Are the Speed Up Your PC TV ads a scam?

Question

I see commercials on TV advertising that there product will speed up a computer by fixing registry errors. Do these products really work and how do I know if this is a problem w/o wasting money on products that don't work?

- David

Answer

This question was answered on October 25, 2013. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

The most consistent complaint we hear from customers is “my computer is running too slow” and those ‘speed up your PC’ TV ads are playing on this common problem.

If you’re computer is 6 months old or older, the likelihood that it runs as fast as the day you got it is nearly zero (unless you never use it).

The primary reason that your computer isn’t as fast as it was when you bought it is because of what you have installed (knowingly and unknowingly) and where you’ve been on the Internet.

It’s similar to the grime and grunge that builds up on your car as you drive it around, especially if you go off-road. The difference is it has a much bigger performance impact on your computer than it does on your car when you don’t clean it off.

Each program that you install adds to the load of the operating system and each Internet session is another opportunity to allow a sneaky program to make its way into your system.

Unfortunately, very few people perform any kind of regular maintenance on their computer, so by the time you’re looking for a solution, the problem is pretty complex.

The television commercials prey on those looking for instant gratification for a fairly complex problem.

If you pay close attention, you will notice the name of these services changes on a regular basis which goes against every principal of building a brand.

If these services worked as they said, they would want to continue to use the same name over and over again not change the name every couple of months.

Most of what you see advertised claim to be ‘Registry Cleaners’ because the Registry controls every aspect of how a Windows-based computer runs.

The Windows Registry is a very complex system and to date, no automated process has ever proven to be 100% effective (none of us computer guys would have much to do if they really worked that well!)

The unfortunate reality of Registry cleaners is that they often cause more damage to an already fragile situation (we see the results of this in our stores on a regular basis).

The worst thing that you can do to a computer that is already unstable or running really slow is to install additional software. Whenever you install any program into your computer, it must add more entries into your Registry in order for Windows to be able to run it (often adding fuel to the fire).

We’ve tested the integrity of the ‘free scanner’ that will tell you ‘if you need the service’ with a brand new computer (as have countless others on the Internet).

Because this was a custom-built computer from one of our vendors, we knew that it did not have any of the usual trial-ware or other junk common in commercially sold computers (which means that the Registry was pristine).

When you go to any of these websites, they offered to install a free scanner to tell me if I had any problems (which already breaks one of the simple rules of diagnosing a computer: never start by installing something new).

Once installed, the scanner took less than 30 seconds to report to me an astonishing thing: I had 223 issues with my Registry!

Of course, we knew that this was erroneous, so we declined their offer to help (for $49) and used their uninstaller to remove the program.

Just for good measure, we decided to manually inspect the Registry to see if they had in fact properly removed themselves and found 4 sets of Registry keys that were not removed by their uninstall program.

When a ‘Registry Cleaner’ can’t even uninstall itself cleanly, I’m quite certain they won’t do a great job of addressing real issues.

Just to be fair, we tested 3 additional sites that made similar claims. None of them reported that I was in as bad shape as the first, but each one claimed I had pressing issues: 75, 42 & 39 and none of them removed themselves cleanly either.

The reality is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to a slow computer. There are lots of great tools (many of them are free) that can help clean up your computer; the problem is that it takes a knowledgeable eye to know which tool to use when.

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Author

Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on October 25, 2013