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Overzealous PC cleaning can break things 5 Ways Overzealous Cleaning Can Break Windows 5 Ways Overzealous Cleaning Can Break Windows It's easy to go overboard with cleaning your PC. When you're cleaning your PC, be sure you know what you're getting into -- it's easy to break something. Read More , but some cleaning will help you free up space and keep your system running quickly. Trimming down those unnecessary temporary files you don’t need is particularly crucial if you have a small solid-state drive How Do Solid-State Drives Work? [MakeUseOf Explains] How Do Solid-State Drives Work? [MakeUseOf Explains] Over the past few decades, there has been a considerable amount of work in the field of computer hardware. While computer technology is constantly improving and evolving, rarely do we experience moments where we simply... Read More  and you want to make the most of its storage.

Windows Disk Cleanup

Windows has a built-in Disk Cleanup tool Low Disk Space? 5 Native Windows Tools To Free Up Storage Space Low Disk Space? 5 Native Windows Tools To Free Up Storage Space Don't download a fishy third party tool to reclaim valuable disk space! Windows has its own tools for the job and they're easy to use. Read More , which you can access in several ways. For example, you could open File Explorer or Windows Explorer, right-click a disk like your C: drive, select Properties, and click the Disk Cleanup button. Or, you could tap the Windows key to open the Start screen or Start menu, type Disk Cleanup to search, and click the “Free up disk space by deleting unnecessary files” or “Disk Cleanup” shortcut. It’s also available in the Administrative Tools folder in the Control Panel.

launch disk cleanup from file explorer

By default, the tool will clean up files for your user account alone. Click the Clean Up System Files button to clean up everything on the system and free up the most space. The tool will scan for and remove a wide variety of files, including temporary files, Internet Explorer browser data, and gigabytes of Windows Update uninstallation files. It will even remove the Windows.old folder 8 Super Windows 8.1 Tweaks For Power Users 8 Super Windows 8.1 Tweaks For Power Users With Windows 8.1 came many changes. Some options are completely new, others were changed or moved. Whether you're using Windows 8.1 on a desktop, tablet, or something in between, these tweaks will come in handy! Read More , if you’ve upgraded to a newer version of Windows and still have files from your old Windows installation lying around.

The More Options tab includes links to easily access the System Restore dialog, where you can delete restore points to free up space, and the Programs and Features dialog, where you can uninstall software and remove Windows components.

disk cleanup dialog

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CCleaner

If you want more cleaning options than Disk Cleanup provides, go with CCleaner. It’s like Disk Cleanup on steroids — it cleans up some system files Disk Cleanup won’t touch and it also deletes temporary files used by third-party programs, such as the Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox browsers. CCleaner also cleans up your “tracks,” such as your history of opened files, visited web pages, and similar private data.

Be sure to configure CCleaner before using it, so it doesn’t remove things you want to keep. For example, you may want to disable cookie How Do Websites Use Cookies? [Technology Explained] How Do Websites Use Cookies? [Technology Explained] Read More cleaning to stay logged into websites in your browsers. CCleaner will remember your settings between uses. The free version of CCleaner will do everything you need; you don’t need to buy the paid version.

CCleaner does have a registry cleaner built-in. We don’t recommend using a registry cleaner Using Registry Cleaner: Does Is It Really Make a Difference? Using Registry Cleaner: Does Is It Really Make a Difference? Advertisements for registry cleaners are all over the Web. There’s an entire industry out there bent on convincing inexperienced computer users that their registry needs fixing, and that, for ten easy payments of $29.95, their... Read More because it won’t do much for you, and it could potentially cause a problem with one of the millions of Windows programs out there. However, if you must use a registry cleaner, you should probably use CCleaner. It’s fairly conservative and has been widely tested.

ccleaner

Duplicate File Cleaners

Duplicate file cleaners can also help clean up your PC. For example, you may have duplicate copies of photos you’ve taken or other documents, and those files will be using up an unnecessary amount of space.  These tools will scan your system for such duplicate files and help you delete them to free up space.

