Should You Clean The Registry?

The Registry is a complex and often mysterious part of the Windows operating system containing more than 3 million items on a clean installation which can easily double over time. It is also an integral and critical part of the operating system containing settings, options, and information for all the software and hardware included in your PC. The question of whether or not to clean the Registry has been actively debated for many years but the consensus among experts today is that the Registry should be left alone.

Registry cleaning software will claim that cleaning the registry will help increase speed and stability – no, it won’t. Orphaned, or leftover, registry entries are dormant, inactive, and as such, are not impacting the system at all. Now, some users might say they use CCleaner to clean the Registry as it is known to be safe. While there is an element of truth to that, the reason behind CCleaner’s safety factor is that it does not clean very deeply or aggressively. In other words, it’s merely brushing the surface, so why bother?

One of the most common causes of leftover/orphaned registry entries is through uninstalling software. Windows native uninstaller has always been less than ideal in that regard. There are two ways in which you can limit the number of remnants left over following an uninstall:

  1. Use one of the free third-party uninstallers, such as Hibit, Geek, or Revo, which will scan for, identify, and remove remnants
  2. Use portable software wherever possible. Portable software is self-contained within its own folder and does not create any Registry entries

Please read:


Rule of thumb – hundreds of orphaned/leftover Registry items will have no negative impact on system speed or performance whatsoever BUT just one missing critical registry entry can, and almost certainly will, seriously break the operating system.

Do you clean the Registry?

21 thoughts on “Should You Clean The Registry?”

  1. Boy am I glad you mentioned this topic, Jim. I used to in the past, when I was using the HDD’s, and it was a feature used by PrivaZer. Since switching to SSD’s, saw no need as SSD’s do not require defragmenting either. And even PrivaZer allows a switch to NOT clean the registry. I was lucky in the past and able to restore my registry, but the agony taught me not to tempt fate. The uninstallation program I use does a fine job of uninstalling all my installations. Happy to say, following certain guidelines has allowed me to remain safe from the unexpected doom others face, Mindblower!

  2. Donald Henderson

    I do clean it and I use CCleaner to do so. I never even back up anything before letting it do it’s thing. I’ve been doing it forever and I’ll continue. Why should I leave things there that aren’t valid any more? I kind of disagree that it doesn’t impact performance. Maybe today with the high speed SSD’s we use now, it doesn’t, but I remained convinced that back in the HDD days, it could. I saw a few times that the bootup speed of a computer that had been running for 3 or more years with no maintenance did improve after doing nothing but a registry clean out. It wasn’t the same degree of improvement that a defrag provided but it was there . Of course you have to be careful and I don’t use anything stronger than CCleaner which as you said, doesn’t dig all that deep.

    1. Donald Henderson

      I uninstall things with CCleaner and then run the registry cleaner. That does pretty much exactly what the dedicated uninstallers do.

      1. “pretty much” is not even close Donald. CCleaner cleans out a specific range of junk files and registry entries it does not clean up leftover files from uninstalls.

        1. You are right! Just don’t mess with it.
          My registry has 421 gazillion entries on a 5 year old box and the thing runs as well as new.

        2. Donald Henderson

          Yes it does. It cleans up references to the program and even the company the program comes from. When I tried Revo, the end results were the same.

  3. My rule has always been the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

  4. I’ve used CCleaner since the early days of XP to clean the registry on multiplePCs with no issues whatsoever. I do save the changes, but I haven’t done an update in forever, figurin’ that it if ain’t broke…

    And now you’re tellin’ me that I’ve just been lucky? Holy cats and fishes! Not only that, but I use the Windows Uninstaller to, well, do my uninstalls. Am I the only one?

    1. Hey Lanshark,

      No, I’m not telling you you’ve been lucky, CCleaner is safe to use. What I’m saying is; CCleaner does not thoroughly clean the registry, it only scratches the surface, so why bother at all.

  5. “In other words, it’s merely brushing the service, so why bother?”

    Jim, I can only surmise that you meant to say “brushing the surface,”?

  6. Wow using PrivaZer took a chance and did all will now not do the Reg – Thanks again

  7. Peter Thompson

    I’ve used ccleaner in the past if I’ve had issues trying to install stuff I’d previously used that wouldn’t install in case there are leftovers. I avoid registry cleaners these days and also ccleaner after Avast’s not so good privacy track record.

    I’ve learnt to avoid the registry the hard way. Had a problem installing a program and found keys so I did a search and removed anything related to that program and basically borked windows.

    It’s a shame uninstallers can’t be more thorough or like AVs, offer special uninstallers designed to remove leftovers

  8. Fortunately, I’ve never had to restore the registry from a backup, though I imagine it’s fairly straightforward? I’ve seen lots of articles on how to backup the Registry through the Scheduler (which I do as part of a bat file when I shut down). But it would be helpful to see a future article on restoring the Registry (especially if faced with a BSoD) from a backup as only DCT can do! 🙂

    1. Hey Dan,

      A registry backup is not of much use for a non-booting system. It is possible to restore the registry to a non-booting system but it involves a long and complex process. System Restore and/or creating system image backups are the preferred options to rectify a non-booting system.

      1. Hmmm, then when would I make use of the full Registry backups that I take? You know, this one:
        Directory of C:\Windows\System32\config\RegBack
        05/29/2022 01:04 PM .
        05/29/2022 01:04 PM ..
        05/29/2022 01:04 PM 1,134,592 DEFAULT
        05/29/2022 01:04 PM 155,648 SAM
        05/29/2022 01:04 PM 36,864 SECURITY
        05/29/2022 01:04 PM 119,705,600 SOFTWARE
        05/29/2022 01:04 PM 17,473,536 SYSTEM
        5 File(s) 138,506,240 bytes
        2 Dir(s) 829,102,039,040 bytes free

        1. Registry backups come in handy if/when you find a certain program/application is broken or the operating system will boot but some aspect of it is not working properly.

        2. If a certain program was broken I’d uninstall it before risking a replacement of the Registry with a backup to correct the problem.
          But like you suggest, if I can’t boot then what would I have to lose by using the backup?
          Thanks for your thoughts,

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