Many believe that Windows is a bloated operating system. However, the truth is that the Windows ecosystem is bloated, bloated like the shopping malls in western countries, allowing you to buy everything your heart desires. Of course, you can always use another operating system if you prefer a "political system" that gives you fewer choices and less freedom. Yet another option is to cleanse your "garage" every now and then from all the junk that you no longer need. And this is where CCleaner comes in.
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CCleaner is a famous free optimization, privacy and cleaning tool. I should have added it long time ago to the list of free administration tools, because it is a valuable tool for admins who have to clean a user's PC that has been cluttered with junk. This usually improves the performance of a Windows PC that has become slow because too many applications have been installed over time, often leaving traces even after they have been uninstalled. CCleaner can also help to free disk space. If you are planning to upgrade your PC to Windows 7, then it might make sense to get rid of all of the deadwood first—although I would always recommend that you perform a fresh install of a new Windows version.
CCleaner also allows you to remove unwanted traces that web browsers have left on the hard disk. The tool removes information such as the temporary file cache, the URL history, cookies etc. CCleaner supports Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Opera, and Safari, although the website doesn't say what kind of traces can be removed for the latter three browsers.
It is also possible to remove Windows Explorer traces, such as recently opened documents or the thumbnail cache. Furthermore, it empties the Recycle Bin, Chkdsk file fragments, memory dumps and more places where the operating stores temporary information (see screenshot above for complete list). Most important thing is that CCleaner can also remove remnants of third party applications. Unfortunately, CCleaner's homepage doesn't list all of the supported applications. You can also use CCleaner to uninstall applications and to manage auto starting applications, although both features have only limited functionality.
It also comes with a Registry cleaner. A bloated registry is sometimes the reason for a sluggish PC. The problem with automatic Registry cleaning is that you might end up with a PC having zero speed; that is, with a non bootable system or perhaps with some apps that no longer work properly. This applies to all kinds of automatic PC cleaning tools; however, messing with the Registry is certainly the most dangerous.
Thus, I am missing an undo function in CCleaner. Of course, you can always use Windows System Restore to revert all changes CCleaner has made. However, you should always back up the entire system before running the tool. CCleaner allows you to analyze your disk first and lists all of the changes it intends to do. It certainly makes sense to have a closer look at these and to deselect those that could harm your installation.
I have tried CCleaner v2.25 and I had no problem with it. I also skimmed over some forum discussions before I wrote this post. All in all, it appears that CCleaner is reliable. Just in case you are using the tool, it would be great if you could share your experiences. I would also be interested in other PC cleaning tools.
Cleaning your system is only one way to speed up your PC. Two years ago I wrote a post that gives some additional tips on how to improve the performance of a Windows PC. IT pros probably won't find anything new there, perhaps, except for the last method, which is still the one that has always worked best for me. 😉