Dvorak: Why can’t Microsoft bring itself to dump the idiotic Windows’ Registry?

“Microsoft has a problem—the whole industry has a problem,” John C. Dvorak writes for PC Magazine. “Everyone needs Windows 7 to be a huge success.”

MacDailyNews Take: Not quite the whole industry, John. wink And, not everyone needs Windows 7 to be a huge success. In fact tens of millions of us don’t even want, much less need, Windows 7 – or any version of Windows – at all.

Dvorak continues, “In the past week, even Intel has been bemoaning the fact that nobody is upgrading machines like they used to… The real problem is the idiotic Windows Registry and the architecture developed around the idea.”

“Apparently Windows 7 has changed enough so that you cannot drop it in as a new OS and expect it to run anything that has been previously installed. In the past, this upgrade-in-place was always feasible, although it was never as good as a clean install. The reason it was never as good as a clean install is because the Registry is a mound of data that is never actually cleaned up by the OS. It becomes a pile of junk clogging up the machine. Garbage-collection programs such as System Mechanic and others address this problem, but the problem should not need addressing. It should not exist as a problem,” Dvorak writes. “Why can’t Microsoft bring itself to dump the Registry?”

Dvorak writes, “If programs were self contained within a single folder that could be transported from machine to machine without the need to re-install the entire program, none of this upgrade malaise would be a problem. In fact, some programs are distributed this way. But most install and rely on the Registry and will not run without the Registry information available. Move the program alone and you get a slew of annoying and mostly cryptic error messages that do not give you enough information to even jerry-rig a Registry entry to get the code to work. It’s ridiculous.”

MacDailyNews Take: If you build a billion-ton ugly-ass McMansion upon a crumbling, ancient foundation, don’t be surprised when it collapses.

Dvorak continues, “At some point, maybe soon, the Registry will be the death of Windows. At some point people will simply refuse to go through this sort of upgrade process to accommodate what is essentially a mediocre architecture based on ideas from the 1980s… With this sort of lackadaisical attitude on the part of Microsoft, people are going to look closer at fully switching to Linux or the Mac and giving up on these guys.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Yeah, Linux. In the last 5 months, Linux on the desktop has gone from 1.01% to 1.05%. In the last year, it’s up 0.16, from 0.89%. In other words, don’t hold your breath; ice ages occur slightly more frequently than do Windows to Linux switchers. Linux on the desktop is a pipe dream; it figures that Dvorak still thinks people might switch from Windows to Linux. Outside of the server room, it’s simply not happening. People are switching to Apple’s Mac, not Linux, whether Dvorak can bring himself to fully state that fact or not.


  1. I love the Mac because Apple are Self Contained and migration from one system to the next is simple just have Migration Assistant do the work for you. True you do have to re-enter all the serial numbers again and the Migration itself can be a bit time consuming but, it sure better and faster then reinstalling all of the Apps again.

  2. “Why can’t Microsoft bring itself to dump the idiotic Windows’ Registry?”

    Because they prefer to use that (for some of the stuff) instead of junking up each and every disk/directory that the OS touches with a zillion “hidden” files and folders like OSX does — with every one of which susceptible to corruption of the disk’s directory system. The least Apple could do is stick all of that crap in one hidden sub-directory in each directory. Plus, OSX basically has the same thing as the registry in plist files, except they are all split up, instead of being in one big registry. And yea, why can’t those plist files be in the application’s package so you don’t have to “install” a program on another machine?

  3. They can’t dump it because a billion pieces of software expect it to be there. Makes more sense to re-write Windows COMPLETELY, brand new, from the ground up.

  4. Mac users should be at least a little thankful for Linux desktop efforts, as the KDE desktop project developed the basis for Safari. Firefox may be a perfectly good Web browser, but it would not have been so easy to adapt Firefox into a usable native part of OSX, nor is Firefox particularly appropriate for implementation on a mobile device.

  5. What is 1.05% of a billion PCs? I’m not good at math, but I think that is still quite a lot. If desktop/laptop linux had some real industry backing, then it would be doing much better and be much more competitive. However, PC manufacturers are hog-tied into the “recommends Genuine Windows Y” trap. They have no choice but to pay homage to MS or else they will be forced to pay high license fees and be undercut in price by their competitor that is loyal to the king.

