additional resources

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

81 comments
t.alenduff
t.alenduff

I thought these were supposed to be free. I checked out the first one Ccleaner, and the free version doesn't really do a thing and for the portion for the cleaner they wanted $25. The second one I downloaded and ran, and then to fix the problems, I had to buy it. Don't even think I'll try the rest because if I'm downloading them to have to run them only to be told that I have to buy something, I'm only creating MORE registry problems in the end!

alfredan
alfredan

use krojam cleaner it is good

croberts
croberts

You should use one and ONLY one tool: Macecraft jv16 PowerTools (used to be called RegSupreme Pro) I have used this tool for the past decade on over 1,000 computers ranging from Windows ME/2000 to Windows 7/2008R2, and NEVER once had it cause a problem.

bgbt3nk
bgbt3nk

It may be "snake oil" but I've used ToniArts Easy Cleaner for years and it has never harmed my computer. It also has other utilities but I generally stay way from them. Happy with this one.

rhys
rhys

The list omits Little Registry Cleaner - possibly nobody else likes it? sourceforge.net/projects/littlecleaner To me registry cleaners are pretty much the same. My personal opinion is that the more you interfere the more likely you will do something wrong. LRC creates restore points and if I remember correctly can also restore the registry from any of your restore points from the application, it checks after a clean, gives plenty of options without making the user navigate a maze of options before it's usable. I can't really speak of other cleaners - lack of experience. When helping friends who "cannot find" installation disks so I can't reimage I do head for LRC. Recently a friend swore blind that the only registry cleaner to trust was CCleaner. I user LRC and then ran CCleaner and to my surprise there were a large number of "errors" detected by CCleaner after LRC had been run. When I looked over what CCleaner was removing I thought I would actually prefer to leave entries like those in place. Optimising the registry is a great idea, so what is optimal? If you don't know what the registry entries you removed were for chances are you won't know how to recreate them if/when you need them. My very small sample of 1 showed CCleaner was a lot more aggressive, and so would make the registry smaller (hence faster reads) but LRC was more conservative and would leave the computer in a state I was more comfortable with when I returned it to my less IT capable friend. Choose your tool. I don't go in for registry cleaners in my workplace or on my personal machines. If I really think there are problems that can't be solved in a normal matter of course I reinstall the OS. I have all my programs and data stored on a NAS, and in the cloud - not tricky these days. It's my preference to trade off increase my planned downtime, and reduce unplanned downtime.

RandallTabor
RandallTabor

The reasons for a registry cleaner may vary, but the most common problem is how the registry can impact performance and speed. Usually, most users do not even realize the need until the registry is quite clogged up and the registry is often not the only problem. In near desperation, I recently used PC Tune Up and had marvelous results. Because my results were so good, I cannot help but suggest it as a worthwhile alternative among "for pay" alternatives. Free cleaners may be quite good, but may only deal with the registry in a one-dimensional way. PC Tune seems to offer a more complete solution. Time will tell, but so far I am very pleased. Since it is a "for pay" company, I can expect that they will have technical support and stand behind the products performance. Meanwhile, the company allowed a free trial which proved the worth of the product. I plan to try the product in other PC's soon. That is the best recommendation I can make.

beachbouy
beachbouy

If you use a REAL uninstaller program, one that logs changes made to the system when installing new software, then registry cleaners are not as important. The problem with Ccleaner, and many other registry cleaner programs, is that they don't compact the registry after cleaning. Registry Life has this important feature. Programs like iTunes, QuikTime, any Adobe software leave a huge footprint in the registry. When you uninstall these programs, or when you run a registry cleaner, it leaves numerous vacant spaces that accumulate and bloat the registry file size. A good registry cleaner should include a utility for compacting the registry. Otherwise, only half the job is done. Cleaning the registry alone may not speed the system up very much. Cleaning AND compacting the registry makes a bigger difference.

thefishdoc
thefishdoc

Another free app is Advanced System Care. It has a registry cleaner as part of the total package. Does anyone else use this or have comments about this software?

vkozyrev
vkozyrev

I do not think it affects performance, but it sure makes me feel better about my computer! ;-)

oldfoggy
oldfoggy

Re: Rodo1 An exellent question! i've wondered the same thing for a very long time!

