What is the Windows Registry?
The Windows Registry usually referred to as the registry, is a collection of databases of configuration settings in Microsoft Windows operating systems. The Windows Registry is used to store much of the information and settings for software programs, hardware devices, user preferences, operating system configurations, and much more
For example, when a new program is installed, a new set of instructions and file references may be added to the registry in a specific location for the program, and others that may interact with it, to refer to for more information like where the files are located, which options to use in the program, etc.
In many ways, the registry can be thought of as a kind of DNA for the Windows operating system.
It’s not necessary for all Windows applications to utilize the Windows Registry. There are some programs that store their configurations in XML files instead of the registry, and others that are entirely portable and store their data in an executable file.
“What exactly is a registry cleaner and what does it do in the Windows Registry?”
A registry cleaner is a software program that scans the Windows Registry for entries that once had a purpose but, for at least one of several reasons, no longer needs to be there.
Some examples are CC Cleaner, Wise Registry Cleaner, Slim Cleaner etc
Once found, the registry cleaner presents those entries to you on the screen, will sometimes rank them by importance, and then suggest that you allow the program to automatically remove some or all them from the registry.
While that all might sound pretty straightforward, and I suppose it is, what makes one registry cleaner different from another is how well a program does this task, as well as what entries, called registry keys, a program has predetermined is bad or unnecessary.
Please know, however, that just because registry cleaners exist, and they do something in the registry, doesn’t mean that they’re necessary tools that computer users everywhere should be using.
No, the Windows Registry does not get “dirty” and thus need cleaning. Registry cleaners do, however, do a great job at fixing certain kinds of problems.
“What kinds of computer problems should I expect a registry cleaner program to automatically fix for me?”
The only real computer “problem” that registry cleaners are good at solving are error messages about missing files, especially those that appear as Windows starts up but are easy to clear with an OK or Cancel click.
Those “missing file” errors often appear because the Windows Registry references a file that it can’t find on your computer. There are two common causes for that situation: malware that was incompletely removed or uninstallation routines that don’t finish properly.
Incompletely removed malware isn’t anything to be concerned about. Your antivirus program no doubt took care of the executable(s) causing the actual infection, meaning the virus, worm, or other malicious software can no longer do any damage. What’s left in the registry is just a “leftover” of sorts, like a bit of harmless evidence after a crime.
It’s a similar situation with botched software uninstalls. Maybe you didn’t let a program’s uninstallation process finish, maybe the software’s programmers didn’t code the uninstall process properly, or maybe you tried to manually remove a program instead of following its proper uninstall process.
Any of these situations can lead to registry keys that mention files that aren’t around anymore.
A registry cleaner, being a specialized tool to find just these sorts of “useless” keys, is one part of an arsenal of troubleshooting steps at your disposal.