Registry errors are the main reason Windows PCs start slowing down as the months go by.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983

Stop Paying for Software
CCleaner fixes Windows errors for free

May 31, 2009

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2009, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2009, The Post-Standard

   The best way to save money is to stop spending it. That's the idea behind my new series on the best free software for Windows and Macs. This week I'm recommending Registry fixers for Windows.
   Windows keeps track of all its vital statistics in an immense database called the Registry. When this database gets messed up, your PC stops working right.
   Registry errors are the main reason Windows PCs start slowing down as the months go by. Fixing these errors is the only way to get Windows back up to speed.
   That's why I recommend the frequent use of a Registry fixer -- a program that scans the Registry for errors and fixes the ones that can cause problems. The current champion in this regard is TuneUp Utilities 2009, from www.tune-up.com. It costs $49.95, which puts it out of the running in our current search for the best free Registry fixer.
   (If you're already a fan of TuneUp, don't feel cheated. It's making an encore presentation in an future column on general utilities.)
   I tried a dozen freebie Registry repair programs. Most worked reasonably well, but a clear winner showed up when I ran the oddly named CCleaner software from www.CCleaner.com. (I still don't know whether it's a two-syllable word pronounced with a stutter or a three-syllable word split right after the first letter.)
   Unlike other free programs I've tried, CCleaner isn't part of a bait and switch operation. In other words, the parent site isn't trying to sell you a "pro" or "advanced" version of the software. CCleaner comes in one version, the free one. You couldn't pay for a fancier version if you tried.
   Registry cleaning is fast and, based on tests I did on my new netbook computer, free from bad guesses or missed errors. Because of the way Windows trips over itself every now and then, cleaning the Registry often is a good idea. CCleaner works fast enough to let you purge the Registry of errors every day if you like.
   (A historical note: If your Windows experience stretches back to the days of Windows 95, you might remember how fragile the Windows 95 Registry was. I recall having to make a backup copy of the Registry each time I booted up in Win 95. The situation is much better now, but the Windows XP and Vista Registries still haven't freed themselves from corruption. A program like CCleaner is essential.)
   In addition to purging the Registry of errors, CCleaner also gets rid of unneeded temporary files, including the ones that pile up by the thousands within a couple of days of surfing the Web. At all times, you can choose which items you'd like to include in the cleaning process.
   It's all very easy to understand, and by default CCleaner keeps track of the things it's done in case of an "ooops" deletion. Undoing a mistake is a simple matter.
   If all software were so easy, so powerful and -- dare I say -- so foolproof, people like me would have to look for another line of work.
   Finally, although this series deals with software for Windows and Macs, Apple's Mac computers have neither a registry nor registry-induced slowdowns, so there's no Mac tip this week. Macs do need a cleanup utility, which we'll cover later this year.
   Next: Free audio editing and sound conversion software for Windows and Macs.