Are Registry Cleaners Safe to Use?

Is it risky to let a registry cleaner loose on your computer?

Photo of a computer monitor covered in DANGER tape
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Is it safe to use a registry cleaner? You may have heard that registry cleaners can sometimes cause irreparable havoc with a computer.

The Windows Registry is one of the most sensitive areas in Windows and should only be used if you know what you're doing...does a registry cleaner know what it's doing?!

"Is it safe to let a registry cleaner delete things from the registry?"

Most of the time, yes, letting a registry cleaner remove the registry keys it finds as problematic or useless is perfectly safe.

Back in the mid-1990s, around the Windows 95 days, I clearly remember more than one situation where a commonly used, but poorly developed, registry cleaner caused regular problems with computers. Some were rendered so useless from the registry cleaner that reinstalling the operating system was the only solution.

Fortunately, the quality of registry and system cleaners are significantly higher now. Most of these tools have built-in ways to reverse changes when things don't go as expected. Plus, like with almost all things on the internet, reviews and attention to quality have driven the best programs to the top of every list and the poor ones out of existence.

Of course, playgrounds today are safer than they were 30 years ago, but that doesn't mean that you should take your kids to the one right next to the county jail or an industrial chemical plant.

In other words, you have a lot of control over what happens. I don't mean picking and choosing through the hundreds of cryptic registry keys you're presented. I mean being diligent about your choices and taking proactive steps to protect yourself.

Note: This question is part of our Registry Cleaner FAQ, which is where you can find answers to several other common registry cleaner questions like Should I Fix All the Problems a Registry Cleaner Finds? and What Causes Registry Errors?.

"How do I know which registry cleaner to use?"

There are lots and lots of registry cleaners out there, some good and some not so good. Instead of using a trial and error method to find the best registry cleaner, or to find which one removes the most invalid or broken registry items, your best bet is to use a curated list, like our list of free ones.

Don't rely on whatever registry cleaner is paying the most for advertisements today or which ones the search engines are showing near the top this week. I've vetted them all already, so save yourself the time and energy and pick from a reviewed list.

CCleaner is definitely my favorite free registry cleaner but I also prefer using Wise Registry Cleaner and Auslogics Registry Cleaner above most of the others in that list. These specific registry cleaners tend to have the best features, are the easiest ones to use, and work the smoothest.

"What if something goes wrong with the registry cleaner?"

Registry cleaners aren't perfect. Things sometimes go wrong during the cleaning process, and while this is especially true if you're using an outdated or poorly developed registry cleaner, it can, of course, happen to any registry cleaner, even the ones we've hand-picked.

Therefore, it's important to remember to back up the registry prior to letting a registry cleaner remove entries. Most registry cleaners do this automatically for you, so either make sure that's the case before deleting, or back up the registry yourself before getting started.

Backing up the registry is important so that even if the registry cleaner you're using doesn't have an undo option, you can always use that backed up REG file yourself to restore the registry back to the state it was before whatever bad thing happened.

Something else to remember is that unless you're using a registry cleaner from our list that I linked to above—which we've verified are virus free—there's a chance that the one you get elsewhere might have a virus or will install some other malware you don't want. A good antivirus program will catch stuff like that and prevent you from installing the program, or will at least alert you that you shouldn't install it.

All that said, please remember that registry cleaners don't speed up your computer, you don't need to run one regularly, and they don't fix "real" registry problems.