Any of the duplicate file finders we’ve recommended Delete Duplicate Files Quickly With These Tools Delete Duplicate Files Quickly With These Tools One of the fastest ways to clog up your hard drive is to store duplicate files. Most of the time, you probably aren’t even aware that you have duplicate files. They come from a variety... Read More will work just fine. Don’t point it at a system directory like C:\Windows or C:\Program Files and start deleting duplicate files it finds in there or you could mess up your system. Stick to your personal data files only — documents, music, pictures, videos, and other stuff — not system or program files.

dupeguru scan for duplicate files

Bloatware Removers Like The PC Decrapifier

When you get a new computer, you can run a tool like The PC Decrapifier on it. This tool will scan your computer for useless bundled bloatware applications How To Remove Unwanted Crapware From Your Brand New Windows 7 System How To Remove Unwanted Crapware From Your Brand New Windows 7 System Read More and help you quickly uninstall them. If you’ve had your current computer for a while and never cleaned up all that junk software that came with it, you may want to run this program now. You can also just head to the Control Panel and uninstall the programs you don’t want by hand.

pc decrapifier

Disk Usage Analyzers Like WinDirStat

WinDirStat isn’t an automated cleaner program, but it is one of the best ways to free up space on Windows 6 Ways to Free Up Space on Your Windows Computer 6 Ways to Free Up Space on Your Windows Computer Clutter can be a big downer on productivity. Over time, files get lost, programs go unused, and suddenly, your once spacious hard drive is packed with useless things and you have to clean it up.... Read More . Run the tool and it will scan your hard drive to catalog which files and folders are using the most space, presenting them in a visual list. You can easily see what’s using up space and figure out what files you should remove and programs you should uninstall. It will help you quickly make decisions about what to get rid of.

see what's using space on windows drive with windirstat

The Programs and Features Control Panel

Some people swear by third-party uninstallers 3 Best Third-Party Uninstallers & Why You Need Them 3 Best Third-Party Uninstallers & Why You Need Them To uninstall a Windows program, you can’t just hit 'Delete’ -- you need to run the software’s uninstaller. Unfortunately, the 'Uninstall a program’ option in the Windows Control Panel does not always completely remove it... Read More for uninstalling software on their Windows PCs, but those really aren’t necessary. For the vast majority of programs, you can simply uninstall the program from the Programs and Features pane in the Windows Control Panel and be done with it. Sure, they may leave a few tiny files or a handful of registry entries on your computer, but those aren’t actually a problem and barely use any space. Just uninstall programs you no longer use to free up space from here.

uninstall programs in programs and featured on windows 8.1

A Startup Program Manager

On Windows 8 and 8.1, you can also use the Task Manager to disable Startup programs How to Make Windows 8 Go Faster: 8 Tips For Improving Performance How to Make Windows 8 Go Faster: 8 Tips For Improving Performance Whatever you think of Windows 8 (at MakeUseOf, our opinions are mixed), it’s certainly speedy. Windows 8 boots faster than previous versions of Windows, has lower memory usage, and has a desktop that feels nice... Read More , clean up your system tray Manage And Tidy The Windows 7 System Tray Manage And Tidy The Windows 7 System Tray Every Windows user has seen the Windows system tray (also known as the notification area) become cluttered over time. We’ve covered disabling distracting desktop notifications in the past, but what if the icons themselves are... Read More and make your computer faster to boot. On Windows 7 or earlier versions of Windows, you can use the Tools > Startup pane in CCleaner to do the same.

Be careful when doing this, as you could disable useful utilities that allow your hardware or software to function properly. On the other hand, many Windows programs add unnecessary startup software that just bogs your system down.

windows 8.1 task manager configure startup programs

The Takeaway

You don’t even need most of these system-cleaning tools to keep Windows running smoothly. As long as you’re happy with the amount of free space you have, you can just run the Disk Cleanup tool once a month or once every few months and keep an eye on the number of programs you have installed — your Windows system will be fine as long as you’re taking proper care of it.

Image Credit: Intel Free Press on Flickr

  1. Mike
    July 24, 2014 at 10:43 pm

    WinDirStat is sooo slow. I used to use TreeSize, but now WizTree is my "what's hogging my drive" program of choice. Super super fast.

  2. Oron J
    July 22, 2014 at 7:17 am

    Great article Chris! I prefer SpaceSnoidder to WinDirStat. It's a very similar tool, but the display is clearer, in my opinion anyway. I also like to use IObit Uninstaller, which has a "batch remove" mode (Revo is also excellent, but doesn't have this option). Since I use IObit, I no longer bother with PC Decrappifier since the IObit software effectively does the same job and more.
    Finally, there IS a time and place to use CCleaner's registry cleaner, and that is when the system is working "not quite right". This will often occur after an installation or uninstall or when recovering from a crash, malware infection etc. Things will sort of work, but filed associations are wrong, right click doesn't work or other such oddities. In those cases I find that registry cleaning will often help beca I sent it also contains an element of error detection. I always do all cleaning first and back up the registry settings, though.

