In this section I will be talking about what these programs are and why they are not recommended for anyone to be using.
First and foremost I’d like to define what these programs are considered. The appropriate term is crapware. Unlike malware which is malicious software, crapware is defined as software that the user is not fully aware of that they are installing and it also is software that tricks the user into installing it. Crapware usually consists of poor quality utilities, games, toolbars, Internet add-ons, and fraudulent trial computer optimization software which are scams. Crapware authors will present confusing or cluttered installation screens that have the unwanted software scheduled to be installed by default or installed automatically. Many unwanted computer optimization utilities will come bundled with the application that the user actually wanted to install in the first place. While not extremely malicious, crapware does tend to slow computers down and does not improve the end user’s experience.
Now that I’ve defined what crapware is, let’s explore what kinds of behaviors these three types of programs exhibit.
Memory Optimizers, Driver Update programs, and Registry Cleaners have been available on the Internet for Windows computers for a long time. Each type of program claims to fix a different kind of problem that inexperienced Windows users might come across but each of these three programs is pointless to run. These programs rely on using scare tactics and misleading advertising to try and trick you into thinking that your computer has a nonexistent problem and that you need to download, install, and purchase these applications.
But, I hear you asking, “I have had this memory optimizer/driver updater/registry cleaner program installed on my machine for years and never had a problem.” This may be true but the rule of thumb about these programs is they have more drawbacks than benefits so regardless if you have a free or a paid version of these programs installed, I would recommend uninstalling these junk applications from your machine as soon as possible because they are useless and they exhibit fraudulent behavior.
Regardless of the three types of programs mentioned, they all behave in a similar fashion in that they use special keywords, ridiculous claims, and false promises on their websites. These terms are supposed to give the program credibility and make a potential user feel at ease – however it is just another bit of snake oil leading the consumer down the slippery slope of being scammed.
Here are the most popular characteristics that these programs attempt to portray about themselves:
- Boosts PC Speed and Makes your computer run faster or like new again.
- Repairs and Fixes System Errors.
- Prevents Computer Crashes.
- Increases Computer Reliability and Stability.
- Our scanning and optimization engine uses advanced algorithm technology to find updated drivers/repair registry errors/optimize your available memory.
- 100% Secure and Satisfaction Guaranteed.
Let’s take a look at each of these statements one at a time in more detail.
Makes your computer run faster – These programs will not cure your ailing system, make your computer run like new again or improve performance unless you reinstall Windows, follow the instructions to optimize Windows on our forum, or have a computer technician who knows what they’re doing go through your computer and eliminate all possible causes of slowdowns. If there were miracle programs available that could fix problems with the click of a button, then there would be no repair shops, no online repair services, no computer technicians, and no one’s computer would be running poorly. If you could just click one button to speed up your computer, Microsoft would have included such a program in Windows, period. More often than not you will experience detrimental effects if you run these programs on your system.
Repairs and Fixes System Errors – What kind of errors are we talking about here? If they are registry errors then these invalid entries will not harm your system at all and if they are errors due to missing files then a repair of Windows or reinstalling the problematic program will most likely fix the problem. These types of programs will not resolve program error messages and they more than likely will make your issues even worse.
Prevents Computer Crashes – This is a broad statement. Program crashes have many causes that can be difficult to identify. There is no automated fix-up program that is going to prevent crashes since most application crashes are caused by other programs interfering in the background or having malware infections present on the computer.
Increases Computer Reliability and Stability – How do these unethical companies define stability vs. defining instability? Software conflicts, malware, missing or corrupted Windows files, faulty drivers, and bad memory or a failing hard drive can all cause computers to run poorly. Like with Computer Crashes, there is no 1 Click PC Optimizer Program that will improve your computers reliability or stability.
Advanced Scanning Technology – This is like the phrase “New and Improved!” It is a bogus marketing expression to make you feel like these programs are unique. There is no basis for how advanced this so called technology is and how it’s supposed to be better than other popular Windows software that’s actually been proven useful. Notice how these kinds of programs do not describe “How” these so called advanced scanning engines work. Only that they use smart scanning technology and that we should put our faith in these companies that no one has ever heard of or used their shady products before.
