Microsoft does not support use of Registry Cleaners in Windows

What is Microsoft’s stand on Registry Cleaners? Does Microsoft support use of Registry Cleaners in Windows?  In this post we will see Microsoft’s support policy in this regards and what it thinks about the use of Registry Cleaners and Optimizers on a Windows PC.

The Windows Registry is a place where you will find all the settings for your operating system. It contains information for all the hardware and software, along with user preferences. The Registry isn’t simply one large file, but a set of discrete files called hives, primarily located in the system32 folder.

windows-registry

Microsoft once offered their own registry cleaners like RegClean, RegMaid which were discontinued from Windows XP onwards. More recently its Windows Live OneCare too offered registry cleaning feature, which was also discontinued. Starting with Windows Vista, the Registry has been Virtualized, and hence unlike Windows XP or earlier versions, does not tend to suffer from bloat. Due to Virtualization, applications are prevented from writing to System Folders and to the ‘machine wide keys’ in the registry.

Microsoft’s old stand on Registry Cleaners and compressors

Here is Microsoft’s original take on Registry Cleaners on onecare.live.com (now removed):

Over time, the Windows Registry can begin to contain information that’s no longer valid. Maybe you uninstalled an application without using the Add or Remove Programs function in the Control Panel, or perhaps an object or file in the registry got moved. Eventually, this orphaned or misplaced information accumulates and begins to clog your registry, potentially slowing down your PC and causing error messages and system crashes. You might also notice that your PC’s startup process is slower than it used to be. Cleaning your registry is the easiest way to help avoid these common problems.

We had earlier mentioned a post at Mark Russinovich’s blog, which said:

So it seems that Registry junk is a Windows fact of life and that Registry cleaners will continue to have a place in the sysadmin’s tool chest, at least until we’re all running .NET applications that store their per-user settings in XML files – and then of course we’ll need XML cleaners.

Discussing the problem of bloated registry hives in some earlier versions of Windows, Microsoft had earlier felt:

You may discover that some of your registry hives are abnormally large or “bloated”.  Registry hives that are in this state can cause various performance issues and errors in the system log. There can be many causes for this issue.  Troubleshooting the actual cause can be a long and tedious process.  In this scenario, you simply want to compress the registry hives to a normal state.

So while Registry cleaners or compressors may have had some benefit earlier, in the recent versions of Windows its use is not generally recommended by Microsoft.

Yet many Windows users, make use of Registry Cleaners and Optimizers in the belief that to clean up or ‘optimize’ the Registry is to make Windows faster and ‘better’. Whether such registry cleaners help or not, has always been a matter of debate. Then there are Registry Defraggers, which defragment the Windows Registry. Again – Is Registry Defrag good or bad – that is yet another question!

Using a Registry Cleaner will not make your Windows run faster. It will at most delete or clean up, broken or orphaned registry keys in your Registry.

But there is no denying that there is a large software ecosystem of Registry Cleaners who are doing very well, selling Windows users, registry cleaning software. There are some freeware too available, which are very popular. To be honest, I too use a registry and junk cleaner every week or so, to clean up my Windows 8.1, as I often install or uninstall new programs to check them out.

Says Microsoft now:

Some products such as registry cleaning utilities suggest that the registry needs regular maintenance or cleaning.  However, serious issues can occur when you modify the registry incorrectly using these types of utilities. These issues might require users to reinstall the operating system due to instability. Microsoft cannot guarantee that these problems can be solved without a reinstallation of the Operating System as the extent of the changes made by registry cleaning utilities varies from application to application.

Microsoft therefore does not support use of Registry Cleaners in Windows! Yes, this may come as a shock to some of you who use them, but this is their official position!

The reason is clear. If a registry cleaner makes a mistake and deletes wrong keys, it could make your operating system unbootable! A damaged registry can lead to excessive CPU utilization, longer startup and shutdown times, poor application functionality or random crashes or hangs or even data loss! Moreover, some of the programs available free on the internet can even contain malware. For these reasons, Microsoft does not support the use of registry cleaners!

Microsoft’s official position on the use of Registry Cleaners

  1. Microsoft does not support the use of registry cleaners
  2. Microsoft is not responsible for issues caused by using a registry cleaning utility.
  3. Microsoft cannot guarantee that problems resulting from the use of a registry cleaning utility can be solved

So there you have it!

In spite of this, if you decide to use a registry cleaner, make sure you research the product and in any case, always remember to create a system restore point first or back up the registry before using it.

Over to you! Thoughts? Observations? Comments? Recommendations?

Posted by on , in Category Windows with Tags
Anand Khanse is the Admin of TheWindowsClub.com, an end-user Windows enthusiast, & a 10-year Microsoft MVP Awardee in Windows for the period 2006-16. Please read the entire post & the comments first, create a System Restore Point before making any changes to your system & be careful about any 3rd-party offers while installing freeware.

