Are Cleanup Utilities Really Useful?

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Are Cleanup Utilities Really Useful?
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ptmguelph
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February 1, 2013 - 2:36 pm
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I was reading a recent post asking how many cleanup utilities a person should use.  The question in my mind is, should you bother using any?  I have always wondered just how useful these utilities are and an article in PCWorld about 18 months ago reported on tests they had done on five popular utilities, including CCleaner and WinOptimizer.  Here is a quote from the start of this article:

In most cases the cleanup utilities scarcely made a difference in overall system performance, and in a few instances they actually made things slower--though they did shave a few seconds off the test machines' startup times.

To read the full report, go to:

http://www.pcworld.com/article/230447/cleanup_utilities_can_they_speed_up_your_pc.html#tk.nl_bex_h_topstories

I usually listen to Leo Laporte's Tech Guy podcasts and I have often heard him also deny the value of these utilities.  He agrees that when you delete programs over time, they do leave entries in the registry, but that generally, these extraneous entries do no harm and certainly don't slow your system down.  What he does often advocate for slow systems is to reformat and then reinstall Windows and only those programs you really use - after backing up your data of course.

This position on cleanup utilities seems to fly in the face of things I have read here on DCT, so I would be interested in what evidence there is to say these utilities do actually help.

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Alan Wade
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February 1, 2013 - 3:24 pm
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From my point of view it depends just what you are using a cleanup app for. I use CCleaner regulary to clean out the temp files etc not to speed up my machine. A registry cleaner wont give you a performance boost but in cases of software or apps that wont install or run properly can in fact help by removing corrupt keys that are interfering with the app or software you are trying to run.

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Jim Hillier
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February 1, 2013 - 5:44 pm
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I read through PCWorld's test report. I must admit, the results are surprising to me. However, I would make several points regarding the methodology involved:

  • The report does not state how much junk was actually removed from each machine. IMO, a critical factor and a surprising omission.
  • They fail to mention if the images created for testing purposes were sector by sector or not.
  • The hardware rundown does not include HDD capacity. I would have thought the most relevant spec of all.
  • Boot time results show improvements across the board, up to 10 seconds faster, after cleaning. If that's not indicative of improved performance I don't know what is.

I can only judge by my own experiences. I've been repairing computers for ... well ... a very long time. Most of my clientele are elderly (birds of a feather), all have at least one cleanup utility installed, none ever use them.

I am regularly called to machines which are running like molasses. More often than not, two runs through with a couple of popular cleanup utilities, knock out all the unnecessary startup processes which have magically appeared since my last visit and.... good as new again. Well almost, it certainly makes a difference. I've witnessed instances where CCleaner, which is certainly among the safest but not necessarily the most proficient of these utilities, has removed multiple GIGAbytes of detritus. On one machine I recall removing 11+ GBs of junk.

Benchmark a machine which has been used regularly over 2 years and never been cleaned, run PrivaZer through said machine and benchmark again. I'll wager that the machine's performance improves noticeably after the cleanup.

Mind you, I admit that with the machines of today, which generally include much improved hardware specs; massive capacity hard drives, dual/quad core CPU's, additional RAM, etc., before and after [cleaning] performance is most likely getting less and less measurable.

Registry cleaning, not so much. The jury is still out on that one. I prefer to keep my registry as tidy as possible but then I am a neatness freak. I don't recommend the use of registry cleaners to any of my clientele nor in general. I seriously doubt that cleaning the registry would noticeably improve performance, and just one missing required entry presents a far worse scenario than dozens of orphaned entries ever would. Although, I do agree with Alan's comment re corrupt keys.

That's my spin on it, for what it's worth,

Cheers... Jim

 

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detailer
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February 4, 2013 - 9:34 pm
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Jim-I couldn't agree more.I too have been around,about,and inside of computers for several years.

 I'd love to give the example of my Sister living in Florida (I'm in Jersey),who told me during our regular Sunday night chat on the phone just how slow her two year old notebook has gotten lately.

 I pointed her to the built in Windows disk cleaning utility (which she,like many,had no idea existed),and instructed her to run it.

 I can't speak to the totals in KB,MB,or even GB,because it would have been confusing for her had I inquired,but she reports a huge difference in the overall speed of her PC now.Shocker,huh??

 Since a trip to sunny Fla. isn't in the budget,I'll have her daughter install Team Viewer or the like next time she visits Mom and I'll take a major league swing at it with a couple of my personal favorites.

