Windows Registry: PC Tools Registry Mechanic 5.2 review
The Windows Registry is the heart of your PC, requiring regular health checks. Every time you install or uninstall software, change a configuration option or bookmark a website, the Registry changes. It can get clogged up with dead-ends and orphaned entries that slow it, and your PC, down. Worse, bodged installations and malware can corrupt it with devastating effects. Playing around with the Registry isn’t to be taken lightly, as you can do a lot of damage, but fortunately, there’s plenty of software to take the strain for you. Just be sure to make a backup before you begin.
We’ll start with the odd one out, a Registry tool that won’t actually clean your Registry of rubbish. Instead, Advanced Registry Tracer takes before and after snapshots so you know what’s been changed following software/hardware installation. It’s a powerful tool, comparing whole Registries rather than just monitoring access and filtering the results as many tools do. But it isn’t cheap and it isn’t intuitive. If all you’re interested in is comprehensive uninstallation of software, try Your Uninstaller Pro (www.ursoftware.com).
RegSeeker also stands out because it’s the only totally free tool here. RegSeeker lets you tweak the Registry, directly manipulate startup entries, change colour schemes and manage bookmarks. You can search the Registry, quickly list all installed apps or just those with invalid add/remove entries. But, sadly, the cleaning tool, while quick, isn’t as in-depth as the competition, turning up a second-worst result of 426 errors. The only repair option is an automatic fix too – a surprising lack of flexibility given the application as a whole.
Uniblue Registry Booster is a new entrant to the market. We appreciated the attempt to explain areas of the Registry to be scanned in plain English, but this wasn’t continued into the results section, where brief and often confusing descriptions abound. The same disappointment was experienced with the scan itself, which was the slowest on test; despite the “deeper scan” promises of its much-vaunted Advanced Error Detection technology, it revealed only 396 errors – the lowest we saw. It comes across as a work-in-progress rather than a commercial product costing £20.
PC Tools is best known for its anti-spyware software, but its Registry Mechanic is no slouch either. In all but scanning time that is, taking nearly as long as Uniblue. But it did return 912 errors, which were then fixed without fuss. While all the tools here will make backups of the Registry before attempting any repairs, Registry Mechanic is the only one to offer an additional safety measure for XP users by way of setting a system restore point. A monitoring function will keep an eye open for changes to key areas of the Registry and notify you when they happen, and Registry optimisation was the most thorough on test. We also liked the fact that errors were flagged with an indication of their severity to help with the removal decision process.
But it couldn’t match AMUST Registry Cleaner 3 for either speed or depth of search, thanks to the much-improved SmartScan engine. This is unique in detecting and cleaning the Null-Embedded keys used by rootkits. Just as importantly, it’s quick and effective, with an error count of 1,400. We’d have liked an indication of the severity of individual errors, but at least the brief descriptions were informative. The IntelliCompact feature worked well in defragmenting the Registry, and the set-and-forget scheduling is a nice touch. Although the default interface express mode leaves only one option, auto fix or not, changing to the advanced interface gives more flexibility, albeit not as much as Registry Mechanic. Most of all, we liked the fact that AMUST is fully functional during its 30-day free evaluation, making it our essential download.