37 Comments

  1. It’s true! Many users don’t even know how much damage for the system…

  2. That’s true because the Registry plays a very important role in the core of the OS and it needs to be handled with care ! 🙂 Though I use it once in a month to remove the useless regs. I find it very useful because I frequently install and uninstall programs.

  3. Paultx

    If Microsoft knows the registry gets bloated for a number of reasons, I think they should make clear if this affects or not the computer performance. In case it does, they should as well provide useful help with that.

  4. Michael

    Here’s an idea, why MS doesnt implement a low resource system service that monitors every program’s installation and after you uninstall programs from your pc, the system service app kicks in scans for left overs and delete them safe and sound. How about that?

  5. Ziggy

    The only time I use a registry cleaner is to check for redundant services which log multiple log errors in the event viewer. Using regedit I can then check/delete the offending service and eliminate errors in the event viewer. At the end of the day I’d much prefer redundant entries than an in-operable operating system. Run different registry cleaners and note how they report different entries – so then what? Programmers for these cleaners determine what to search for and delete, which will vary from cleaner to cleaner and that, in my opinion, is playing with fire.

  6. jjstccean

    If a user were to use an application utility such as Revo Uninstaller pro – there would not be the need for a registry cleaning utility. Revo goes one further by actually removing the dregs/registry settings from the registry which was left behind by the application/program uninstaller.

  7. jensenjs

    MS do warn people not to fiddle with the regbase, but people don’t read the warnings, the companies that make regcleaners warn people not to make changes to the regbase if they do not know what they are doing.

    MS are in no way responsible for people messing up their system.
    If you don’t know what you are doing, don’t do it.

  8. jensenjs

    You can use Revo uninstaller for that, I do.
    The pro version supervise the installation in every step on the way.
    The free version do not supervise the installation, but scans for leftovers if you uninstall from Revo uninstaller

  9. Dan

    I agree with the general nature of Mr. Khanse’s and other posters’ observations; for orphaned reg keys from uninstalled programs, since I too use/test a lot especially on non-production Windows 7 Home Premium laptop, I use Advanced Uninstaller Pro as it’s another fairly good scanner for leftover keys/files (and lets you see what may be removed before doing it). But in Windows 7, StreamMRU and two other keys which MS itself cleaned in XP are lumped into one new type commonly called “shellbags”, which has a slightly different binary to it; in no time at all, “shellbags” having no purpose to me or even forensics can grow to over 15K useless file access keys similar to orphaned keys yet most cleaners can’t see them…my laptop can get slower in no time. I found that with Privazer’s “Shellbags Analyzer” I could easily locate and delete such extra useless keys. I’ve found that just relying on Advanced Uninstaller for orphans and Privazer for orphan-like shellbags, I keep down Active X and read time errors w/o damage or need to delete anything else.

  10. Danny

    reg cleaners should be used with care. never delete keys of programs which still exist on your system. Programs like CCleaner ask us to delete key created by MS Office, Dot net framework and other programs which exist on the system. This can be harmful. use reg cleaners only to delete keys created by programs which have been uninstalled. Check the path to know which keys can be deleted. for example i uninstalled Samsung Kies. all keys related to it can be deleted safely. Hijack This is a good program for cleaning startup items. need knowledge about windows services thou. can always do a search to find out about the file

  11. John_Sydney

    Surely any reg cleaner, free or paid, that left the system inoperable after a sweep wouldn’t last long in the open market!

  12. I tried CCleaner, after doing the registry defragmentation, my laptop start showing errors on some of my installed softwares. A lot of my colleagues who formats laptops to other people still install those registry cleaners. I also do not recommend putting it to your systems. Feel free to visit my Blog at Tekno Boy Tutorials and Reviews

  13. Moses

    I used registry cleaners, defraggers, and optimizers for years. Without fail, bits would be deleted that caused a problem (s) over time. Every event required a fresh win7 instal. I will not use these utilities ever again, paid or free.

  14. Moses

    I used Advanced Uninstaller Pro. Not only did it not remove orphans from a program that it uninstalled, it left its on trash behind. Same with CC and all the others. They damaged my registry and failed to clean behind themselves. I have been in computers since the Vic 20.

  15. Paultx

    I’m not talking about MS warnings on people fiddling with the Registry, I’m talking about MS help people clean the Registry with its own tools, since MS knows the Registry gets bloated over time. I know MS (and not only MS) warns people not to fiddle with it. What I’m saying here is, if MS once had its own tools to clean the Registry (RegClean, RegMaid, Windows Live OneCare) it seems to me MS itself may have ways to help people clean it. I would trust a Registry cleaner from MS more than from any other source.

