Reimage Repair, a technician’s perspective

One application I see in spurts on customer’s computers is Reimage Repair (now known as reimage plus), and sometimes I get asked what I think about it. Truth be told, while it is a legitimate application, I don’t think too highly of it at all. And it’s not just because the name itself is a slap in the face of a method we techs sometimes use, reimaging a computer. Here’s why:

To explain what Reimage is, I’ll try to explain it in detail that’s not very confusing. It’s essentially a mix between a registry cleaner, disk optimizer, and a library of Windows system files. That doesn’t sound too bad, right? While, in theory, yes. But in practice I have seen it screw up more Windows installations than it helps. The underlying problem is that registry cleaners can sometimes do away with needed registry keys for certain functions. It’s an issue that surrounds all third party registry cleaners and not just Reimage. But the next part will get technical and interesting.

That library of Windows system files that I mentioned earlier, isn’t a very good one. In practice I have found that this library can sometimes contain files that aren’t properly signed, and at best they’re out of date. Sometimes even several months or years out of date. And the algorithm Reimage uses to sort out what files are good, and which are bad, are a basic comparison against the file they have in their library. It doesn’t seem to assess damage very well. Best case scenario, Reimage Repair can revert patches. Worst case scenario, it may cause more issues in the long run.

It’s extremely common that a computer with various issues, such as the inability to right click the taskbar, or various performance issues on bootup will have Reimage Repair installed on it. Both on Windows 7 and Windows 10 machines. And is the only single piece of software that can cause more trouble than IOBit’s registry cleaner (sorry, not sorry). In one instance a client’s computer was rendered unbootable directly after paying for and running Reimage Repair (their refund process wasn’t very friendly either).

I suspect most of the “positive effects” of Reimage Repair are solely placebo, or their advertising dollars speaking. None of those reviews mentioned breaking out a stopwatch, instead commenting that it “feels like their PC runs and boots faster.” Which is a very subjective statement. Kind of reminds me of when I do housecall PC repairs, and I’ll simply do a virus scan and removal, and on the reboot, the customer is like “It’s faster already!” well the truth is that boot was actually much slower than the previous, because of the queued removals of the AV software on startup.

Here’s the primary factors that causes damage to Operating System files that Reimage insinuates is fairly common in their advertising:

  1. Rootkits, a rare specific form of malware – Rootkit infections have been dwindling since the XP era and that trend continues. This is attributed to both Microsoft’s lockdown of being able to modify system files, and trends in malware. Currently, malware is moving towards permanently damaging a user’s data, instead of persistently, but kindly insisting they pay up to access their computer with a rootkit; or trying to hack their bank accounts directly.
  2. Rumbling hard drive failure – Sometimes hard drives can fail over time, especially if it’s an age related failure and not a physical damage related one. This could be probable if you’re experiencing performance issues, especially while booting or starting applications. And a slowly failing hard drive can cause crashes while running too. If this could be the cause, it’s an even better idea to keep up to date backups of your files around.
  3. Power outages while writing OS files – If a power outage happens on a desktop especially while it’s applying updates for instance, it can have devastating effects on the OS. But commonly, I usually see that the system becomes unbootable in situations like these, and not slow with crashes.

But to lead off with even more facts, and some things about Windows that its users probably don’t even know.

  1. Maintenance of the OS files – With fully functional and compatible hardware, and adequate protection, there is no need to constantly “refresh” Windows OS files. If updates go awry, Windows does cache previous versions and has a rollback feature for most updates. Any software product that claims you have to constantly repair messed up “OS files” is full of bologna and should be avoided.
  2. It has the maintenance tools it needs built in – Microsoft carefully analyzed the maintenance software Windows really needs and built it right in. Disk Cleanup and Defrag are built right in and accessible on the start menu, but keep in mind you don’t want to do the latter on a Solid State Drive (SSD’s don’t rely on mechanical components, so seek times don’t vary based on physical arrangement of the data), because defragging can exhaust some write cycles. Likely, unless you cleared out task scheduler, it likely does these operations automatically (except for defragging on SSD machines)
  3. Refreshing the OS – Windows 10 has a refresh feature built in nowadays, that’s actually pretty user friendly and can be accessed by holding shift while clicking restart, and going into Advanced options.
  4. A real “reimage” may be best – A modern OS is more akin to a complicated maze instead of something that you can fix the entire thing by swapping parts. They’re not Honda Civics. If problems get so out of hand that the functioning parts get messed up, then a real reimage (backing up data, reformatting the entire computer, reinstalling the OS, and restoring data) is probably in order. But especially in the case of Windows 10, I haven’t really had to reimage except for update issues that render computers completely unusable.
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