As a frequent downloader of new software, I test and review a ton of programs on my PC at work. But after installing and uninstalling so many programs, it doesn't take long for my registry to become a complete mess, which causes errors, sluggishness, and sometimes even crashes. The problem is that not all programs uninstall as easily as they install and often registry entries are left to stagnate in your system and may eventually cause problems.
To keep my registry lean and mean, I run a quick scan of registry entries using software designed to root out the garbage left behind by uninstalled programs. These apps check my registry for rogue entries so I can decide whether I want to delete them. Some programs also give me a description of what specific registry entries were once used for, thereby allowing me to decide whether I still need them.
A word of warning: Be extremely careful when deleting files from your registry. Some entries have strange names that you won't be able to identify, but might be necessary to run your favorite program or even your system software. A good rule of thumb might be that you only delete entries that you are sure are related to programs you no longer use. With that said, here are my three favorites for regular registry maintenance.
Advanced Registry Doctor Pro offers a nice looking interface and some extra features for managing your registry. With this app you can perform a System and Registry backup in advance to make sure you can always revert to your old registry in case of problems. You have the choice of performing Smart or quick scans, and the quick scans using Advanced Registry Doctor Pro are the fastest of the programs listed here. This one is the most expensive of this group at $24.95.
RegSupreme scans your registry keys and then displays a list of errors and leftover entries. At the end, you'll get a dialog displaying current registry performance before you clean. It's important at this point to go through RegSupreme's list of obsolete software just in case the program identified something you still use. You can also use the Custom Fix feature to go through items one by one. RegSupreme is not nearly as pretty as Advanced Registry Doctor, but it costs about half as much at $12.95.
1st Registry Repair, like the other two programs, does a comprehensive scan of registry entries looking for the files and programs they're associated with. It searches in several areas to fix problems like invalid ActiveX entries, obsolete software, and unused file extensions. This one falls right in the middle of the other two programs as far as interface, but what it lacks in looks it easily makes up for in functionality.
Even if you feel pretty good about the way your PC is running now, I still suggest you pick up one of these apps as a preventative measure. Eventually, every registry needs a good cleaning and these apps do the job nicely. Just remember to be careful. As always, if you have a better registry cleaner, please tell me about it in the comments!