Registry Mechanic - best registry cleaner
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Don Watkins

               Registry Cleaner - Registry Mechanic - Best Registry Cleaner.

                    By Don Watkins



Registry cleaners. Hard for me to believe they're "controversial" since I've been a huge believer in them in what seems like forever. In fact one of the most difficult issues I had with my re-review of the scads of registry cleaners out there (other than the hundreds that have sprung up over the past 10+ years) is that I couldn't remember for sure when I started using one.

I know it was in the windows 95 days but when in the Win 95 life cycle it was is lost in the shroud of time but I've sworn by them for a long while now.

Registry Cleaner recap - What they do, what they don't do.

Windows 95 and all later versions implemented the registry, which is a central database which stores virtually all Windows settings and options. In general if a program is install it inserts information into the registry. This includes info like the location of the program on the drive and various options. Windows itself uses the registry to store configuration information. Needless to say the registry is a critical Windows component; you can probably run Windows if a DLL file is munged. Windows might not even boot if the registry is munged.

Since the registry stores information on programs there are multiple entries created during a program install. Conversely if you remove a program via the Control Panel add/remove tool most likely it won't remove all registry entries for the program. This isn't the end of the world but you remove more than a couple of programs you end up with a bunch of junk in the registry that doesn't do anything but take up room.

The registry also gets "messed up" (a highly technical term ya know) due to bugs. Yeah, yeah, I know, a news flash about Windows, it has bugs. That's not a slam, I've never written a bugless program with the possible exception of "Hello world" but dang, Windows is one complicated monster and it's bound to happen. Nor is it always the fault of Windows. Any install program can go about willy-nilly inserting all kinds of junk in the registry.

So you end up with a bunch of "junk" in the registry. Most times it's not the end of the world but it's a database and it's not unlike any other database the larger it is the slower the access because there's a bunch of stuff to thrash through. Remember how fast your computer was when you first got it compared to how it is now? You get the picture. Now that speed issue isn't entirely related to the registry but the registry has a lot to do with it as Windows hits the registry "database" any time it does anything.

Remember how stable Windows was when you first got your computer and how it might be flaky now? Again, there are often other factors but I've found that errors in the registry can effect Windows stability.

Given this it's worth it to me to keep my registry in top condition and remove any erroneous entries. They may not hurt but they're certainly not helping matters.

Registry Cleaners dig deep inside the registry and indentify and remove bad data.

A walk on the wild side

I downloaded and installed 20 different registry cleaners restoring the registry to the previous state before running the next one. Results, for the most part, were pretty bleak. My take is that a lot of people saw a market for a program that promised Windows stability and just threw some stuff out there to try and benefit from a need. Many of these products didn't do a good job and some of them made chances to the registry that rendered Windows unbootable. That's not to say there aren't a handful of good ones but I wanted to settle on a single dependable product.

Top of the heap

Registry Mechanic from PC Tools came out tops for me. Firstly it didn't do any harm, it correctly identified registry problems and offered an excellent recovery method to restore a previous version of the registry in case there were some problems. In addition it offered several other interesting and useful features.

The primary screen has a pleasing and easy to understand layout.

Registry Mechanic main screen


From the primary Registry Mechanic screen you can scan the registry, compact the registry (think disk defragment for the registry), optimize your system, tune up Windows services, monitor the registry in real time and restore a previous version of the registry.



Click on any image to enlarge

registry mechanic scan results

Scanning the registry returns a report of all the problems found in the registry, a whopping 223 of them. Right clicking on any entry brings up additional details that will give you more information.

In this example Registry Mechanic found an entry in the registry for a program file that long longer existed (I had removed it via add/remove). At this point I could elect to have the entry deleted, the keep it, add it to the ignore list or do those functions for all the items found.

When you're ready to clean it's simply a matter of clicking the repair button.





The next function from the primary screen is the compact your registry. I've never found that my registry needed a huge deal of work in this area but there are several registry compact programs on the market and it's nice to see that it's included so if you want to do it you don't have to shell out for another program.

registry mechanic services optimizer

The Optimize Your System brings up a screen that allows you to set recommended services, minimal services and to restore same in the event the results aren't helpful. Eliminating unnecessary services can do a lot to enhance Windows performance and you can find numerous sites that recommend a set of minimum services that you can adjust manually but it's nice to have a program do it for you plus have the ability to easily restore them. When I do this manually I have to make notes as to what I've disabled and that can be tedious and prone to mistakes.


The Tuneup your services screen (screenshot not shown) allows you to enable and disable services from within Registry Mechanic. This isn't anything you can't do via the Windows compmgmt.msc program but it's nice to have it included since Registry Mechanic is, after all, a tool for improving Windows performance.

A screenshot isn't included since it doesn't display a screen but the monitor your registry function sits in the system tray and constantly monitors the registry and gives you a notice when a program changes the registry. This didn't do a lot for me full time but it's nice to have available when installing a "strange" program.

Finally the restore function brings up a window with a history of your registry changes. Select your restore point and Registry Mechanic will restore the system to that point.

The bottom line

Registry Mechanic offers a pleasing interface from a company that's been around and is going to be around, is reputable and has a large support infrastructure. But more importantly than the interface and support, etc. is that fact that Registry Mechanic correctly identified registry problems, fixed them and includes additional speed up tools that were the icing on the cake. No snake oil, no wild claims, just a good solid program that's going to fix your registry and not cause problems.

There is a 6Mb trial version available for download here. I'd strongly recommend you try the trial version to make sure it suits your needs. If you want to buy it it'll set you back $29.95 and that's for a three computer license which should give you a good leg up on fixing and speeding up all the machines in your household/small office. - Don Watkins


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