Is this a reasonable test of registry cleaner effectiveness?
November 14, 2011 11:43 AM   Subscribe

I've always been fond of CCleaner for its one-click approach to registry cleaning and crap removal (and some nice uninstall and startup management tools). I'm realistic about it, though, and appreciate that it's probably more productive of a sense of tidiness than actual improvements. But! This chap did a test and found some significant benefits from taking a computer that had been loaded up with rubbish and then had the rubbish manually uninstalled. So my question is this - is the methodology of his test basically sound? Would it change your mind if you thought registry cleaners are a waste of time?
posted by Sebmojo to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This is a pretty reasonable test, sure. I mean, it's a highly controlled test and doesn't account for malware and virii, which means that registry cleaners were the first and last solution to the problem. The issue is that people who don't practice good computer-hygiene aren't going to have a dirty registry as their only issue. They're going to have all sorts of garbage they downloaded from "free"ware sites and pop-up ads that needs to be scrubbed hard off their system.

Basically, if you know what you're doing, there's nothing in that test that is news. If you don't know what you're doing, this test just shows you step four out of the fifty steps you need to get things up and running normally again.
posted by griphus at 11:58 AM on November 14, 2011

Best answer: Coming from an IT perspective, registry cleaners are actually very useful for cleaning up broken dependancies within the registry. I'll often pair ccleaner with DeviceRemover to clear up hidden/detached devices on older or cloned PCs. It makes a noticeable difference in overall performance. HijackThis is another useful tool for finding unwanted addons/BHOs/LSPs etc that can also slow things down. Defragging also helps...although that is somewhat built into later versions of Windows as part of its self-tuning process. Bootvis was a favorite for the older XP systems.
posted by samsara at 12:05 PM on November 14, 2011 [5 favorites]

I think his strategy of directly removing unwanted software from Add/Remove programs before testing the efficacy of the cleaning methods he chose is sound.
posted by dgeiser13 at 12:20 PM on November 14, 2011

Wow, thanks for this!

I've got a new Windows 7 laptop coming my way this week, and I'm looking forward to de-bloating it right off the bat. I hadn't yet thought about using CCleaner on it as well, but now I definitely will.
posted by General Tonic at 1:45 PM on November 14, 2011

If one does suspect a possible malware infection (but carefully updates WIndows and Trend Micro Internet security), would the recommendation for cCleaner, DeviceRemover and HijackThis change?
posted by msalt at 2:37 PM on November 14, 2011

Response by poster: Use Malwarebytes first.

Also, checking Event Viewer (System) (via My Computer=>Manage) is always a good idea when things are acting screwy.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:52 PM on November 14, 2011

Revo Uninstaller also helps a lot when it comes to cleaning up systems.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 3:56 PM on November 14, 2011

For a new PC with loads of unwanted trial versions, PC Decrapifier is the solution.
posted by KRS at 4:37 PM on November 14, 2011

If one does suspect a possible malware infection (but carefully updates WIndows and Trend Micro Internet security), would the recommendation for cCleaner, DeviceRemover and HijackThis change?

Yes those suggestions are just for software "residue" that's left over after it's installed. These left over files and registry settings can often cause slowness if enumerated during system functions...let's say for example, you uninstall Mcafee in favor of Security Essentials...but Mcafee leaves behind its drive filters and other system level services....these services add additional cycles to reading and writing data that offer no advantages as the AV engine is no longer installed. It becomes bloat, pc sludge, or whatever you want to call it. Essentially poorly written software that does not uninstall cleanly can slows things down.

For your question on suspected malware however, you'll instead want to use malware tools like Malwarebytes and GMER to help identify and remove the malware. Hijackthis can also come in handy for the more benign browser hijacks. OTL is like HijackThis but a lot more robust on what it scans. Deezil's profile is also a great resource for malware removal that's not directly died to just your general PC clutter.

You can also check my profile for tips on preventing malware from taking over a PC. Albeit there's no surefire way to prevent Malware entirely. However just as a word of caution on your part, relying on just antivirus and windows updates is only a start, not a solution. You'll want to patch your 3rd party browser plugins (Flash, IE, QT, Reader, etc) as well as reduce your own rights to really fortify against threats. Hopefully that's not too far topic and is helpful!
posted by samsara at 6:31 PM on November 14, 2011

Doh, botched that link....Deezil's profile rather.
posted by samsara at 6:33 PM on November 14, 2011

Just be really careful with HiJackThis.