  16. Dan

    I’ve been in computers since the Commodore PET myself, and agree the scope of memory and things it holds has grown to sometimes mammoth proportions…it’s not just 99 line BASIC, c-load anymore! Today, some reg/file cleaners indeed are overly aggressive; I’ve never had a good experience with trusting the ones which use heuristic scans.

    But I can set CCleaner to scan for just a few issues, then review what it suggests to be cleaned and uncheck anything I know to not be one of those issues (or VirusTotal says isn’t a trace of malware); ditto with Advanced, Privazer. Same goes with not placing blind trust in ‘duplicate file’ removal suggestions.

    What Microsoft probably means by saying reg cleaners are passe is that systems are way more involved today, and unless one themselves could understand and actually peck one-by-one through keys/files correctly, their cleaners either shouldn’t be used or shouldn’t be used by maxing-out scan options and simply deleting everything found.

    If someone wants to “delete all” anyway, as Mr. Khanse always urges, first create a restore point, to which I could add: or at least use a reg cleaner with option to back up deleted keys so they can be restored from the cleaner’s back up.

    Whereas over time I’ve seen some corrupted free space scrubbers fail to release space at task end, resulting in alerts of zero free space, I’ve never had experience with the cleaners I use leaving their own “trash” behind, so I have nothing to add there. Hope this helps dispel any impression I’m just a dumb lickspittle for TWC articles, or anyone/anything else.

  17. Moses

    Excellent insight Dan. However, as experienced as you and I are along with many others here, we should not have the burden of picking what WE believe is to remain in the registry. This is what the registry cleaner is tasked to do. With perhaps a million new users coming to play every day, what chance do they have trusting any cleaner? My registry can bloat or float, no more reg cleaners for me.

  18. Dan

    You’ve raised an interesting proposition…ever so many more people today using technology they don’t understand. Yet Windows 7, for instance, can experience performance issues if enough useless Active X-related keys pile up; on small RAM, all those PowerShell shellbag keys piling up from many one-time use websites/video players/some online games; all those orphaned keys from long-gone apps/programs…on smaller units it could add up, even w/o mentioning duplicate/useless files. Then as you say, one takes chances on their own; recall the bad rep “Nero” got for renaming Windows keys which got deleted by the most routine uninstalls of Nero?

    What might be nice would be for Microsoft to come up with its own addition to its native Disk Cleaner, which addition could remove/repair useless and/or performance-threatening keys…like they finally added that Windows Update cleaning function last October. After all, any Windows version starts out having zero bloated keys added by usage, so Windows doesn’t need bloat to work in the first place.

  19. Moses

    Dan, you are right-on….I am no where close to an expert puter popper. Most of my experience is from trial-and-error, digital luck, formal learning, and test driving because I am curious. I have come up with a simple solution. Us MS on-board uninstaller followed with the never updated RegSeeker that sniffs out near exact orphans. The hits are much smaller and easier to deal with than the gaggle of mystery orphans returned by cleaners.

  20. Moses

    In addition, I have recently realized the so-called PC cleaners, tune-up, and many other misleading names do more harm than good. I also pledge to never use any of them.

  21. Ai Xiang Ni

    I’m using more than five registry cleaner and my windows start and work faster. Never get any trouble because of using them. Just choose the right registry cleaner and also you must know what you’re doing with that.

  22. Kevin Dondrea

    I can tell you my stance on Registry Cleaners. 1) They are mostly created by SPAM companies. 2) They delete things they think are no longer needed but actually are needed. 3) They do more damage than good.

  23. Kevin Dondrea

    Revo Uninstaller is AWESOME!!!

  24. Kevin Dondrea

    It would be nice but MS and their engineers are too arrogant to use common sense. i.e. Hide extensions of known file types. This allows people to spread viruses like AnnaKournikova.jpg.vbs. People see their extensions are hidden but yet don’t use their brains and wonder “Hey I see the extension jpg. Maybe that isn’t the last extension.” but I digress.

  25. Kevin Dondrea

    I’ve been working on computers since 1980. I actually discovered the year 2000 bug back in 1981 when I couldn’t change my computer to tell me what my birthday was in (1 AD) or the year 2000. but I digress.

    When Microsoft started using the registry my coworkers told me “Don’t touch it or you’ll be sorry”. Being a guy from the United States with Italian and German in my blood I took that as a challenge. I’ve been using Reg Scanner by Nirsoft.net. It isn’t a reg cleaner like these other ones but it’s for people who want to manually manage their registry. You can make an uninstall reg file, backup the registry, search for items and backup all results. After I uninstall a program I scan my registry for key words of that program. It takes more time but at least I know what is getting removed.

  26. jensenjs

    I can only agree.
    I have countless of times changed computers to show the filetype name.

