The short answer to the question posed in the headline is: Yes, they can. Depending upon the free programs one is using. But the real question needing to be asked is: Are free registry cleaners worth bothering with in the first place? Especially with advanced operating systems like Windows 7 and 8.
Because the registry can be a very complicated area to work with in a Windows system, the level of application-specific knowledge needed by an effective registry utility is high indeed. And anyone who has worked with free utilities such as Eusing or CCleaner knows that these only target the safest of entries to fix, while leaving a massive amount of empty outdated entries alone and untouched.
You can find this out for yourself by running your favorite free utility up against the trial version of any of the commercial applications to find out which registry repair does the more thorough job. If you’re not a very heavy user of your computer – meaning you don’t do a lot of downloading, uninstalling, or changing and moving files from folder to folder – then perhaps a free registry fix tool will be more than enough to handle the work you do.
On the other hand, if you typically download any amount of music, photos, or video files on a regular basis, or are otherwise making regular changes to the files on your system, then you might be wise to consider finding and purchasing a reliable cleaner. Even radio personality and computer guru Kim Komando recommends using a commercial product rather than free applications to help keep your registry in tip-top shape.
Of course, one of the other advantages to using a commercial product are the added capabilities that sometimes come bundled with a registry repair tool. While most paid utilities have a registry back up capability along with a start-up manager, few have the capability to recover a deleted file or to find and retrieve your passwords from MSN, Outlook, Google Talk, and other accounts.
Then again there are a few commercial registry cleaners that offer a free Lite version of their product for users to check out and evaluate. Downloading and using one of these utilities can be the best of both worlds. Not only will it give the user an opportunity to see how the commercial utility can perform, but it can also be tested against any free cleaner to compare repair capabilities. If the user chooses not to purchase, the Lite version of the cleaner can still be used without a time limitation to augment the job that other free utilities provide.
If you are interested in trying out a free Lite version of a registry cleaner, one that you can keep and continue to use even if you don’t end up purchasing the full version, there’s a link to one of the best and highly rated utilities in the resource box below.