Try and have a safe, clean machine with net access for research before you go clicking around in HJT. It is a powerful tool, but, like all powerful tools, it can break things powerfully.
posted by Samizdata at 7:54 PM on November 14, 2011

I am a pretty big fan of Glary Utilities. I have had a few instances where the machine started acting up and Glary's Registry Cleaner did the trick. I run it every few weeks just for routine maintenance. I went to Glary after Norton Systemworks just became too bloated.

For routine maintenance:
1. Run a disk scan about once every month or two. I always run one before I defragment the disk. I still use Norton for this, but the Windows tool is fine.
2. Glary uses the Windows tool for removing crap like temp files. I use this before defragging, too.
3. Norton's speed disk defrag tool is still my go to app as well, though again, Windows defragment tool is fine.
4. And of course, I run Glary's Registry Cleaner. After major maintenance like a big app uninstall, I will also run Glary's Registry Optimizer. It seems to help.

For malware:
1. I run Malwarebytes, and run a quick scan infrequently.
2. Safer-Networking's Spybot is good in conjunction with Malwarebytes. I like the immunization and host file updating; I do not use "TeaTimer" process scanner except on machines that don't get daily use - it's a massive resource hog and an annoyance.
3. Any good antivirus such as AVG or Avast.
4. If you don't use the machine much, Windows Security Essentials isn't bad, though it's not as thorough as some commercial products.

Here's a tidbit: open up the control panel, open the Java control applet, and at the bottom of the last tab you can disable Java Quickstarter from auto loading. JQS is an unbelievably bloated resource hog. You'll have to disable it after every Java update.
posted by Xoebe at 12:30 PM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Someone on another thread pointed out that the OP got the same results from CCleaner, cleanmgr and the other one. But! cleanmgr doesn't touch the registry. So assuming the test is kosher, the benefit must result from deleting files rather than registry tidying.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:42 PM on November 16, 2011

It's not that simple, and is not always the case. Also observing performance by how it "feels" is almost like looking out a window and determining what is wrong with a car's engine across the street.

Yes deleting *some* files can help *some* of the time...especially if deleting them prevents them from loading into memory or from being enumerated during a scan or indexing process. The key word here however is "process."

Every program and service you have in memory takes up CPU cycles. And Windows, while handling multi-thread processing fairly well, can get bogged down by the complexity of operations it needs to perform to satisfy each process. Cleaning out the registry serves to remove settings and/or data that many of these processes would use precious CPU cycles to load, analyze, and subsequently fail on. The failures don't neccessarily equate to error messages...most of the time the CPU is wasted on checking for files or registry links that no longer exist..and it moves on.

This is hardly noticeable on a small scale, but multiply it by the number of processes wasting time on incomplete keys, and you get a measurable slowdown....even worse if certain parts of a once removed app is still loading into memory because of an orphaned registry you have an app freaking out as to where its parents are...figuratively speaking.

But again, registry sanity is not the only place to look when addressing slowdowns. It's definitely a worthy start. You usually won't be able to fully address the cause of a perceived slowdown on registry, files, malware, or hardware by themselves. You'll usually have to factor many if not all areas that could impede performance. Anyone who tells you differently is often trying to sell you something.

But in short, yes deleting unused files can lead to better performance, especially when that involves uninstalling programs that hook into the OS at boot or browser load times. Follow that up with a registry clean and you may catch leftovers from a poorly written uninstaller, improving performance even more. Remove unused /hidden devices so the OS no longer checks for them EVERY time it performs a certain process. (yes the more dormant drive controllers you have, the slower things will run....have timed this many many times in the past 15 years and its inly slightly improved with newer technology). Defragging helps by consolidating data so your drive's read head doesn't need to waste time travelling the entire platter to read a single file.....the list goes on and on, until you reach a level of performance you're satisfied with...otherwise backup, wipe, and reload...

If you're really interested in performing metrics, look into benchmarking software and process monitors. Sysinternals Process Monitor is a great start for peering into your system's inner workings and the sheer amount of data it is processing even when you're doing nothing else. You may find off the wall performance runaway WMI queries that require a repository rebuild (eats up drive I/O normall and doesn't show up in taskmgr as a CPU hog which can be frustrating to novice -> intermediate users). There's a plethora of factors out there, ready for your exploration....
posted by samsara at 9:28 PM on November 16, 2011

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