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Over time, the Windows Registry can begin to contain information that’s no longer valid.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.

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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?

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Anand Khanse is the Admin of TheWindowsClub.com and 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.