DriverAgent and RegistryWizard
DriverAgent and RegistryWizard are products provided by eSupport. They make a number of rather strong claims as to what their software does. recently I have heard a number of further claims, both positive and negative, about the product, and decided to try a test.
DriverAgent purports to be able to fix a modicum of PC issues, many of which have nothing to do with Driver software. The software works on the basis of the company’s website having a database of driver software of some description, and it tries to find updated versions of installed drivers. There are some issues with this approach of fixing issues, however, since it doesn’t actually fix anything. Primarily, most of the issues that would be caused by Driver software can be clearly identified as to which component is causing the issue. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, Updating a Driver doesn’t have any guarantee that the updated version is any “better” than the previous version. Like any Software product Bugs come and go; Fundamentally if a Version of the software fixes one bug, it may introduce two others. Unless a Driver update addresses a specific issue you are encountering, there isn’t a very good reason to update it, and a software product- or any supposed IT professional- purporting that updating a Software Driver is going to fix any issue is a abandonment of professional responsibility.
One of the issues that I have heard relates to privacy concerns. I installed the product on my XP SP3 virtual Machine. It presents massive privacy issues in that any Scan of your system will send a large quantity of data to their servers- without your consent. It does this immediately when you start it; in fact, the very functionality of the program is based entirely on sending all that data to their servers. This data is accessible to anybody on their “staff”; and their staff is far to lax in being willing to share that information.
Moving on to Registry Wizard, their other product, I ran it on a clean XP SP3 install (XP+VMWare stuff, pretty much). It reported 174 Problems. That is a lot to break down. But it separates them into categories. The top category is listed as “Registry Integrity”. This sounds pretty serious! It found one “Registry Integrity” issue. That issue was that the “My Video” value in “HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Shell Folders” Was empty. That is not an issue, since the “Shell Folders” key has actually been deprecated since Windows 95, only being a supported feature during the Windows 95 Beta’s. Values are populated as Applications use the documented GetFolderPath() functions and GetKnownFolderPath() functions (Vista and later). This is certainly not a problem with “Registry Integrity”. The only thing it does is use a few extra bytes of data.
Next, it documents “File Association” issues. It starts with what it claims to be an Invalid Open With List entry- “Subkey sndrec32.exe points to an application which could not be found: sndrec32.exe” This is a curious classification since I was able to run sndrec32.exe just fine. Odd.
The next issue was that it couldn’t find sndrec.wav, which is not exactly surprising since sndrec.wav is actually a class name and not a path. The shell knows this. This registry cleaner apparently doesn’t. Because it’s not very smart. Naturally cleaning this entry breaks Sound Recorder’s File Association. Bravo.
Next, it talks of an Invalid Class ID. This refers to the Active Directory Class Container, and would be sensible if it wasn’t a key that would be instantiated and fixed if Active Directory is used; that is, the class ID will be created by any Early or Late bound COM call that involves Active Directory. Unfortunately, Late Binding would break entirely if the key the Cleaner wants to delete is not there. Again, Slow clap for the awesome breakages that these tools provide. It refers to similar keys for the rest of that section. Breaking both Windows Help as well as a few Telephony APIs if they were to be deleted.
Other issues primarily revolve around RegistryWizard’s inability to be able to parse paths containing Environment Variables or UNC paths, or the fact that it doesn’t actually know where to look for certain values, and declares them missing and deletable. An interesting side effect of deleting these entries is of course breaking pretty much everything. Now clearly I’m just a simple farmer but I would imagine that this is not what the software is supposed to do.
Or, perhaps it is. After all, the product does have a lot of “alerts” and “warnings” that the user should upgrade the product, register it, etc. in order to get their system in good shape. If they ‘clean’ their system with this tool and find that half the system breaks, many of them will assume that their system was actually worse than they thought- partly because they already invested in the product and are less willing to admit they they may have been screwed over by clever marketing- nobody wants to admit to being shanked – So they will continue to run scans and cleans and so forth. This actually contributes partly to the equally ubiquitous myth that the Windows “registry” is prone to getting “dirty” which is only true when you have invasive “Cleaning” applications that don’t know half of the meaning or references within- and cannot understand environment variables or UNC paths, for that matter- screwing about in your registry data.