100% Secure and Satisfaction Guaranteed – There is nothing on the Internet and there is no program that is 100% secure. If our computers and the websites we visited were 100% secure then there would be no malware, no credit card theft, and no hacking of banks, government entities, and major companies like retail stores. Also, there is the non-existent guarantee; since as a consumer you have no guarantee that the program will work as advertised, nor can you do anything about it if the program does not function properly which is why consumers need to make informed decisions. One of my favorite pieces of advice is if you are not sure about buying something or using a product then ASK SOMEONE KNOWLEDGABLE FIRST BEFORE MAKING THAT DECISION. This goes for ANYTHING in life but especially computer programs. If you are UNSURE about a program then ask someone about it, post on our forum, or do your own research on the questionable application. You should never rely on one single source of information. Instead, you should look at multiple perspectives and viewpoints so you can form a better conclusion about what you are trying to achieve. By asking relevant questions and having a skeptical attitude, you empower yourself to not be a gullible victim and believe everything that you hear. It is like believing that diet pills will let you eat all you want, whenever you want and still allow you to lose weight or that a bottle of vitamins will make you feel many years younger. It is not going to happen.
You can help mitigate the chances of getting your computer infected with these programs by using your own common sense, and using a layered approach for security – if something gets pass one layer, another layer can stop it. Too often having unpatched, and outdated applications along with being behind on Windows Updates can increase your chances of getting your machine compromised. There are a variety of other factors to consider but what is the biggest factor? The computer user. If the user is smart about their browsing habits and knows what to look for when spotting the dangers of the Internet then they will be far safer than a user who does not have that knowledge. Whenever you go to install a new program, make sure you pay attention and read each area of the installer screen setup carefully; always choose the Custom Installation option whenever you can, and never agree to install optional offers or toolbars that are bundled with the setup program. In pretty much all cases, these crapware programs will not serve any useful purpose and will just degrade your computers performance. Proceed with caution when installing any freeware program so that you do not end up mistakenly allowing junkware-packed installers to push crapware onto your machine.
In reality, there is no magic elixir we could apply to people’s computers and fix them in five minutes instead of spending hours fixing a PC so it works right. There is no way to fix a difficult computer problem with a computer optimizer program since to be a certified computer technician requires expertise, skill, patience and perseverance to repair PC problems. The claims these programs make are sheer fiction but no one regulates these claims – so any company can claim anything they want sometimes with no repercussions. There is always someone out there preying on people’s weaknesses and telling them what they want to hear.
Here are some examples of bogus websites that are using devious deceptive tactics to get these snake oil programs that are scams onto your system.
Notice how these types of shady websites all have the same style of interface with big FREE PC SCAN download buttons, and promises of optimizing your machine after you pay a certain fee amount to activate the program. The FREE DOWNLOAD button is designed to trick you into installing the program because as an average computer user, you think that it is actually a free program when in reality it will require you to “Register” and pay a certain amount of money to “Unlock” their full/premium version. When a website offers a free download and scan, and a user can not find any other information on whether the program really is free or a paid program, this should act as a red flag. Legitimate programs from trusted websites will most of the time tell you straight up front whether you are downloading a fully functional free application or a trial version that requires payment after the program has been installed. You would think that these companies would go out of business and that people are intelligent enough to not fall for these scare tactics. But NO! There are still computer users out there that install these garbage applications, so these dishonest websites are still able to promote their dangerous product which is why education is the best weapon in order to avoid getting ripped-off.
In addition to seeing those deceptive download buttons, you will often find so-called reputable awards plastered right on the front page to make it seem like the program has some professional qualities. Do not believe the hype or the so called awards given to these programs. The “Microsoft Certified Partner”, the “McAfee” and “Norton” “Secured” logos, and other 5 star award claims that you see being advertised on these sites mean nothing and are only used as a ploy to get you to think that these programs are approved by Microsoft and other trusted download websites when they are not. Sure, these types of programs are compatible with Windows but any awards that these programs claim to have are most likely fake. If you try and click on these images to verify the reviews, they will most of the time not be linked to any legit reviewer site. The sad part is, anyone can find these images online and put them on their own site. So if anyone can put these images on their website without any consequences then how valuable are these images really? Oh, and do not believe the “Positive” testimonials or the “Millions” of times the programs have been downloaded either. Those are the same kind of psychological lies that these crapware applications are trying to use on you to gain their trust. To actually optimize and clean a computer properly requires a lot more time and effort than just running these types of programs. Having the expectation that your machine will be miraculously faster in performance as a result of these program’s actions is nonsense.
This now brings us to our next section where I will talk about what each of these programs are supposed to do individually, and if I have not persuaded you yet, where you can further educate yourself on learning more about similar topics.
Lets now dive into the different categories that these so called programs are supposed to fix shall we?
The first item is Memory Optimizer programs:
As you’ve surfed the Web, you’ve probably seen browser pop-ups such as “Defragment your memory and improve performance” and “Minimize application and system failures and free unused memory.” These links lead you to utilities that promise to do all that and more for a mere $9.95, $14.95, or $29.95. Does this sound too good to be true? It is. These utilities appear to do useful work, but at best, RAM optimizers have no effect, and at worst, they seriously degrade your computers performance.