Rodo1
Rodo1

I tend to be a sucker for this type of thing, so I downloaded the Wise Cleaner. The first thing I saw was it asked if I wanted to set a restore point. I clicked yes and it showed a message "Setting restore poing..." If they have an error like this right off the bat, I wonder if I want to let them modify my registry (I didn't.). My other thought on this is if registry cleaning is so important, why doesn't Microsoft provide a cleaner? I would think they would know best how to do this. Just sayin'.

oldfoggy
oldfoggy

Has any one tried Abexo? I have used most of the mentioned cleaners and I've had mixed results. I use Glary and ccleaner for a quick clean but for a deep clean, I really like Abexo. Just sayin.

Daddy Tadpole
Daddy Tadpole

I've tried a few of them on Vista - they all did damage that took a while to repair. Sometimes malfunctioning seems to be due to stuff that didn't uninstall properly; that sometimes happens with M$ Office. Revo Uninstaller (free version) has worked for me in such cases.

nfrumer
nfrumer

Wise registry cleaner is the only one - I tested quite a few of them - that did not mess up my configurations of IIS, MySql, MS Sql, PHP & Visual Studio environments...

jelabarre
jelabarre

Part of the trick I find with registry cleaning is you have to get rid of any obsolete files it may be referring to first. If you uninstall an application, be sure you've completely deleted it's directories first. Empty your temp directories. Empty your recycle bin. Then run a registry cleaner. Follow that with NTregopt to defrag the registry. Boot with a liveCD, delete pagefile.sys and create a zero-byte file in it's place. Then defrag the drive. sometimes you'll need to do some steps over again. Once you've done all of these the system will be MUCH better. Of course, my favourite registry and system cleanup tool for Windows systems is a Linux install CD .

royala
royala

I start with Ccleaner when cleaning a clients computer. Then run Ncleaner which does a bit more on the rigistry side. Maybe the invalid registry entries won't speed up a computer substantially...although I've seen it happen in my 20 years...there is such a thing as "housecleaning" that includes all software and hardware. It also lets the non techie customer feel a bit more secure knowing you are doing all you can. I would suppose, though, that if I were paid by the 'hour' by an employer and not by the 'job' in my own computer business as I am, I wouldn't have much use for 'little' remedies and time for deep troubleshooting either. I also wouldn't have the loyal customers who rely on my services to save their computers.

glhowe1
glhowe1

I have been in the IT game for a long time and statistically, registry cleaners do hold significant value. I don't care what you are doing in IT... back up your data first. Duh. Any program, software, or system modification can cause problems. In fact, you can do nothing and a system can crash. It really does happen. There are some software applications that do react poorly to registry cleaners... of course. But there are also many times these cleaners do exactly what they are meant to do and work just fine.

Jim Johnson
Jim Johnson

Registry cleaners have saved my bacon. I've also seen them so totally flumix a system that it becomes unusable (you DID backup before doing this didn't you Mr./Ms. ...?) My rule of thumb is to do a backup, go ahead and run the scan. If you recognize an entry and KNOW it belongs to uninstalled software, go ahead and allow the cleaner to delete that entry. Unless you are absolutely, positively certain, leave it alone. In short, NEVER let a Registry cleaner just have its way with your system. ALWAYS do an item by item eyeball. Sure its slow. But how much time does it take to rebuild a corrupted system?

hleveque
hleveque

"I recommend xxxx as the only Reg cleaner to use.. if you MUST use one." You people are a sorry bunch of "experts". You can't even agree amongst yourselves if the registry needs to be cleaned or when or how. What do users at all levels of competency take away from this thread? More confusion than before they read it, that they can decide for their unqualified selves what is needed, and that any program or none are all the same. Disgraceful. Lose the false pride, get on bended knee and go to MS and ask for help. And before you tell me how bad MS is, note that your whole career is based around MS products.

airjos
airjos

Auslogics' Registry Cleaner wins this race, hands down. Iobit (Advanced System Care) got caught stealing: http://www.google.com/search?q=iobit+Advanced+System+Care+caught+stealing&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a

muraliraj
muraliraj

I think ERUNT and NTREGOPT are often overlooked.Neat and light,when used in tandem,I have found them fast and error-free with an auto-backup option which comes in useful after crashes.Also.de-cluttering a bulky registry often makes my system go faster.