    A much better world would be one like hardware. The industry sets up some standards to use, like USB, Ethernet, etc., and then everyone chooses which standards they want and how they want to use them. That gives consumers great interoperability while still giving great variety. The OS world doesn’t work that way. It’s Windows and only Windows, or else you’ll get steam rolled. In a better world, each manufacturer would build their own OS for their own computers and work to bring about interoperable standards. Then they could compete on features instead of price.

  6. Bob, if the Registry had eliminated the proliferation of files in the directory structure which the user does not understand, it could conceivably have been worth the trouble.

  7. Hmm! I think owners of Power PC Mac’s might have something to say on the upgrade issue! Especially when there is no technical reason why Snow Leopard could not be made to run on Power PC; at all. It’s only Apple’s corporate decision to kick Power PC support into the long grass and forget it ever existed!

    Dvorak shows his ignorance however when he suggests Windows’ problems are because of the age of it’s fundamentals (being 1980’s) when Mac OS X linage goes back to the 1960’s. Mac OS X underpinnings benefits from being a bit of a mongrel – healthy, not fragile. Mac OS X itself is a masterpiece.

  8. at least he used both “jerry-rig” and “lackadaisickal” correctly….
    instead of the typically incorrect “jury-rig” and “laxidiasical”.

    in fact, i can’t recall having ever seen either used correctly in writing before.

    had he used the word “moot”, it would have been a perfect tri-fecta of accurate word useage, since most people use “mute” incorrectly too.

    In fact, i’m so proud of this accomplishment, i’m going to give him a hit just because i’m so sick of seeing those terms fscked up.

    Jerry-rig: pejoritive reference from WWII to describe something cobbled together by someone you dislike – in the case of WWII, the Germans, or “jerrys” were very much disliked.

    lackadaisical: it actually is not related to the word “lax”, but people think it is and therefore, it is usually incorrectly written and pronounced as “laxidaisical”. When you say “laxidaisical”, you sound like a moron.

  9. @Gosh

    the point of snow is to take advantage of intel chip only switches and slim the old PPC code out. if that isn’t a reason to not make it run on PPC, i don’t know what is…

  10. A common belief is that one of the main reason Apple OS X is so good is precisely because it periodically kicks old hardware to the curb. Others more up on it than me may have other reasons.

    Supporting hardware back to the 1980’s is usually given as the reason Doze is totally hosed. Wishing Apple always supported your favorite hardware goes into the category of “being careful what you wish for”.

  11. Actually, the headline could as well have read, “Why can’t Microsoft bring itself to dump the idiotic Windows?”

    When I did Windows support, I used to refer to the system32 subdirectory as the “dumping ground”, and the registry as the “abomination”. Both are legacy artifacts upon which thousands of legacy applications depend. Windows simply can’t drop them.

    If users have been cursed to live with Windows, Microsoft has been cursed by Windows success. Apple managed two radical shifts over the last nine years, first to OS X, then to Intel. Having a small installed (and loyal) base certainly helped the transition. Microsoft has neither.

    Sooner or later, Microsoft will need to bite the bullet and recognize it needs to start over. Once it’s advanced enough, it will have to declare Windows to be “legacy”.

  12. Linux keeps the geek class happy and is not for everyone. Like my car, I have neither the time or skill to learn the inner workings of my OS and as I despise Micros**t the Mac is the most obvious choice.
    My question is why oh why does MDN give this clown the attention??
    Like the clown trolls that inhabit forums such as this, it’s best to ignore them.

  13. @Bob

    “Plus, OSX basically has the same thing as the registry in plist files, except they are all split up, instead of being in one big registry. And yea, why can’t those plist files be in the application’s package so you don’t have to “install” a program on another machine?”

    Bob, plist files are nowhere near comparable to the registry. Want proof? Delete the plist file for Safari and then launch Safari. It works fine. In fact, Safari will just create a new plist file automatically. Try that with the registry and see what happens.

    The plist files are basically a “cookie” where the application stores user-centric configs & preferences for the application. The reason that they don’t reside within the application’s package is that a given application will have a different plist file for each user account on the system. Which is why they generally reside in the User/Library/Preferences folder.

    All operating systems consist of millions of files. But trust me, Unix does a vastly superior job of keeping these files organized ina rational manner, and OS X does a great job of keeping them out of sight and out of mind for the user, and completely out of reach for hackers.

  14. To the other steve jobs……

    The term jury-rigged has been around for centuries, especially in connection with sailing vessels that have suffered severe storm damage forcing an improvised repair.

    How would this be incorrect in the context of this topic?

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