Auslogics, publisher of the popular Auslogics Disk Defrag, also makes another defragger: Registry Defrag. Does it actually work? Is it all smoke and mirrors, or does using this free program result in faster clock times?

The empirical, Friday afternoon answer is: it's hard to tell. If that sounds familiar to those of you who've used other registry cleaners and their siblings, it should. It's hard to gauge if these programs are effective because once you're done using it, you'd need more than a mere store-bought machine with store-loaded programs to judge CPU speed by.

It\'s much harder to gauge the effectiveness of registry cleaners than disk fixers.

Regardless of its effectiveness, the Auslogics Registry Defrag looks and functions much like the Auslogics Disk Defrag. When you run it, it tells you that it will perform a registry analysis, after which you will be able to review its registry report, and once that's done with you can run the registry optimization, requiring a reboot to defrag and compact the registry.

It's a fairly serious program, and once you begin the analysis it won't let you move the mouse outside the program window. It also "strongly recommends" that users close all other programs while it runs, although this is a standard warning for registry cleaning apps.

Empirically, Disk Defrag seems to have an effect on performance.

After having run the program on my main work machine, a Windows XP box that sees an average of four to six programs installed and then uninstalled per day, not to mention having an average of two dozen Firefox tabs open, a registry sweeper should make the computer run faster. Even though I run disk defraggers a couple of times a week and keep a vigilant watch on resources, I expected an empirical yet noticeable change in CPU speed.

That never materialized. Resource-intensive programs like Internet browsers and e-mail clients may be piggish, but they're necessary. They didn't load any faster or slower than normal after running the reg defrag. It may be that I'll only notice after a few days or so, but until a registry defragger or cleaner can demonstrate benchmarkable improvements to a computer, they'll be little more than 21st century snake oil.