In Windows Secrets newsletter, Issue 313, 2011-11-10, Fred Langa tested the effectiveness of Windows cleanup tools. I am not going to go into the results here, you can visit the original article to see that.
Instead, I want to focus on how he created a test machine that needed cleanup. In order to see how well different tools could fix a computer, he had to break one. He did that by going to CNET and downloading the 20 most popular applications. These applications are each perfectly good programs, many of which I use and recommend to others. The problem came in how he installed them.
He ran each installer as a typical user might: clicking through all of the screens, accepting whatever add-ons that were offered by default (I rarely see add-ons NOT checked by default). The effect on the computer was astounding. Before the installs the machine booted to the desktop – all programs loaded and ready to use – in 39 seconds. It shut down in 11 seconds. The registry was 99 mb. After all the installs, boot time was 629 seconds – over 10 minutes. It took 113 seconds to shut down and the registry grew to 169 mb.
The main lesson is this: you must pay attention when installing programs. Even the best-made, best intentioned ones are forming deals with various other software publishers and getting you to put them on the computer. The programs are free, so they have to make money somehow. It is up to you as the end-user to look at the screens and uncheck the options to install extra software. Also, most software does not need to load when Windows starts. You can uncheck this option if it is offered, although it is not offered very often.
You should do this on a case-by-case basis. These programs are not bad, it is just that they are unneeded or do not need to start with Windows. But perhaps you recently had an experience that makes you want to increase your security. In that case, if you are offered a security check program from a reputable company, it might be a good idea to accept that program. However, I would recommend to take note of the program, then visit its website and download/install it from there. You may get better options of how it will install.