    Many inexperienced users have activated a malware file by clicking at an icon that “looks” like a word, powerpoint or other icon.
    But it is often an executable file like exe, msi or other but they do not know this because the filename maybe looks like this “file.doc”
    But because of the missing file type they do not see the whole file name that could be “file.doc.exe”

  27. jensenjs

    It sure is, but always read what it wants to remove before press delete 🙂

  28. jensenjs

    You are right about a MS reg cleaner.

    But then again, it properly would not remove the many files that is useful for MS than for the users.
    Understandable but if you really want to clean the computer completely for leftovers form the many obsolete data in the regbase and all around the system then a cleaner like cclean is a must, mut then again one have to know what to do, and read everything again and again.

  29. Avik Biswas

    the whole point of registry is bloated, registry is probably one of the worst technology created by MS.

  30. Ronald Ashcraft

    Adding
    to above information with no conflicts..!!

    I will like to say that there are diverse registry cleaners available in the market for windows.

    Surfing the web I found a website named completeregistryoptimizer.com which said that C cleaner, JetClean, Wise registry cleaner are some of the paramount registry cleaners for windows.

  31. W

    That’s not the year 2000 bug. Or, rather, there’s a lot more to the Y2K bug than that.

  32. DelRay_666

    Face the facts, MS created the registry to hide information that it did not want the user to know. The registry is the worse thing to hit Windows – ini files worked just fine without any uninstall problems. Software vendors only care about getting their stuff installed, they do not care if it uninstalls or not leaving the user with a slower computer because of the bloated registry that loads on startup. MS does not want to take responsibility because it knows the nightmare that they have created and don’t have anyone intelligent enough to fix the problem.

  33. Tom

    Using a registry cleaner because you don’t understand the registry is like driving with your eyes shut! If you want to make sure that uninstall is removing all traces of a program, use Revo uninstaller, or (better) Geek Uninstaller. It is not possible for a registry cleaner to make your PC faster. If you look at the registry it is hundreds of thousands of lines long – how is deleting a few lines going to make any speed difference? Having said that, I sometimes use Ccleaner, but I understand the registry and check every entry before deleting. Even then the only time I do this is when I have removed some malware or unwanted utility. If you want to speed up your PC get more memory and a hybrid drive. Then you don’t even need to defrag!

  34. My computer started freezing and become slow. I tried every possible to remove the junk manually and also I scan my PC with an antivirus utility. But nothing happens. At last, I tried computer cleaning software like Ninja TuneUp to clean the system junk.

  35. Blitz

    Whats the difference between using a registry cleaner by itself, or an uninstaller with a built in registry cleaner? Nothing. Both are the same. They clean up left over registry bits of an uninstall. Revo does it as you remove the program, other cleaners do it after.

    Why would you relate cleaning with a program like ASC to driving with your eyes closed, when right after you suggest people clean the registry with Revo?

  36. Flavia Auditore da Firenze

    Revo Uninstaller only removes the keys relevant to the program that you uninstall. “Registry cleaners” remove keys indiscriminately.

    In a nutshell: They’re not safe to use.

  37. j7ndominica0

    A completely fail-proof generic registry cleaner is nearly impossible to create. Its author would have to stay informed about all the changes that Microsoft is making to the format that the key branches are organized. But also how common applications store data there, even if the format is contradictory to currently accepted best practice.

    For example, an application might create a few bogus CLSID entries to record its license number or the state of a trial period, in an obfuscated manner. The authors format the keys in a somewhat valid format, maybe test them against a couple cleaners. Then another registry maintenance utility detects some or all of these keys as errors and deletes them. The application detects tampering, and refuses to run or even reinstall.

    I never use cleaners. In the past I have tried RegClean and Norton WinDoctor. I only go into the registry to solve a specific problem, such as error messages, slow bootup, stuck associations, and so on. Occasionally I clean out the Software key from products that are known to have been uninstalled, to keep the ship tidy. Sorting out associations and registered COM/CLSID keys is too time consuming. (Microsoft has made these bloated.)

    I doubt that a “generic uninstaller” would be any more safe to use than a registry cleaner. What if we create an association or register the same DLL from multiple applications, and then the entry gets cleaned, because one of the apps is uninstalled? Keep a “use count” for each key? Bloat… We can’t make all legacy third party applications to increment the use count reliably.

    I am missing a key size calculator in current registry editors. I use Registry Workshop by TorchSoft (it supports win9x and all NT!), which does show the size of values, but not of entire branches. There are similar tools to gather stastics for the main file system (DirSizeCalc, or alt-shift-enter in Total Commander). Then we cold easily find the largest keys and get the most cleaning efficiency per time spent.

    Microsoft does use the registry with impunity. Too many types of data go there. In addition to the CLSID section, there are the TrayNotify values, which record hidden tray icons, and can get quite large. Windows Installer (MSI) also stores the components of each application in the registry. That should go in a separate file or files, which are not touched except when software gets installed or uninstalled. (Like a regular installation log.) Some applications can get very verbose and define individual files as components.

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