Although gaining more available memory might seem beneficial, it isn’t. As RAM Optimizers force the available-memory counter up, they force other processes’ data and code out of memory. Say that you’re running Microsoft Word, for example. As the memory optimizer forces the available-memory counter up, the text of open documents and the program code that was part of Microsoft Word’s working set before the optimization (and was therefore present in physical memory) must be reread from disk as you continue to edit your document. The act of allocating, then freeing a large amount of virtual memory might, as a conceivable side effect, lead to blocks of contiguous available memory. However, because virtual memory masks the layout of physical memory from processes, processes cannot directly benefit from having virtual memory backed by contiguous physical memory. As processes execute and undergo working-set trimming and growth, their virtual-memory-to-physical-memory mappings will become fragmented despite the availability of contiguous memory.
In short, memory optimizers are unnecessary and you should allow Windows to manage its own memory resources since the Operating System is smart enough to know what programs to keep in memory and when to push data to the page file so programs do not crash.
The next item is Driver Update programs:
Driver Updaters will state that your Windows drivers are considered out-of-date and that you need to use their nifty update tool to download the latest drivers from their database. Not only is downloading drivers from 3rd party sources a risky endeavor already but having to pay for a program that provides download links for drivers is a huge waste of money. Visiting the manufacturer’s website for your updated drivers accomplishes the same thing, except only taking maybe a couple more minutes to actually find new versions of drivers for your various hardware devices.
Even when there are driver updates available for your hardware devices such as your printer or your audio device, unless you are experiencing problems with your hardware that you are sure a new version of a driver will fix, there is little benefit in upgrading drivers just for the sake of updating them to their latest versions. A good rule of thumb is, don’t fix what isn’t broken.
Assuming that these driver update utilities even worked, there are thousands of different hardware devices each requiring their own driver to work properly so there is no way that these driver websites will keep a database of all the different drivers for all the various hardware devices that are installed in people’s machines. This is especially true when new versions of drivers are being released frequently by various hardware manufacturers. The last thing that you would want would be to have a driver updater application flag one of your drivers as being outdated and then proceed to install an even older version of a driver because their driver repository has not added a newer version of that particular driver yet.
Plus, each driver update utility uses a different driver database and criteria to constitute an outdated driver so one driver that driver updater A would find up to date, driver updater B would tell you to install a later version. There is no consistency between these programs which is one more reason and should be all the more clear on the awfulness of these flawed tools.
Relying on these utilities to install updated drivers without doing your own research first is just asking for trouble. At best, driver update programs can update a driver to its latest version which was not causing any problems anyway and at worst, these programs can cause your hardware devices to stop functioning altogether. In some cases installing a “recommended” driver from these programs can cause your computer to blue screen or crash due to installing an incompatible driver which will require you to then remove the bad driver to get Windows back to a stable state.
In short, driver updaters do not provide any extra functionality that you cannot already do yourself. If you are concerned with your system drivers, check the Windows Device Manager to see if you have any devices that are reporting any problems. If you do not see any errors in Device Manager and your hardware devices are working properly then there is no need to waste time updating drivers. This same philosophy also applies to installing drivers from Windows Update. The only exception to this rule is if you are playing PC games then you should update your graphics drivers regularly using Intel’s, NVIDIA’s, or AMD’s website depending on what video adapter your computer has to improve performance. Your hardware manufacturer’s website should be the only source when downloading and installing drivers for your hardware as it is the safest and the most reliable method.
The last item is Registry Cleaner programs:
Registry Cleaners will tell you to speed up your system by removing obsolete and old registry entries that are labeled as “errors.” You should not remove any registry entries unless you know what you are doing. I do not recommend running registry cleaners since if you remove one crucial Windows entry that a registry cleaner flags as invalid, you could corrupt your Operating System, cause programs to crash or hang, and even experience data loss which would lead to your system not working properly. Removing registry entries will not speed up your computer and unless you have a specific problem that can be fixed by removing invalid registry entries, you should leave the registry alone.
Don’t believe me? Here is what Microsoft themselves has to say about Registry Cleaners:
Windows continually references the registry in the background and it is not designed to be accessed or edited. Some products such as registry cleaning utilities suggest that the registry needs regular maintenance or cleaning. However, serious issues can occur when you modify the registry incorrectly using these types of utilities. These issues might require users to reinstall the operating system due to system instability. Microsoft cannot guarantee that these problems can be solved without a reinstallation of the Operating System as the extent of the changes made by registry cleaning utilities varies from application to application. Microsoft does not support the use of registry cleaners.