Cynyster
Cynyster

I recommend Ccleaner as the only Reg cleaner to use.. if you MUST use one. The registry is not a playground for the inexperienced or ill-informed. Be advised that is you have multiple users on a PC Mucking around in the registry even to clean it can spell disaster. What may be useless for one user may be required for another and Ccleaner at least is only looking at the current user. For those that are constantly installing software to try this out or check that out. I recommend spending your hard earned cash on VMWare. Test your software in a virtual environment first. Rather than trying to undo things after the fact.

hrosita
hrosita

I use the free Glary Utilities, in addition to cleaning the registry it mas many more options like deleting temporary files, finding duplicate files, etc.

luisperes
luisperes

I use Wintools.net Pro during many years in Windows XP and Windows 7 and also CCleaner without any problems.

Skullyvick
Skullyvick

I use Advanced Windows System Care for the heavy stuff. And TweakNow for the occasional wipe. Advanced Windows Sys Care if you ever use it will keep you forever. It has so many good features they're too long to list. It even goes and gets MS Updates and checks for vulnerabilities. It checks for Disk Errors, defrag's, checks for unused shortcuts, has a passive file defense mech. for the Sys32 folder and a Sys optimization for internet connections that actually works great. You can't do without it and AVAST! Anti Virus. Avast!'s top of the line virus software is better than anything out there by miles. Their "Sandbox" virus checker stops disaster cold. Use these two apps knowledgably, your PC worries are OVER! REALLY!!

kandries
kandries

@markku.niskanen : I am sorry to say so, but if you run a newly installed program without verifying (customizing) the default settings, you are asking for trouble. In these cases, not the program, but the user is to blamE; CCleaner never gave me any problem on XP SP3. I never blindly allow a program to run with default settings. Registry cleaners ? I'm glad they're around.

InvisibleBoss
InvisibleBoss

I also happen to use a "cleaner" when I notice there are "unwanted entries" in my registry. Mainly to remove the "trash" when allready knowing there ARE unwanted entries (or suspect). Still I dont really see an improvement of the speed or responds. As asked above, - I wonder if there are BENCHMARKS proving the reall benefit of a registry cleaning. Though, with these cleaners or "built in accessories", there is a positive and at times security issue, in deleting temporary files, cookies and a disk defrag at times (some skip defrag, because it's too slow. And sure it is, if seldom run).

Anthony Rice
Anthony Rice

I use these upon occasion and have found that they do speed up my system to a certain degree but it does beg the question: after all these years why doesn't Microsoft provide a tool to clean the very core of its product? I find Wise Registry Cleaner to be the best and safest product right now.

Gisabun
Gisabun

Actually they had one called RegClean that was used until early last decade. It was pulled sometime after Win XP came out. No idea why.

khiatt
khiatt

It asked if you wanted to create a restore point (backup the registry), you said yes, then it said it was doing it ("Setting restore point...") Where exactly is the error? Did you receive an error message after this? As I recall, MS made RegClean back in the 95/98/W2K days. Pretty sure it stopped working by XP, they just stopped updating it. Don't know why, it solved many problems for me back in the day. I use CCleaner now to find the garbage I know is left behind after removing bloatware, crapware, and any other ----ware you can think of

rhys
rhys

Sysinternals did a better job of producing system tools for Microsoft operating systems than MS did. MS recognised this and bought them, keeping most of the tools alive (I think they trashed the BSOD screensaver). Just because MS had the engineers and process to create an OS does not mean they had the best engineers to create something to utilise their system. Kudos to all those who saw ways to improve an existing system.

JCitizen
JCitizen

Sorry for the bad experiences! For me CCleaner has worked fine for Vista x64. In fact I doubt it would be running very well at all, the way some installers work. I eventually wised up and added REVO pro, so that I could track some of the ridiculous changes some applications make to the registry. On some Vista installs I don't have time to run the Norton removal tool, so I uninstall it normally and delete the program folder and run CCleaner, and I get almost as good results as using REVO Pro! So far - all of these instances were Vista Home Premium x64.

SgtPappy
SgtPappy

About an hour if you have a good base system image to start with.

learn4ever
learn4ever

If MS went under tomorrow, my career would be alive and well. My career is not based around their products. I'm happy in UNIX, Linux and Cisco IOS as well. I'm sure their are many others the same. That said, I have used MS for support a few times, and would again, but not for registry issues.

