Windows needs to be coddled. Most importantly, the Registry needs to be repaired often.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983


Beware of Windows Registry problems

Aug. 29, 2910

Letter from a reader critical of Iolo is at the end of this article.
By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2010, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2010, The Post-Standard

   I baby my Windows PC. I run fix-up software every chance I get. I clean out excess files every day. I repair the Registry every time I have 15 minutes to spare.
   I do this because Windows is fragile. It can't walk and chew gum at the same time.
   Don't misunderstand me. I like Windows a lot. I especially like Windows 7, the version I've installed on my little Acer netbook. I'm a two-fisted computer guy, and I often have one hand on my Acer netbook while the other one is typing and scrolling on my Apple Mac.
   But for all the good stuff about Windows -- the games, the cool financial software, the countless utilities, the choice of all those business programs -- Windows 7 is just as stumble-bumbed as Windows Vista. Or Windows XP. Or any other version.
   If you use Windows, you have to face this unhappy fact: Windows needs to be coddled. Most importantly, the Registry needs to be repaired often.
   The Registry is a database. Everything that happens in Windows and everything that interfaces with a Windows PC is listed in the Registry. Every time your PC makes a mistake by messing up the way it's supposed to work, that mistake is coded into the Registry. This makes it easier for your PC to make the same mistake again.
   (I realize you might think I'm somehow making this up. But I'm not.)
   The Registry is huge. If you turned Tolstoy's "War and Peace" into a database, it could fit inside the Windows Registry and still have room for the Bible. And without the help of a Registry utility, Windows wouldn't even know those two foreigners were hiding there.
   No one can possibly understand all the parts of the Registry without a written guide, so experts ordinarily would have to rely on documentation written by Microsoft's staff of software engineers. But Microsoft's documentation for the Windows code is in poor shape -- so poor it's even full of profanities. It's off-limits to outsiders and, as incredible as it seems, to most of Microsoft's own engineers. This is dumb.
   How serious is this problem? I discovered my own "Registrygate" the other day. A week before my denouement, I cleaned my Windows 7 computer's Registry using System Mechanic -- a superb utility -- and made sure there were no more Registry problems. Then I used the PC for three days. After that, I checked it again with the same software. System Mechanic found 86 new Registry errors. All of them had accumulated in just three days of normal use.
   This is ridiculous. Apple's computers don't have this problem -- they don't have a Registry and get along fine without it -- and Microsoft surely could haul its ego down a notch or two and learn something from its competitor.
   But for now, Windows users are stuck with this monstrosity. That's why I recommend that every Windows user run a Registry-repair utility at least once a week. System Mechanic is my favorite because it requires absolutely no geeky knowledge to use. It costs $50 but is usually heavily discounted (search using Google for SYSTEM MECHANIC BEST PRICE). For more information, go to www.iolo.com.
   Note: There's a free Registry cleaner that I raved about previously, but it is deceptively marketed, and I refuse to endorse such behavior.
   After I wrote the article above, I received this letter from a reader. I'm keeping his name private. It's about his experience with Iolo, the company behind System Mechanic.
   I read your article about System Mechanic in yesterday's Post Standard. I have been using it on my office computer that has the Windows XP operating system. System Mechanic has been working just as you described and was doing so well that I decided to buy it for my laptop at home. That is where my trouble started.

   My laptop has Windows Vista basic as the operating system. The Windows installer would not install System Mechanic. I sent an email to Tech Support providing all of their requested information. They responded the next day with a proposed solution which did not work. I emailed them again and did not receive a response. I waited about a week and again did not receive a reply. After about a week I called customer service on the telephone. I told them Tech Support did not respond and I wanted my money back. Customer Service said they would send me an email before they processed my request. Since then I have received emails requesting a copy of my computer system information in what they called a snapshot. To try to keep this brief, I would reply that I wanted my money back and they would keep requesting my system info which I am not going to send. If Tech Support would not respond before, and they try to come up with a fix and it does not work, I have no confidence in their Tech Support. When I get my credit card statement, their payment will be protested.

   Also, I have an automatic renewal for System Mechanic on my office computer. I would like to turn that off but I do not see any way to do it on-line. I may go the credit card protest route when the time comes. System Mechanic works fine on my office computer, but to me, it appears the Iolo is lacking if there is a problem. Just thought I would give you some feedback.