Microsoft is about to get tough on registry cleaners, Windows cleanup utilities and similar software. It might even delete them from your computer. Here’s what prompted them to take action.
The company has never recommended Windows cleanup utilities and never said you should use registry optimisers, cleaners and repair tools. In fact, the company would prefer you left Windows alone and not used these tools.
Now some of them, the worst example, are to be classified as unwanted software and they will be removed from the computer.
Here’s what Microsoft said in a recent blog post:
“There has been an increase in free versions of programs that purport to scan computers for various errors, and then use alarming, coercive messages to scare customers into buying a premium version of the same program.”
“In the future, programs that display coercive messaging will be classified as unwanted software, detected, and removed.”
Not all cleanup and optimiser utilities will be classed as malware and Microsoft is specifically targeting those that deliberately display messages that are designed to scare you into buying full priced software you don’t really need. You could call it scareware.
I have seen a few of these myself and after scanning the computer they produce a long list of errors that they claim are critical and must immediately be repaired for your safety and security. This, of course, requires you to purchase a premium product.
I have even run some clean-up and optimiser tools on a fresh install of Windows before any software has been installed and they still came up with dozens of critical errors that I simply had to fix by buying the full product.
Some, but not all, clean-up utilities and registry optimisers overstate the dangers of errors. A tiny error like a registry key left over from a previous program after it was uninstalled are rated as critical, even though they cause no problems and can be ignored.
Should you use a registry cleaner?
I don't. There is an old saying that goes something like “If you don’t have a problem, don’t fix it.” In other words, if your computer is running fine, don’t go looking for problems and try to fix them.
Computers slow down over time and after a few years they may be a lot slower than they used to be. This is partly because each upgrade of Windows and applications requires more processing power, more memory and more disk space than previously.
The slowdown is also partly due to junk on the disk, programs you installed, but never or rarely use, adware, apps that start with Windows and so on. In other words, many factors contribute to the computer slowing down.
There are other ways to speed up your computer instead of using cleaners and optimisers. Besides, optimising the registry doesn’t have a great effect on the speed of the computer. In fact, you may not notice the difference.
Avoid one-click clean-up
I always avoid one-click clean-up and optimisation functions in utilities. Those that have these sometimes find hundreds of problems and try to fix them all at once. If one goes wrong, how do you know which one it was?
Usually these programs have multiple functions and you can choose what to clean or what to check in the registry. If you must use a clean-up tool, select just one function, not everything.
Usually a report is displayed after a cleanup tool has scanned the system. it is essential that you check this and understand what it will do if you proceed. If you have any doubts about a particular change, fix or repair, opt out by cleaning the checkboxes.
Always make sure you have a backup before running a clean-up tool or registry optimiser. Sometimes they clean too much and some vital information is removed. A problem can be caused where before there was none.
A story I have heard several times from different people is that they used a registry cleaner or Windows cleanup tool and now a program or part of Windows will not work. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.
Sometimes cleaners and optimisers remove something they shouldn't. For this reason I usually advise not to use these utilities.
Alternatives to clean-up tools and registry optimisers
There are features in Windows, especially Windows 10, that enable the system to be kept clean, free of junk and errors. There is less need for these types of utility these days, unless you are still running Windows XP, and you really shouldn't.
In 2017 a version of the popular utility Ccleaner was infected with malware and I showed What you should use instead of Ccleaner on your Windows PC.
This is one of many tools in Windows 10 for cleaning up junk files. and there is also Disk Clean-up, which can remove lots of junk files and it can free up gigabytes of disk space.