Ndiaz.fuentes
Ndiaz.fuentes

Most people on here agree: reg cleaners are to be used if you constantly install and uninstall software. Furthermore, you should always backup your registry before cleaning it, and if you're not sure what you're doing, don't clean it at all (at least until you learn more about the registry). As for the difference in opinion regarding what software is "best", it's a matter of preference. Go ahead, ask what OS is best and see if you get just one answer. Most likely, there will be some people defending Windows, some defending OS X, and some defending various Linux distros. So, to answer your question: "What do users at all levels of competency take away from this thread?" They get a neat list of pros and cons to reg cleaners, who should use them, and a number of different reg cleaners to try. However, users with little to no reading comprehension, get mad and write comments like yours. EDIT: Fixed some spelling errors.

JCitizen
JCitizen

Glary is an old workhorse that will never disappear. I highly recommend it, to people who are not PC challenged.

JCitizen
JCitizen

I was reading about the makers of MBAM filing suit against the owners of iObit for stealing the source code for MBAM. I don't know about you, but I don't trust a company to be bought out by a Chinese concern and suddenly seeing information like that. Some of my clients have intellectual property that needs to be safe. No way I'm trusting iObit ever again.

Gisabun
Gisabun

Mark Russinovitch [guy who started Sysinternals & Winternals] has stated that compacting the registry does little to improve performance of the Windows registry. THe text is available if you Google it. Removing a bunch of lines [let's say 200] in a registry that probably is in the 10s of thousands wouldn't speed things up.

Kenton.R
Kenton.R

I've never seen any legitimate testing showing a speed increase from using any registry cleaner. As Jayne Cobb would say: "Ten percent of nothin' is, let me do the math here... nothin' and a nothin', carry the nothin'..."

Kenton.R
Kenton.R

"Setting restore poing..." instead of "Setting restore point..." This isn't a typo in some far-off corner of the program that could easily be overlooked by QA. Having a typo where everyone who ever uses the program will see it is a pretty good indicator of how much time and attention was spent on the rest of the program.

md_hunt
md_hunt

and where, pray tell, do you get the "good base system image" for joe smoe's computer that happened to wander into your shop looking for a repair? Not everyone is working in a corporate or internal IT environment.

hleveque
hleveque

And found no general agreement. You may want to re-read it. Without knowing whether or not the registry should be cleaned, it is frivolous to yak about supposed merits of registry cleaning programs. That's like kids who have no monitor discussing video games. Re reading comprehension, feel free to post general agreements of this thread as to whether registry cleaning is required.

Kenton.R
Kenton.R

Was it because someone has test results showing registry cleaners make a system faster? If so, please share. I'd love to see results of BootRacer (boot speed), SuperPi (cpu), SiSoft Sandra (memory), HD Tach (disk io), along with PCMark/3DMark test taken before and after. Also, please note I'm talking about REGISTRY cleaning, not add-on features these programs tend to bundle in like disabling startup programs and defragging the hard drive. I've noticed those who believe these products increase speed tend to say "I used X and my machine was faster afterwards" without isolating the registry cleaner during their "testing". If the speed increase is due to disabling programs, there is no need for a registry cleaner - just use MSConfig and/or HijackThis. If it is actually due to a cleaner registry, lets see some testing methodology and some benchmarks.

khiatt
khiatt

I assumed that was your typo. :)

ITonStandby
ITonStandby

To get a good base image to reinstall a specific machine from, I like to get a complete image of the hard drive.. Clonezilla Live is my choice since it's free and has never failed me. The drawback is that it can take some time depending on the speed of the CPU (for compression) and the space in use on the drive. But if you have the computer for the better part of a day it shouldn't be an issue.

JCitizen
JCitizen

I can obviously see the result of using reg cleaners like JV16 and CCleaner. I don't need a stinking test article to tell me they work - I see it working every day I help my clients, and that is all I need. Do I need to be told a skunks butt smells? Do I need a test result? No.

hleveque
hleveque

"speed gains from using a reg cleaner are (usually) barely noticeable." Why then would you use it? What quantifiable gain will you achieve? And how would one ascertain that no damage has been done, as damage may not be noticed for a long time?