Registry cleaners and system optimizers are not recommended for several reasons:
- Registry cleaners are extremely powerful applications that can damage the registry by using aggressive cleaning routines and cause your computer to become unbootable.
- The Windows Registry is a central repository (database) for storing configuration data, user settings and machine-dependent settings, and options for the operating system. It contains information and settings for all hardware, software, users, and preferences. Whenever a user makes changes to settings, file associations, system policies, or installed software, the changes are reflected and stored in this repository. The registry is a crucial component because it is where Windows “remembers” all this information, how it works together, how Windows boots the system, what files it uses, and when it uses them. The registry is also a vulnerable subsystem, in that relatively small changes done incorrectly can render the system inoperable. For a more detailed explanation, read Understanding The Registry.
- Not all registry cleaners are created equal. There are a number of them available but they do not all work entirely the same way. Each vendor uses different criteria as to what constitutes a “bad entry”. One cleaner may find entries on your system that will not cause problems when removed, another may not find the same entries, and still another may want to remove entries required for a program to work properly.
- Not all registry cleaners create a backup of the registry before making changes. If the changes prevent the system from booting up, then there is no backup available to restore it in order to regain functionality. A backup of the registry is essential BEFORE making any changes to the registry.
- Improperly removing registry entries can hamper malware disinfection and make the removal process more difficult if your computer becomes infected. For example, removing malware related registry entries before the infection is properly identified can contribute to system instability and even make the malware undetectable to removal tools.
- The usefulness of cleaning the registry is highly overrated and can be dangerous. In most cases, using a cleaner to remove obsolete, invalid, and erroneous entries does not affect system performance but it can result in “unpredictable results”.
- Will using Registry Cleaners speed up my system and make it more reliable? Using a registry cleaner will have no effect on system speed. There is an excellent chance it will make your system less reliable. Even worse, registry cleaners can be very dangerous if used incorrectly and some people learn the hard way that these types of programs can completely stop a computer from running properly.
Cleaning the registry does sound good in theory, but practically the myth of registry cleaners improving performance does not hold up. Since the Windows Registry has thousands of entries, removing a couple hundred invalid keys is not going to make your computer magically become more stable.
Unless you have a particular problem that requires a registry edit to correct it, I would suggest you leave the registry alone. Using registry cleaning tools unnecessarily or incorrectly could lead to disastrous effects on your operating system such as preventing it from ever starting again. For routine use, the benefits to your computer are negligible while the potential risks are great.
In conclusion, these programs are all about deception which is why Memory Optimizers, Driver Updaters, and Registry Cleaners are a waste of time and should be avoided at all costs. Not only that, but in some cases, these programs can bring in malware infections onto your system which can damage your system even further and is another reason to avoid these applications like the plague. If there is a lesson to learn from this article, it is that you should avoid and not trust the Internet advertisements promoting the use of these programs and that as certified computer technicians will tell you, if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is.
A quick note on registry cleaner exceptions:
In most cases, registry cleaners are considered a waste of time for average users as I described above, but there are a few exceptions. CCleaner is one of the most popular system cleaning tools being used on Windows systems. CCleaner does have a registry cleaner and for most users it is fairly safe to use. Now I do not consider CCleaner to be in the same category as the other crapware registry cleaner applications that I am describing earlier in my article. The reasons are CCleaner is a reputable program, its advertised as a junk file cleaner first and a registry cleaner second, and its registry cleaning is not overly aggressive which means that the program is not trying to scare you into removing registry entries that you may not want to repair. With that being said, if you want to clean the registry using CCleaner, it is wise to use the registry cleaner feature of CCleaner with caution, and make sure to always allow CCleaner to make a backup of the registry before removing any items.
Here are some interesting and informative articles on these topics for further reading:
- Ed Bott’s Weblog: Why I don’t use registry cleaners.
- Do I need a Registry Cleaner?
- What’s the Registry, Should I Clean It, and What’s the Point?
- Why Using a Registry Cleaner Won’t Speed Up Your PC or Fix Crashes.
- PC Cleaning Apps are a Scam: Here’s Why (and How to Speed Up Your PC).
- Never Download a Driver-Updating Utility; They’re Worse Than Useless.
- Why Memory Optimizers and RAM Boosters Are Worse Than Useless.
- HTG Explains: When Do You Need to Update Your Drivers?
- How to Update Your Graphics Drivers for Maximum Gaming Performance.
- HTG Explains: What is the Windows Page File and Should You Disable It?
Stay Safe and Happy Computing! 🙂
The opinions in this article are those of the authors. WindowsInstructed does not neccessarly reflect those opinions. We however do suggest you avoid these programs.