 Regarding the article-though apparently well thought out and presented,I'm still trying to expel its smoke from my a$$.If there were none to only minor improvements,they (the PC's), simply hadn't gotten to the point of needing to be cleaned.

 Now,the whole "optimizing",and don't even get me started on registry cleaners,is another can of worms best left unopened for the purpose of this post.

 In closing,I'd like to share a little quote that I read from tech/geek fellow whose name escapes me,but I'll never forget this: "Running a registry cleaner is like sweeping one parking space in a lot the size of Montana"

 Then I thought,true...but what if there's a couple of nails in that space? Release the worms!

 Cheers!

 

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Jim Hillier
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February 4, 2013 - 10:32 pm
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LOL. Great to hear your input here detailer. There is no substitute for experience!!

The trouble with all these types of testing, and I'm including AV testing here too, is that they can be manipulated to produce desired (or a variety of differing) results. Also, it's nigh on impossible to replicate real word circumstances... so many machines running different software/hardware configurations, and such a variety of users, all with differing habits and attitudes. I tend to take most test results with a grain of salt, and my general advice to users is... take them into consideration by all means, but do NOT use them as the sole basis for assessment and/or selection.

Cheers... Jim

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Claw
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February 21, 2013 - 9:19 pm
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Ok guys, now I have tested every cleaning utility you can name, Jim can verify that, and I keep Ccleaner as the only permanent cleaner on all my computers. I found Toolwiz Toolcare to be good, the same with Slimcleaner and Glaty utilities and Puran utilities, but all these include other tools and useful features. But for sheer Cleaning power and usability, It's Ccleaner all the way.

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Jim Hillier
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February 22, 2013 - 5:00 pm
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I'm still using CCleaner myself Claw, but less and less. These days I'm relying more on PrivaZer for cleaning. Man, that software really gets into all the nooks and crannies. IMO, PrivaZer is pretty hard to beat. I also like SlimCleaner a lot.

One advantage that CCleaner has over most is that it has passed the test of time; it is a safe, tried and trusted solution.

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Alan Wade
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February 26, 2013 - 4:19 am
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Jim Hillier said
These days I'm relying more on PrivaZer for cleaning. Man, that software really gets into all the nooks and crannies. IMO, PrivaZer is pretty hard to beat.

Tried it based on what you wrote Jim, very impressive indeed. As already installed on all four machines. :)

 

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Marc Thomas
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November 15, 2013 - 6:30 pm
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I hardly ever use these utilities as I've always felt them to be placebos to a large extent.
I'll definitely try PrivaZer, thanks for the tip.
Marc

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BallyIrish
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January 26, 2014 - 7:34 am
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Yep, I discovered PrivaZer right here on DCT. As Jim knows, I am really stuck on it, but still use CCleaner. After running PrivaZer once a week - and sometimes daily depending what I've been doing, my PCs runs like new. I also use the free WinUtilities.

I too am a cleanness freak, Jim, and I too stop at registry cleaners, but defrag (compress) the registry from time to time. Can't say if it helps or not. If, however anyone wants an excellent trouble-free registry cleaner and is prepared to pay for it, RFA (Registry First Aid) is tops, and ultra safe and reliable, and if one stays by the default deletions, RFA will NOT trash your registry. I used it for ten years on my XOP, withiout a problem. It has a registry backup and restore, compressor, key searcher: it is in fact a fully comprehensive registry tool. With iolo System Mechanic Pro running in the background, my Win 7 is always at its best.

Did I find Aomei Backupper here at DCT, and Geek Uninstaller (geek.exe) too? Well, what finds they were! Both do an excellent job and both are free. I am especially impressed with Aomei Backupper. It is really excellent, far better than the Win 7 native excuse.

I find Geek Uninstaller far better than the free Revo Uninstaller, as if leaves far fewer left-overs behind.