Ndiaz.fuentes
Ndiaz.fuentes

Fisrt off, why did you reply to my comment? You are arguing against the opinions of others, not mine. I was simply pointing out that there IS a general consensus as to when registry cleaners are useful. I'll give a chance for a rebuttal though, here are my two cents: In an ideal world of software, reg cleaners aren't useful. Software developers learn to make programs that clean up after themselves and the Windows registry doesn't get clogged up. However, this is usually not the case. And so, over time, you get registry keys that (as you stated) point to nothing. The problem is that although the latest versions of Windows are getting better at ignoring invalid registry keys, a large amount of these can clog up your system and impair performance (mainly stability-wise; for instance, invalid registry keys can cause otherwise unexplicable crashes and BSODs). Such an amount of invalid registry keys could develop over the lifetime of a Windows OS. Now, the case could be made that one could manually remove the keys, but that would take a very long time. Hence the careful use of reg cleaners (backup your reg, inspect what is going to be deleted) can greatly help speed up this process. However, as with any tool, one must be careful while using it and take the necessary precautions (like I said before, backups and inspecting what is being removed, for starters). Of course, if a person doesn't know what they are doing, they shouldn't be using a reg cleaner. That being said, in the hands of someone knowledgeable cleaning the regsitry can be less of a hassle than a sys restore, reverting to an image or performing a repair install (all of which, however, are valid options if you don't feel comfortable with the reg cleaner). EDIT: Remember tht most users don't run VM's. So they clog up the registry. And when machines with registry errors are brought to us for repairs, a reg cleaner may be a useful tool. However, I do agree that the speed gains from using a reg cleaner are (usually) barely noticeable.

Kenton.R
Kenton.R

mckinnej and Cynyster - "if a user regularly installs and uninstalls software", they should use a vm test bubble (also an added layer of protection against downloaded programs of unknown rootkit/virus/malware/poor coding status) or revert to a disk image after testing. Jim Johnson and Jack Wallen - a good rule to avoid damage, but what benefit is removing a pointer to nothing? At best, you didn't do anything. At worst, that entry wasn't pointing to nothing. Jack Wallen - a better option is don't do "rampant and careless software installation." Test in a vm or use known good images to revert to. Why do the vast majority of people use registry cleaners? Because their system is running slow or unstable. Chance a registry cleaner is going to speed up their system = 0. If you disagree, please show test results showing otherwise. I would love to see them. Chance it is going to make the system stable = about the same chance that it will make a system unbootable (either by the program's fault or user error). If you're going to use one you might as well just do a System Restore, revert to image, or do a repair install. Those options are all safer, require less technical knowledge, and have higher success rates.

Ndiaz.fuentes
Ndiaz.fuentes

"If the user regularly installs and uninstalls software or makes other changes to their system then a registry cleaner is an essential tool. [...] If the user's system is stable and rarely changes, then a registry cleaner is mostly pointless" - mckinnej "The registry is not a playground for the inexperienced or ill-informed. [...] For those that are constantly installing software to try this out or check that out." - Cynyster "My rule of thumb is to do a backup, go ahead and run the scan. If you recognize an entry and KNOW it belongs to uninstalled software, go ahead and allow the cleaner to delete that entry" - Jim Johnson (Note the reference to uninstalled software) "If you uninstall an application, be sure you've completely deleted it's directories first" - jelabarre (Note, again, the reference to the uninstalling of software) From the author himself: "With rampant and careless software installation, the registry gets mucked up quickly." - Jack Wallen Most of the other posts discuss which software is best, and I think we already covered that. Anything else?

Kenton.R
Kenton.R

What do the various creators of the testing software listed above have to gain by falsifying results? How could they all get together and falsly show there was no performance increase? Why would Symantec or other unnamed "big corps" be interested in paying them to hide performance benefits of registry cleaners? Wouldn't the "big corps" be more interested in trying to sell cleaners of their own... if they actually worked? Solution: run your own tests. If conspiracy theories keep you from trusting results from any of the above, download the open source Phoronix Test Suite, go over the code yourself, compile it, and use that. Results will still be the same: "cleaning" of registry results in no measurable speed increase.

JCitizen
JCitizen

I've seen the positives from the hard knocks road, that is all I need. Those stinking test companies are all in the pockets of some big corps, like Symantec or such anyway, why believe them?