  3. pmshah
    July 22, 2014 at 3:06 am

    CCleaner does a pretty good job of uninstalling any software. It also fixed redundant entries in the registry. Even better is freeware Geek.exe Uninstaller.

  4. J R Celoni
    July 21, 2014 at 11:09 pm

    FolderMatch (http://foldermatch.com) has a "find duplicates" feature. There are tens of utilities for syncing folders, but I like this one so much that I actually paid for it and have used it for years.

  5. Debbie C
    July 21, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    Thanks for letting me know that, I use both also. I was just making sure I wasn't wasting energy on the extra step.

  6. Vicky G
    July 21, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    Great info....this old dog has learned a new trick.

  7. Debbie C
    July 21, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    I was wondering if anyone has used Eusing Cleaner or Eusing Registry Cleaner. How do they compare to CCleaner?

    • Loretta
      July 21, 2014 at 3:35 pm

      I have used Eusing for years alongside of CCleaner. Eusing cleans out a bit of extra junk that is nice to have removed. I believe in it completely.

  8. Samuel A
    July 21, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    Excluding the 'Decrapifier', I've used them all. They all have their pros and cons, but they definitely help keep your windows computer running a bit more smoothly - most of the time anyway.

    I also agree with the Revo suggestion; it's definitely useful to help remove those extra files the built-in uninstaller leaves behind.

    The one thing that is possibly missing: some sort of anti-virus. Sure, the program will hoard a good chuck of RAM, but it's worth having it there to prevent future problems.

    • Sukhen
      July 21, 2014 at 5:51 pm

      On Win 8.1, I use only Windows Defender. Tried a few others but apart from Avira, all slows down the system somewhat. As such, I have no complaints against WD.

      Apart from CC, I like Glary Utilities. It also does a nice job and barely uses some resources and very fast in defrag etc.

  9. Ashwin D
    July 21, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    CCleaner is one of the safest cleaners out there along with the built in Windows Cleaner.

  10. Gary
    July 19, 2014 at 11:46 pm

    And don't forget CC_Enhancer-3.8.exe, a CCleaner helper. CC_Enhancer will add additional check boxes to the application tab. I use CC_Enhancer and have no problems with it. Check it out, if you want to add and clean a lot of other "Windows" stuff.

  11. Db
    July 19, 2014 at 5:25 am

    Mr. Hoffman, thank you for this write up. Great info on tools available to keep your PC/laptop etc running well. Thank you again for sharing your knowledge, it is appreciated.

  12. michel
    July 18, 2014 at 10:00 pm

    I find it curious that people always warn against using CC's registry cleaner, but advise using the disk cleaning feature. I stopped using it at all because it invariably borks something on me, usually whatever browser I'm using. But I never had any trouble with the registry portion.

  13. RG
    July 18, 2014 at 5:21 pm

    I think you should also mention Revo Uninstaller which takes care of leftover files when uninstalling a program. It can also clean up left over registry files. Highly recommended.

    • TxBlackLabel
      July 18, 2014 at 7:36 pm

      I'd agree, a very nice must have program.

  14. Kristopher H
    July 14, 2014 at 6:24 pm

    I'm a big fan of CCleaner. While you don't HAVE to buy the paid version to get awesome benefits from the program, I like to support great software when it is useful to me. So, consider buying a copy here and there to support the people that develop good software. (Full disclosure.... I have no relationship with the developers of CCleaner. Or any software maker actually. Ha!)

    Thanks for a good article! I enjoyed it!

    • TxBlackLabel
      July 18, 2014 at 7:45 pm

      Kristopher is right, if you use it a lot, support them.

      I bought CCleaner and Malwarebytes for family and friends as birthday or graduation gifts, it has cut down on a lot of me having to remote in and cleaning up the junk or removing Trojans. I program MB to update, scan and remove, no more weekend evening calls.

    • TxBlackLabel
      July 18, 2014 at 7:52 pm

      If I run across multiple profiles (family PC) I use CleanUp!, it will at least get the major junk files off each profile without having to login in each one.

      It is included with Hiren's Boot CD package under Cleaners or google search Cleanup!
      http://www.stevengould.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=15&Itemid=69

    • Mike Merritt
      July 18, 2014 at 8:46 pm

      When I BUY in order to support a software programmer - I ignore the authorization/paid code that they send, and continue to use the FREE version. That way, if I have to erase/re-install/upgrade/move the software for any reason - it's just the "free" copy. If you once let the "paid" version of some software get onto your computer, it'll want to be paid all the time, and will want authorization codes again and again as you install/uninstall/upgrade/move/re-install it. Truly a major hassle.
      Pay, yes - but keep using the free version. That's my recommendation.

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