What Causes Registry Errors?

How does the Windows Registry get errors in it?

Word ERROR in a string of binary code
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You know that a registry cleaner removes issues from the Windows Registry, but what causes those issues?

Do all registry problems produce error messages? What sorts of errors happen in the registry and what causes them? Can you prevent those problems from happening?

The following question is one of several you'll find in our Registry Cleaner FAQ.

"What causes these errors in the Windows Registry that need fixing by registry cleaners?"

Let's first define what we're talking about when we say a registry error:

The "errors" in the registry that a registry cleaner removes aren't really errors. The entries they find might be unnecessary or pointless, but they're not errors in and of themselves.

Sometimes a registry key that shouldn't be there will cause an error message, usually a "missing file" error, but those errors don't mention the registry in any way and aren't always due to a needless registry key.

So, if what you mean by registry error is any issue that later ends up being solvable by a registry cleaner, take a look through What Types of Computer Problems Do Registry Cleaners Fix? for more details. Examples of those issues include orphaned registry keys left over by software uninstallations, empty keys, unused values, and duplicate keys.

Aside from those sorts of minor problems, there are some types of real registry errors. By real, we mean errors that indicate true problems with the Windows Registry portion of the Windows operating system.

These sorts of errors are so serious that sometimes they prevent Windows from starting properly. Some mention that Windows can't access the registry, that the registry is missing, or that the registry is corrupted, among others.

Registry cleaners are completely useless in situations like this, partly because a registry cleaner needs a working registry to do anything at all. See What Does a Registry Cleaner Do? for more on what these programs are for.

In other words, if there's an error message on your computer about the entire registry having been deleted or that your computer can't open, export, or edit the registry, there's no need to install a registry cleaner.

What to Do About Real Registry Problems

Your best course of action when you have a true registry issue is to follow standard troubleshooting procedures. For example, maybe your computer won't start, in which case you can follow that link to learn what to do there. Or, if you're lucky and Windows will start, you can perform a System Restore.

The idea here is to address the specific problem at hand and not just go directly into a registry cleaner in hopes that it will solve all your problems. It's unlikely to do much at all to fix actual Windows Registry hiccups.

For example, there are some problems that cite the Windows Registry which might make you think you need a registry cleaner to "clean up the mess." In reality, they might not be related to the registry in that way at all.

REG files come to mind here, particularly when importing a REG file or exporting one. When you have problems doing these tasks, the Windows Registry is definitely mentioned because you're trying to do something within it.

However, with these errors, a registry cleaner is unhelpful because the problem lies elsewhere, like with how the REG file was built or with your permissions to access the registry. A registry cleaner attempting to clean up registry entries will have zero effect on your ability to work with REG files.

Another example is registry values themselves. You may have made some registry entries during a registry hack or tweak, but they don't work the way you intended them to. In this case, much like the ones we just mentioned, you need to address those entries specifically to see what has been mistyped or what isn't allowed, because throwing a registry cleaner at it will do no good.

Editing the registry remotely is another situation where you might see registry errors, but instead of looking for a fix with a registry cleaner, you might just need to enable the Remote Registry service, for example, or ask the remote user for their password.

More Information on Registry Cleaners

There's a lot more to learn about registry cleaners before using one. Take a look at the other FAQs we answer in our Registry Cleaner FAQ: