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Roger Thomasson via Dorbel Tweeter:

"@Jason Howard:  Bravo for your excellent and accurate post about the misleading and hyper-inflated marketing claims made by most such "PC Fixup" software.  I agree that most users - novice, average and even most "above average" users - should not use any registry cleaner (with the possible exception of the conservative CCleaner) because (1) they don't know enough to use them in a way that avoids damage, and (2) the artificial intelligence the cleaners use is inadequate to safely and accurately correct registry problems "automatically."  Average users should instead take their screwed-up computers to a genuine expert (not to the "computer genius" gamer kid next door) and be willing to pay the cost of having it expertly fixed.

For just one example of point (2) above:   If a cleaner finds a registry entry pointing to a .dll file (e.g., "xyz.dll") that is missing from the location where the registry entry says it should be, many registry cleaners will scan the system's drives (including any available backup drives, usb drives, network drives, etc.) to find an "xyz.dll" file.  It may find one or more, but those may be:

(a) a different version of the missing .dll file, which won't work correctly for the program using the registry entry;
(b) a completely different .dll file, made by a different software company for an entirely different program, which just happens to have the same name of "xyz.dll" - obviously that .dll won't work with the program using the registry entry.
(c) a file on a usb or network drive that is not normally attached to the computer;
(d) an infected version of the file, which has been moved to some backup or quarantine location by an antivirus program;
(e) etc.

But the cleaner program will nevertheless propose fixing the problem by replacing the registry entry's filespec for the missing file with a new filespec for the xyz.dll(s) that it's scan found.  If it found more than one, many cleaner programs will list several "fix" options, one for each of the found xyz.dlls, but typically they designate the first one in the list as the "default" solution, which will be used if the user allows the cleaner to perform an automatic cleanup.   Typically there is no intelligence applied to deciding which of the found .dll's would have the highest probability of working correctly -- they don't look at manufacturer, version number, size, etc. of the found .dll's, they just choose whichever one happens to be first in the list as the default solution.

From this single example, you can see why the probability is fairly high that an automatic "fix" of this error will be wrong.  Multiply that probability times the 908 registry errors that it found, and you can see why performing an automated registry fixup is likely to break your system.

A very few of the "better" registry cleaners out there have a valuable function when used (1) by an expert user who (2) is willing to spend the large amount of time required to manually walk through the list of found errors and select the correct fixes.  An expert might notice that a large number of the found errors pertain to a single software program - in which case the expert might find that it would be more efficient to just uninstall and reinstall that program, versus manually trying to correct a large number of registry errors found by the cleaner.  (In which case, the cleaner has performed a valuable service, although we didn't use it to fix the errors it found.)

The expert would likely perform an "sfc /scannow" command to ensure all Windows' components are correct.  He/she may find, based upon the cleaner's analysis, that doing a complete non-destructive repair reinstallation of Windows would be appropriate.   (Many pseudo-experts -- "computer-genius" kids next door and even lots of bozos at computer shops or the "Geek Squad" -- will do a destructive re-format/reinstall of Windows when it is entirely unnecessary, because that is the only thing that they actually know how to do.  They should instead be using a registry cleaner in the proper way, but that would require them to learn a lot, to know how to use one, which would cut into their gaming and Facebook time, so it ain't gonna happen...)

I am familiar with one registry cleaner, Registry First Aid, which does a good job of finding errors, and allows the user to customize the way it seeks solutions (e.g., telling it to not look for files on particular drive letters), and best of all, upon completion of the scans for errors and solutions, it then categorizes the proposed fixes according to their potential for being wrong or causing harm -- it gives you a batch of fixes that would be harmless to let it automatically perform, another batch which you should exercise caution with, and another batch which have high potential for doing harm.   By default, it selects only the first batch, the harmless fixes, to be performed if the user chooses to let the program to an auto-cleanup, leaving the rest unchanged. 

In this way, it prevents an average user from causing harm (although it will not have fixed all of the found problems), and at the same time is very helpful for the expert who is willing and able to use it properly to fix many problems automatically and others manually.   I can therefore recommend that program to both average users and experts.  (Although for average users, the freeware CCleaner may do just as well.)"

        Jul 31 2010 at 3:45am
Roger Thomasson via wiseolowl:

"Registry First Aid does not work on 64 bit systems. Otherwise great program. That's a bit limiting nowadays." 
        Jul 31 2010 at 3:46am
DrTeeth Registry cleaners are the mosu uselass class of software on the planet. have yet to see any speed, stability or fixes attributed to one. If they did what they said, they would be quite expensive and not free.
        Jul 31 2010 at 10:00am
S B

@ Roger!

Thank you very much for these wonderful, insightful and extremely useful posts.  *Lots* has been said about registry cleaners, but I've never seen anything quite this intelligent and practical.  

It is things like this post from the expertise that has to exist "behind the scenes" at BDJ that elevate BDJ even further.  This post *alone* is well worth the price of BDJ!  ;-)

You guys are tops!

Many, many thanks!

        Aug 6 2010 at 11:11am
Roger Thomasson Just so there's no more confusion -- the initial posts in this forum thread were not of my own composition.  Rather, they were transplanted from a comment thread on a promotion page.  

We're working on a better attribution system for situations like this, preserving the users avatar, rank, etc...

-r
        Aug 9 2010 at 2:18am
S B

A *really* wonderful, useful post!  Thanks Dorbel Tweeter!

Sorry, I didn't understand "via" as "authored by" or "from".

Thanks Dorbel Tweeter!

        Aug 9 2010 at 4:13am
Roger Thomasson "Authored", yes!  A much more logical descriptor.

Next time :-)
        Aug 10 2010 at 1:17am
tom drake Definitely, registry cleaners are a lottery where you bet a lot (your computer with all the data) and the prizes are low (usually slow improvement at best).
        Sep 1 2010 at 8:29am
disenchanted I have run through a huge list of registry cleaners, both free and paid.

The only one I like enough to recommend is the one by macecraft.

It's a sort of  "swiss army knife software bundle" that includes a good reg cleaner within the suite called JVpower tools.

I have used it on probably 75+ pc's and never had any problems.

It offers to back up your pc's registry, by default, before it starts any cleanup that will make changes to your pc. [so you can go back to a previous state,  if things don't work out]


The feature I used the most is the registry finder, that let's you search for multiple terms/words at one time. Then it displays all results found. I use it to clean out all the left over junk from a software application UNinstall.
It lists all entries found. You can select all, or just put a checkmark next to each entry you want to remove.
It's 100X faster than doing the same things via windows REGEDIT.

If you tried to use windows REGEDIT, you can search only one term at a time and then have to hit F3 to find the next matching registy entry.



 A home use, 5 pc license is under $30

Macecraft has a fully functioning 14-day demo version.
So a lot of co-workers use the demo for a one time cleanup.

I personally found it useful enough, that I have a home use license.                                            
        Sep 16 2010 at 3:31pm
Roger Thomasson Thanks for the tip Frank, I'm going to look into this one for a Bits promotion.  There seem to be so many underdeveloped/dubious registry cleaners out there; it's nice to get a trusted recommendation :-)

Scores well on Web of Trust as well...

Best!

-r
        Sep 17 2010 at 2:23am
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