Article, September 2006
Free Utilities to Clean Your Registry and Improve Performance
By Ira Wilsker,
APCUG Director; Columnist, The Examiner, Beaumont, TX; Radio & TV Show Host
Iwilsker@apcug.net (click to email author)
http://www.download.com Search for “RegClean”
If you are like me, it seems that I am always installing new software on my computer, and occasionally deleting unwanted software, freeing up space on the hard drive. What we do not typically see, unless we explicitly look for it, is a highly critical and important Windows file called the registry. The registry stores information on programs, hardware, and drivers that have been installed, and tracks the required settings for those items. The registry is frequently written to by the system, and frequently read by the system. The registry may actually be a huge data file that has substantial influence on boot time and computer performance. If the registry contains errors, or remnants of programs that have been deleted, performance will suffer. If the registry contains obsolete information linking to hardware and drivers, system problems may occur, often leading to “blue screens” or system crashes. If the registry startup components point to obsolete programs or drivers, the computer will boot slower as the system searches for those items, possibly giving some type of boot error message. If the registry grows too large because it contains too much obsolete or incorrect data, overall performance will suffer because Windows has to load the registry, search for items in the registry, and frequently read data from it.
Windows 98, for which Microsoft has discontinued all support, contained an integral, crude but effective registry cleaner. To run the built-in Windows 98 registry cleaner from Windows, click on START – SHUTDOWN – REBOOT IN MS-DOS MODE. When Windows reboots, there should be a black screen with white fonts. At the prompt, typically “C:\” or “C:\Windows”, type SCANREG /FIX (scanreg space forward-slash fix). A blue screen will open with a progress bar showing the evolution of the repair. After the registry is repaired, it can be optimized or compressed to improve performance with the command SCANREG /OPT (scanreg space forward-slash opt). A list of other commands and options is available at SCANREG /? or SCANREG /HELP (scanreg forward-slash question mark or help).
Since the now long obsolete Windows 95 did not have a function such as scanreg, Microsoft released a free utility RegClean, which will clean obsolete data from the registry. Reviews of RegClean showed that it worked on Windows 95, 98, ME, and NT. Microsoft long ago discontinued downloads and support or RegClean, with the latest version being RegClean 4.1a, released in early 1998. RegClean 4.1a can still be found online as a free download at http://www.download.com (search for “RegClean”). As Windows became more sophisticated, the integral registry followed suite, and also became more complex. Later versions of Windows, such as 2000 and XP can benefit from functions and capability not found in RegClean, and demand more sophisticated and modern utilities.
A software publisher in Finland, ToniArts, has a free multifunction utility, EasyCleaner, available at personal.inet.fi/business/toniarts/ecleane.htm. EasyCleaner is a powerful utility that can clean the registry, as well as other clutter from the hard drive. In a comparison of registry cleaning utilities published in the Langa Letter (http://www.langa.com), EasyCleaner performed the best of the free cleaners tested, and even outperformed many of the commercial cleaners. EasyCleaner contains a warning that should apply to any utility used to clean and repair the registry; backup the registry before any changes, and utilize any “un-do” options that may be available if for some reason the repair is not successful. EasyCleaner will function on all versions of Windows from 95 to XP.
Another excellent and free registry cleaning utility is the dedicated Eusing Free Registry Cleaner, available at http://www.eusing.com/free_registry_cleaner/registry_cleaner.htm. This program encourages the user to backup the registry before any repair, and then does a fine job of scanning the registry for errors, and is very quick in the process. Registry problems will be listed for review, with found problems displayed. If necessary, the repair can be reversed by utilizing the restore function. While Eusing Free Registry Cleaner is freeware, there is a link on the page for voluntary donations via PayPal.
A very popular free program, with over 25 million downloads indicated, is CCleaner, from London based Piriform Software. CCleaner is best known as a multi function utility that can remove clutter and useless files from the hard drive, freeing up hard drive space. A recent upgrade to CCleaner has added a registry cleaner to the utility. As with most other registry repair utilities, CCleaner has a backup and recover function to restore any changes. This utility can be downloaded for free at http://www.ccleaner.com. While free, voluntary contributions are solicited by credit card or PayPal, with donors automatically receiving updates and new releases before they are posted to the website. CCleaner will run on Windows 95, 98, ME, NT, 2000, XP and the new Vista (Beta 2).
Some research done by computer magazines has indicated that as much as 80% of the blue screens and lockups experienced by Windows users may be due to registry errors. It is also well documented that a cluttered registry containing obsolete information will result in a slow booting computer with deteriorating performance. With free registry cleaning utilities such as those listed above, there is no reason why we should have to suffer a poor performing computer when it is so fast and easy to clean the registry. I suggest that you download some of these, and try them. Before you use any registry utility be sure to backup the registry using the integral features so that the repairs can be reversed if problems occur.Click here to return to top