Since Microsoft first introduced the Windows registry, registry-cleaning utilities have been a favorite, and almost necessary, addition to the Windows user’s software library. Over the years, I have used various registry optimization tools, including Norton System Works and McAfee Nuts & Bolts. Both have worked relatively well, but both usually retail for more than $50. If you’re looking for a more economical way to keep your Windows registry in shape, you should take a look at Registry Medic from Iomatic.

What is Registry Medic?
Registry Medic can find and then repair and/or remove invalid registry entries, scan and remove invalid software, start menu information and backup, and restore the registry. This product is also useful for guarding against Trojans that use the Windows registry to propagate and deliver their payload.

Registry Medic is available for Windows 95/98/Me/NT/2000/XP. It requires at least a Pentium class processor with 32 MB of RAM, 10 MB of free hard drive space, and Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 or later. You can download an evaluation copy of Registry Medic directly from Iomatic. The evaluation version limits the number of orphan registry keys that can be repaired/removed at one time to five. You must rescan the registry before you can repair/remove the next five. Even the full version limits the number of registry keys you can fix at one time to 1,500, but I have scanned several Windows 2000 and XP machines and never come anywhere near this limit. The limit puzzles me, though, as full product versions usually have no such restrictions.

Before you begin

Warning: The following article involves editing your system registry. Using the Windows Registry Editor incorrectly can cause serious problems requiring the reinstallation of your operating system and possible loss of data. TechRepublic does not and will not support problems that arise from editing your registry. Use the Registry Editor and the following directions at your own risk.

Installing and using Registry Medic
Installing Registry Medic is straightforward and simple. You’re asked to accept the EULA, select an installation location, and choose whether to place a shortcut on your desktop or the quick launch toolbar. Once you make your choices, installation takes only a few minutes and, once it’s finished, you may begin using Registry Medic immediately. Figure A shows Registry Medic’s main screen.

Figure A
Here is Registry Medic’s main screen.

Registry Medic’s toolbar and hot keys make it easy to use. To initiate a scan, simply click the Scan Registry button or press [Ctrl]S. Before Registry Medic performs the scan, you are given the opportunity to exclude particular disk drives. I recommend you exclude all network drives and any removable media drives, including floppy drive, CD-ROM drives, memory card readers, or Zip drives. This will speed up the scan and ensure that only the registry on the local machine is scanned. You can also specify excluded disk drives under Registry Medic’s Program Settings menu [Ctrl]T, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B
This machine’s floppy drive, CD-ROM drive, and network drive have been excluded from the scan.

Once the scan completes, Registry Medic will ask you to specify a path to search for directories that match any invalid registry entries, as shown in Figure C. The default path is C:. If a match is found, Registry Medic can repair the invalid registry entry instead of deleting it. As with the excluded drives settings, you can also configure this setting from the Program Settings menu.

Once you’ve selected a path, the matching process will begin. Depending on how many invalid registry entries you have, this matching process can take several minutes.

Figure C
Here is the default path for matching directories in C:.

When the matching process is finished, Registry Medic will present you with a summary of its findings, as shown in Figure D. You can expand each summary item for a detailed list of each invalid registry entry.

Figure D
This particular registry scan revealed 802 invalid registry entries referenced to folder and files, 12 invalid registry entries referenced to the Start menu, and more.

Now you can repair or delete all the invalid registry entries at one time or pick and choose which entries to repair or delete, as shown in Figure E. You can also access individual registry keys with RegEdit by selecting the key and clicking a toolbar button.

Figure E
Registry Medic allows you to choose a particular action for each invalid registry entry. The registry entry shown here will have no action performed on it.

Fight Trojans with Registry Medic
Another nice feature is Registry Medic’s ability to detect Trojans that use the Windows registry to spread. This process is done as part of the standard registry scan. You can update Registry Medic’s virus definitions by clicking on the Program Settings button, selecting the Virus Definition tab, and clicking the Virus Def. Update button, shown in Figure F.

Figure F

A quality product at a great price
On a scale of one to 10, I give Registry Medic a nine for ease of use. Its simple, intuitive design makes it easy to use and virtually eliminates any learning curve. As for Registry Medic’s features, I give them a seven. Although Registry Medic is an excellent registry-cleaning utility, the ability to scan INI files would be a nice addition. Also the Help file appears to be outdated, as the screenshots do not match the current version’s GUI.

Overall, I give Registry Medic an eight out of 10. I tested the full version of the product on several machines—running both Windows 2000 and XP. I did not experience any problems with running the scans or after making the changes it suggested. Priced at $19.95, you definitely get your money’s worth, and I really like the fact that this program does not load automatically when Windows boots—unlike Norton System Works and McAfee Nuts & Bolts.