A tried and tested (free) way to get rid of left-overs is as follows, and one I invented myself (!): Install the 'Everything' search and version 1.55 of RegSeeker by Thibaud Djian (Major Geeks). After an uninstall, restart the PC. Run Everything (a better searcher you will NOT find - it takes 3 to 10 seconds to list your entire system) In the search box, type in the EXACT name of the program you uninstalled. Instantly, everything remaining will appear. Delete the entries right from Everything with a right click. A dbl-click on an entry will instantly take you to where it is on your system, from where you can also delete it. Deleted left-overs will end up in the Recycle Bin, where as right click will allow PrivaZer to "remove without a trace." (Note that items already in the Recycle Bin will also be listed by Everything, so ensure it's empty before searching)

Now open RegSeeker, click "Find in registry..." and type in the EXACT name of the uninstalled program, and click "Search" RegSeeker will find all left-overs - sometimes a second run may find more, but seldom produces anything. If you want the found items backed up, leave the "Backup before deletion" box ticked in which case, if you wish to delete the backed up items, click "Backups" in the left side menu and proceed to highlight and delete, otherwise untick the backup box, and proceed to "Select" and "Action". WARNING! Well defined program names like Comodo Dragon, Avira or Avast! are OK, but if you search for Opera, you WILL get a whole lot of entries with the "opera" part in blue text of words like "operation" "cooperation" etc - any program name embodied in other words WILL be shown in blue text, so TAKE CARE.

In such cases I do a manual search through the findings of RegSeeker to ensure only Opera Browser (example only) is deleted. To delete in such cases, simply highlight the entry and use the right-click delete. If there are more than one such genuine entries, one after the other, highlight them with the mouse, and delete the lot all at once. In such cases use the "Backup before deletion" facility to double check on the items for deletion, before proceeding.

Phew! And that's it!

Greetings from ZA... and thank you Jim for AOMEI Backupper and Geek Uninstaller - along with PrivaZer, three real worthies!

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ptmguelph
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January 26, 2014 - 10:59 am
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Wow! With all of these uitilies you're using, Ballyirish, how do you find time to do an "normal" computing?

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BallyIrish
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January 27, 2014 - 10:08 am
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ptmguelph wrote: Wow! With all of these utilities you're using, Ballyirish, how do you find time to do an "normal" computing?

Hi ptmguelph and thanks for the comment. This does not happen daily - just now and then. But of all people, you will know that PC housekeeping IS "normal" computing!!! :=)

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Jim Hillier
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January 27, 2014 - 10:31 am
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With all of these utilities you're using, Ballyirish, how do you find time to do an "normal" computing?

Hmmm, a hard drive cleaner, registry cleaner, uninstaller, backup software, and desktop search tool. Sounds like pretty standard fare to me.

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ptmguelph
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January 27, 2014 - 11:20 am
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Jim Hillier said

Hmmm, a hard drive cleaner, registry cleaner, uninstaller, backup software, and desktop search tool. Sounds like pretty standard fare to me.

Well, I counted 8 different programs that BallyIrish mentioned in his post. I'm the one who started this thread asking if cleanup utilities are really useful. I can see from the discussion that many feel they are, but I remain unconvinced. Of the 8 programs he mentioned, I don't have any, though I certainly use a backup program: Microsoft's SyncToy, as well as Carbonite online backup. Since I don't tend to let my system get cluttered up, I don't really need an uninstaller, but I'm going to try Geek Uninstaller, since I often end up decluttering my neighbours' computers. They tend to get all kinds of toolbars and other stuff from Conduit and other crapware providers.
A couple of other programs that I do use are Secunia PSI, which helps keep my programs up to date and Soluto, mostly to help keep my boot up process in good shape. Soluto has gotten much more ambitious since I first started using it though, adding in many features that I don't need. Helpful, though, for managing other people's computers.
I do appreciate all the interesting and helpful comments and suggestions from you, Jim, and everyone else. Keep up the great work!

Patrick Smile

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Jim Hillier
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January 27, 2014 - 11:45 am
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Hi Patrick - I guess we all see things a little differently and have different tools for different purposes. I have all those tools mentioned by Ballyirish, except for the desktop search tool, I tend to rely on Windows native search for that. In some cases, where portable is available, I have more than one.

I also guess that, after witnessing first hand how accumulated debris has adversely affected a goodly number of my clients machines over the years, I tend to be an advocate for regular maintenance.

I am what one could describe as a heavy user (not my weight, the time I spend on my machine :) ). I run PrivaZer about every 6 weeks or so and it often makes a noticeable difference. CCleaner too occasionally if I need to quickly and selectively delete cookies. I do have a portable version of Geek Uninstaller on hand but I must admit, it's been a long time since I actually uninstalled a program.

Horses for courses methinks mate! https://davescomputertips.com/wp-includes/images/smilies/icon_smile.gif

Cheers now... Jim

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