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Registry Cleaners: Are they a good thing or possibly bad?

Many kinds of malware keep rearing their ugly heads because of some embedded trigger planted in the Windows Registry. Can registry cleaners that are designed to remove these things actually do more harm than good?

Many kinds of malware keep rearing their ugly heads because of some embedded trigger planted in the Windows Registry. Can registry cleaners that are designed to remove these things actually do more harm than good?

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I've seen it happen on more occasions than I can count. A corporate or home user runs a registry cleaner in an attempt to remove some malware, only to find that Windows behaved worse after the registry was cleaned than it did before. Or perhaps it was run in an attempt to simply clean up some junk files so Windows might perform better, only to discover it ran worse — or possibly not at all.

Although there are a lot of good registry cleaners out there, there are just as many — or maybe even more — that simply aren't worth the time (or money). In fact, some of them are actually designed to plant malware, not clean it out. Some registry cleaners are offered as free downloads, while others have a price tag attached to them. Suffice it to say, not all registry cleaners are created equal.

I will admit that I've never been a huge fan of registry cleaners, even the ones we might consider good. They've certainly gotten better over the years, but in the earlier days of Windows it was an exception to find a good one. Even the ones that were reviewed to be good would often create some unintentional consequence that actually made things worse in the long run.

I've always been a believer of backing up the registry after the computer was initially configured pretty much the way it should be, and that replacing a corrupted registry with an older iteration was a better solution than attempting to clean it up. And an even better solution would be to reinstall Windows from scratch, the logic being that when the registry became corrupted, the time it takes to reinstall Windows is better spent than the time it might take to repair, replace, and reconfigure, especially considering a clean install would guarantee a smooth running system. But, like I said, registry cleaners have evolved like everything else, and there are probably some great products out there.

Sorry, but I don't have a recommendation for a good registry cleaner. What prompted this blog piece, however, was that very question someone recently asked me. I didn't have an immediate answer, except to recommend a search for product reviews and comments from people who've actually used the products. That's something I'll do myself, but since I also have the option of throwing the question out to my TR peers, that's exactly what I'm doing.

So please share your experiences — and even your recommendations — about the many registry cleaners that are available. Share the good, the bad, and the ugly, and perhaps by the end of the discussion a bright light will shine on the best registry cleaner out there.

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