CCleaner‘s been around a long time, and with good reason: it provides several valuable and useful functions.
Several of CCleaner’s functions may duplicate tools you already have, but its primary claim to fame is its ability to clean up files, history, and other things from your computer you might not need or want to keep around. With the arrival of Windows 10, CCleaner is also positioned to provide a function that can’t easily be found elsewhere.
First, about that name
Let’s do some full disclosure on that name.
CCleaner started out years ago as “Crap Cleaner” – its focus was on cleaning temporary files left behind by many applications. It’s since matured into much, much more.
Part of that maturation was apparently sanitizing the program’s name somewhat.
Those of us who’ve been around for awhile still think of it by its original name.
You may be directed to a third-party download site to actually get the file. That’s OK, since you were directed there by the official source.
Run the installer, taking care to always explore “custom” or “advanced” options. To date, I’ve never found PUPs or other unexpected items in Piriform software, but caution is always advised, and is an important habit to develop.
Start CCleaner and you’ll begin in its Cleaner section, which shows you the various types of Windows components and file types it can clean.
One of the things that distinguishes CCleaner from Windows’ own disk-cleaning tool is that CCleaner is aware of many popular non-Microsoft applications that also need cleaning. Click the Applications tab and you’ll get a long list of programs, both Microsoft and non-Microsoft, that CCleaner knows about.
In both cases, you can scroll through and select or de-select which items you would like CCleaner to clean. (The default selections are a fine place to start if you’re not sure.)
When first using the tool, the next step is to click Analyze, which simply examines your system for cleaning opportunities.
Here, you can see that, when run on my system, CCleaner would free up a little over 140 megabytes of space.Your results may vary dramatically, depending on how you use your machine, how recently you ran CCleaner, and a wide variety of other conditions that can impact the number of clean-able files on your system.
Ramifications of cleaning files
For the most part, the files CCleaner proposes to delete are indeed safe to delete.
But it’s important to realize that there may be ramifications. Some examples:
- Deleting cookies may require that you re-log-in to sites that had previously remembered you.
- Deleting history, be it in a browser or other applications, naturally means that the history feature will no longer have the entries that are deleted.
- Deleting temporary internet files may slightly slow down your subsequent initial visits to the websites that you visit frequently.
- … and so on.
It’s worth browsing the list of items that CCleaner proposes to delete. If you’re unsure, go back and uncheck the corresponding item so CCleaner doesn’t delete it.
As for me, I tend to run with the default selection.
When you’re ready, click the Run Cleaner button and CCleaner will do its thing2.
As you may already know, I’m not a huge fan of registry cleaners. In general, the risk is too high and the benefits are typically miniscule. Unless there’s a specific problem you’re attempting to solve, I suggest not using a general purpose registry cleaner … ever.
That being said, if you are fighting a specific problem, or you just feel you must, CCleaner’s registry cleaner is a reasonable choice.
On the far left of the CCleaner interface, click on Registry, and then click on Scan for Issues.
Note: After you scan for issues, there will always be “issues”. Even on my machine – which is working just great – CCleaner listed over 1,400 “issues” it would clean up for me, if allowed. The majority of these are completely benign.
If you’re planning to actually perform registry cleaning, back up your computer first. Take a system image backup using your backup program of choice. Playing with the registry can be dangerous; at its worst, it can leave your system unstable or even unbootable. It’s rare, particularly when using a well-behaved tool like CCleaner, but it’s still possible.
To clean the registry, click on Fix selected issues…..
CCleaner will prompt you to back up the changes it’s about to make to the registry. While this might seem redundant after having taken a full system image backup, it’s small, fast, and can be a more convenient way to recover from the majority of possible problems that might result from the cleaning.
After saving the backup, CCleaner will proceed to clean each issue it finds.
As you might imagine, it’s unrealistic to examine each one of the 1,400 changes CCleaner proposes, much less understand the ramifications of each. The most common action here is to click on Fix All Selected Issues.
As it turns out, fixing registry issues can expose new issues. It can be helpful to repeat the “Scan for Issues” and then “Fix selected issues…”. In my example, I ran it three times before no new issues were found.
At the risk of repeating myself, I do not believe that regular registry cleaning is generally needed or particularly beneficial. When weighed against the risk of a registry-cleaning operation that may cause more problems thanit solves, I advise simply not doing it at all.
With the arrival of Windows 10, another of CCleaner’s additional tools has become significantly more useful.
One the left-hand menu, click on Tools, and then at the top of the adjacent list, click on Uninstall.
This will present a list of software on your system that CCleaner can uninstall.
What’s unique about Windows 10 is that this list includes many apps that don’t have an obvious uninstall mechanism elsewhere. As a result, CCleaner provides the easiest, and perhaps the only, approach to removing unwanted apps.
Caution: make sure you really don’t need an app before removing it. One example might be the MS Store app. While you might not care to have it around, it may become the conduit for official software that you later desire. After uninstalling an application that has no clear uninstall option elsewhere, there’s typically no obvious way to reinstall it, short of a refresh of the entire Windows 10 installation.
CCleaner includes several other tools.
- Startup: an interface for managing programs that start automatically when you boot your computer or log in, as well as Internet Explorer add-ons.
- Browser Plugins: an interface to manage the plugins and extensions installed in your web browsers.
- Disk Analyzer: a utility to summarize the types of files stored on a hard disk.
- Duplicate Finder: a utility to locate duplicate files.3
- System Restore: an interface to manage Windows Restore Points.
- Drive Wiper: a utility that can securely wipe the free space on your disk, or, in fact, wipe an entire hard drive.
Most of these tools duplicate other tools I recommend, but they can be convenient if you already have CCleaner installed and don’t want to grab yet another tool.
Running CCleaner automatically
It’s a tad advanced, so I won’t get into all the details here, but CCleaner can be configured to run automatically when Windows starts, or scheduled using Windows Task Scheduler.
If you run CCleaner once, it is configured by default to save the settings that you select into an .ini file. You can then run or schedule the command:
"C:\Program Files\CCleaner\CCleaner64.exe" /AUTO
(use CCleaner.exe for 32-bit systems) and it will automatically run and perform the cleaning operation.
Download CCleaner, run the Analyze function, and see what you see. It may become a useful cleanup utility to keep in your toolbox.
It’s in mine.
I recommend it.