The Windows Registry is an essential system file that houses a massive collection of details about where on your computer programs are stored, which helper programs (known as DLLs) are shared among your various applications, listings of all your Start-menu shortcuts, and pointers to the programs that fire up when you click on an icon. And that's just the beginning.
Practically everything you do in Windows is recorded somewhere in the Registry. For instance, the URL for this article probably has an entry now. The paths to the last dozen or so images or documents you opened are there, too, as are the details of the programs you most recently installed or uninstalled.
However, Windows doesn't efficiently clean up after itself as it goes about its daily business. It constantly creates new entries, but seldom, if ever, removes them after they're no longer needed, which eventually slows down your system.
Registry Cleaners: Boon or Boondoggle?
The big question is whether a Registry cleaner will speed up your PC, making it boot more quickly and run faster. Possibly, because everything depends on the condition of your Registry.
We tested five of the most popular Registry cleaners and defraggers to find out which catch the most errors, and are safest and easiest to use. I tried each tool on my messy production PC using Windows XP SP3, on a pristine Fujitsu Lifebook T-Series laptop running Vista, and on an old Lenovo ThinkPad laptop. I ran the Registry scan and repair module of each application, rebooted the system, and watched for problems, and I also tried to determine whether the system seemed friskier. After each test, I restored each system to its original state of disarray with Acronis TrueImage.
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