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Like this article? We recommend Call In the Third-Party Utilities

Call In the Third-Party Utilities

Because Microsoft apparently never saw fit to write a registry compaction utility (perhaps more aptly described as a “garbage collection and compaction” utility owing to the detritus that also picks up in any registry over time), lots of third-party vendors have stepped in to rectify those omissions. For this story, I chose four of the most popular or interesting freeware or trialware registry tools that specifically included registry defragmentation or registry compaction (both of these terms describe what happens when the empty space between bins is systematically removed, and registry hive contents get mapped into new bins and blocks with only the minimal amount of empty space that registry layout requires).

In the following table, you’ll find some information about the registry defragmentation (a.k.a. reg defrag) tools I discuss in the pages that follow:





Registry Defragmenter and Compacter



$14.95 to purchase full license

Registry Defragmentation

Elcor SW


$11.95 to purchase

Free Registry Defrag

iExpert SW


Simple, easy to use interface

Registry Defrag



Very visual, intuitive interface

Clearly some of these tools are straightforward come-ons or trial versions of commercial software. The first two products from Acelogix and Elcor fall squarely into this category. Of these, I found both offerings at least moderately useful. The two out-and-out freeware products from Auslogics and Expert Software worked nicely and offered good advance information about what they could do for a fragmented registry. Both also worked well, but I preferred the visual, block-style map layout that Auslogics uses to show “before” and “after” renderings over the purely numerical information that Expert Software provides. In the sections that follow, I’ll provide some screenshots and install/usage notes about these products.

Next, let’s take a look at the individual packages, which I’ll tackle in the order used for the preceding table.

Acelogix Registry Defragmenter and Compactor Version 1.5

This program rebuilds and re-indexes your registry to remove unused space, eliminate structural errors, and speed access. It removes unused bins and compacts used one to make them as contiguous as the 4KB block structure will allow. The download version is trialware, good for a 30-day period; it costs $14.95 to purchase. It works with Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7 (tried with beta builds 7000 and 7048), but the product information online mentions only XP and older Windows desktop versions. After it analyzes your registry, it produces a report that shows numerical values for the various hive files in the registry it finds (see Figure 1).

Figure 1 Registry Compactor reports current size for the big Registry hives, with estimates of compacted size.

You’ve got to eyeball these numbers and do a little math to figure out that the average percentage size reduction here is a mere 2.36 percent. To my way of thinking, anything less than 10 percent is a questionable effort. Notice also that this tool provides no estimate on potential performance gains, either.

Elcor Registry Defragmentation

This is another plain and simple registry defragmentation tool, with the most current version released on March 23, 2009 (see Figure 2). It is shareware that uses a metered 21-day evaluation period during which use is free, after which it must be purchased for $11.95 ($35.95 for a site license). This program provides no initial estimates of registry size reduction or performance improvements it can deliver: It shows only the current sizes for the registry elements it finds.

Figure 2 This Registry Defragmentation package mentions only Windows 95 through XP before it goes to work, and gives no clues as to what it can do.

When the defragmentation completes, however, you get a complete map of “before” and “after” images with a report of a 5 percent fragmentation removal (see Figure 3). It is necessary to reboot the system to activate the defragmented registry copy (which indicates that Elcor followed Russinovich’s advice and used the specific Win32 API calls to build their tool). You’ll have to fend off the occasional nag screens (mostly in the form of web pages advertising various Elcor products) that show up when you use this product.

Figure 3 Elcor does a much better job after the fact: This post-defrag report shows where it found fragmentation, and how much data it clears out of the registry.

iExpert Software Free Registry Defrag Version 2.40

At O.7MB in size, this little gem of a free download is the smallest and fastest program in this group (see Figure 4). It takes less than 30 seconds to install, and completes its registry analysis in under a minute on most machines (including the Atom N280-powered netbook included in the test pool). It presents a very simple and straightforward interface to its users. It estimates size savings as a percentage of overall size as a way to project the outcome of any particular defragmentation run; when that percentage is less than 1, the program recommends against defragmentation essentially because it won’t change anything.

Figure 4 Free Registry Defrag tells you how much it can reduce registry size, and recommends for or against its use depending on what it finds.

Although it’s simple and straightforward, this program lacks a visual registry map, nor does it say anything about potential performance improvements that the operation can deliver. That said, the price is right, the performance is good, and its results are entirely acceptable.

Auslogics Registry Defrag Free Version 5.0

This offering comes from a well-known and –respected Australian maker of PC tools and utilities. It’s the most visual and intuitive tool in the bunch, and available in a full-blown commercial version for $19.95. What I like most about the Auslogics Registry Defrag is its use of “before” and “after” visual registry maps and its estimates (and reports on) registry size changes as well as registry access speed changes. Of all the programs included in this group, it’s the only one to provide all this functionality. It’s also the only one that runs during boot-up, when it can access the registry more completely before Windows finishes starting up and takes over the registry for itself. The results depicted in Figures 5 and 6 are from my production Vista machine, whose registry takes a regular beating at my hands.

Figure 5 Auslogics “before” analysis tells you what it finds, and how much it thinks it can help in terms of size and speed.

Once the registry defrag is scheduled, it is performed the next time you reboot the machine. After you complete the next login sequence, you’ll see a report screen that reflects the actual results of the operation. It shows the actual size reduction and the registry access speed improvement by percentage.

Figure 6 After Auslogics defrags the registry, it reports its actual results for size reduction and access speed improvement.

There’s also an HTML-based report (see Figure 7) that you can display by clicking the report link in Figure 6. It provides a little more detail on where and how much compaction applies to the various registry hive files (note also that a separate hive and related classes hive file is created for each named user account on a Windows machine).

Figure 7 HTML report details not only include time to completion and overall improvements, but also before and after sizes for all registry hives.

Thanks to the visual map, information about performance and size improvements, and the extra detail available from the HTML report, I chose the Auslogics tool for my PC. It’s probably wise to defragment and compact your registry at least once per quarter, more often if you install and remove lots of programs from your machine. Any of these tools will do the job, so be sure to check them all out!

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