A better registry cleaner

Last Updated on February 9, 2017 by Dave Farquhar

Note: I wrote this back in the Windows XP days. It worked really well under XP, but if you’re going to run the registry cleaner portion in Windows 7 or Windows 10, be sure to create a restore point first.

I’ve been messing around with a registry cleaner called CCleaner. I like it a lot better than the commercial tools that used to come with Norton Utilities and the like, and I like it better than the freebies that we used to use like Microsoft’s Regclean.

And you’ll never beat the price.CCleaner runs on Windows 95, 98, 98SE, ME, NT4, 2000, XP, and Vista.

One thing that I liked about it is that the program is intelligent and relatively dummy-proof. If you click around and do all of the defaults, it’s not likely to harm your computer. I inadvertently wiped out my Firefox browser history (I wanted to keep that) but that’s not a showstopper. It will populate itself again in a few weeks. Unlike commercial utility suites, where I’ve written 20-page explanations how to use them safely, this program doesn’t really need any explanation.

CCleaner actually does more than just clean up the Registry, although it does a fine job of that. It also does a great job of weeding out useless temporary files. I ran it on my old laptop and it found 386 megabytes of junk on my crowded C drive. I’ve been manually cleaning it up by searching it by hand, and I think I do a pretty good job of finding a lot of stuff, but what can I say? The program found 386 megs of stuff that I didn’t.

There are three benefits to getting rid of that cruft. First, Windows needs quite a bit of free space just to function properly. When you start getting too little free space, the system just acts goofy. Second, large numbers of temp files in the system directory just seem to make the system act funny. This was a bigger problem in Windows 9x than in the newer NT-based Windows versions, but there’s still no reason to have hundreds of those laying around. In my desktop support days, just getting rid of temp files used to clear up all sorts of mysterious problems. And finally, not having all those large and useless files on the disk makes your defragmentation programs work better. Those programs need free space to work with, and they don’t have to work as hard when they don’t have hundreds of extra worthless files to move around.

Cleaning the Registry is another important job, since a lot of uninstallation programs don’t do a very thorough job of cleaning up after themselves. The extra bloat chews up memory and slows down searches for the legitimate data the programs you actually use need. Since I tend not to install many programs and I use most of the ones I do install, CCleaner didn’t find a whole lot in my Registry, but it found some stuff to clean up.

So what happened after I ran it? The most noticeable effects were that my Start menu was a lot peppier, and my Web browsers loaded and ran a little bit faster. I understand the Web browser speedup, but the Start menu puzzled me a bit. Not that I’m complaining–it’s irritating when you press Start and have to wait for your list of programs to come up.

CCleaner isn’t a miracle worker and it won’t turn my P3-700 into a Core Duo, but the two systems I’ve run it on do run noticeably faster afterward. It was certainly more than worth the 10 minutes it took for me to download it and run it on each.

So what about the commercial utilities suites? Skip them. In this day and age, there are better, free alternatives for everything those utilities suites could do. CCleaner is one of the superstars. In coming days, I’ll talk about free substitutes for the other most important components of the utility suites.

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