Is CCleaner Safe? Not Quite. And We Show You How to Replace It
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Some Windows software has become so ingrained into PC users’ minds that we don’t think twice to recommend them. Unfortunately, this leads to major issues when a popular tool goes rogue.

That’s exactly what’s happened with CCleaner. Once everyone’s favorite Windows maintenance utility, its increasingly shady behavior means that you should now leave it in the dust.

Here’s why you can’t trust CCleaner anymore, and what to replace it with.

Why Is CCleaner No Longer Safe?

CCleaner, once a tidy app with no history of issues, has had several major problems in less than a year. This is unfortunately not surprising after Avast purchased CCleaner developer Piriform in July 2017.

CCleaner Silently Forces Updates

The latest CCleaner controversy comes from ignoring user preferences about checking for updates. A user on Piriform’s forums noticed that CCleaner had automatically updated on his system without his permission. As it turned out, that’s exactly what happened.

A Piriform staff member responded with the following:

“Since the release of v5.46 we have updated some users to this version to meet legal requirements and give users more autonomy and transparency over their privacy settings.”

It’s a bit ironic to claim that going into a user’s system without their permission and making changes is a move based on privacy and transparency. This is especially the case when that latest version of CCleaner has data collection options enabled by default (see the section below).

Check out the below video to see the forced update happen when installing an old version of CCleaner:

If a user says they don’t want to get automatic software updates, the app should respect this.

CCleaner’s Monitoring

CCleaner’s biggest recent controversy came in version 5.45. This included a feature called “Active Monitoring,” a fairly standard feature that collects anonymized information about your system. You could disable it to turn the feature off—or could you?

CCleaner-Disable-Active-Monitoring

As it turns out, if you disabled Active Monitoring in CCleaner, the software automatically re-enabled it after you rebooted or reopened CCleaner. This is extremely suspicious behavior. Though Piriform has backpedaled on it by pulling version 5.45 from the main download page for a time, upset users fled in droves.

Additionally, that version of CCleaner was much harder to quit. When you clicked the X to close the software, it instead minimized to your System Tray. If you right-clicked its icon, there was no option to exit CCleaner. This means you had to close it using the Task Manager, which novice users might not know how to do.

CCleaner-No-Close-Option

Thus, CCleaner now ran constantly in the background, collecting data for Avast. This is despite most people only opening CCleaner when needed, and requesting to not have this information collected.

CCleaner Distributed Malware

Prior to this, Piriform discovered that CCleaner was hacked and distributed malware CCleaner Was Distributing Malware for a Month CCleaner Was Distributing Malware for a Month CCleaner, a popular piece of security software with a squeaky clean reputation, was distributing malware for the best part of a month. Which means you need to update ASAP. Read More . The 32-bit version was infected with a Trojan that collected information about systems it was installed on. It also had the capability to run code on affected systems.

Thankfully, the company caught it before a widespread attack could happen. But it’s pretty embarrassing that a top-tier security company like Avast had such an embarrassing slip-up.

Since its acquisition by Avast, CCleaner also shows pop-ups harassing you to upgrade to the paid version (which has an automatic cleaning feature). And installing CCleaner sometimes shows an offer to install Avast, which you must uncheck to avoid.

With all this combined, enough is enough. If you’ve had your fill of this obnoxious and shady behavior, it’s time to say goodbye to CCleaner.

How to Uninstall CCleaner

The first step is removing CCleaner from your computer. Doing so is easy. Head to Settings > Apps > Apps & features. Scroll through the list or use the search box to look for CCleaner. Click its name, then choose Uninstall.

Uninstall-CCleaner

What to Replace CCleaner With

The good news is that you actually don’t need CCleaner—Windows 10 has most of its functionality built-in, check out our guide to cleaning Windows 10 The Best Way to Clean Windows 10: A Step-by-Step Guide The Best Way to Clean Windows 10: A Step-by-Step Guide Don't know how to clean Windows 10? Here's a clear step-by-step guide to getting your PC nice and tidy again. Read More . And you can install other tools for the rest.

Cleaning Junk Files

The longtime Disk Cleanup tool makes cleaning junk files off your system easy. Launch it by typing its name in the Start Menu, then choose the disk you want to scan. Check the boxes for various types of files to clean, and you’re all set.

Windows-10-Disk-Cleanup

For a newer interface, you can also access the Storage Sense feature in Windows 10 at Settings > System > Storage. Click Free up space now under Storage sense to remove various types of unnecessary files.

Free-Up-Space-Windows-10

Clearing Caches

Aside from clearing unnecessary files, CCleaner also cleans the cache of your browser and other programs. However, you can clear your browser history, cache, and other information How to Manually & Automatically Clear Your Browser History How to Manually & Automatically Clear Your Browser History The websites you visit leave tracks on your computer. We show you how to delete your browsing history in Firefox, Chrome, Edge, and Internet Explorer. Read More right inside it. Plus, incognito or private modes allow you to browse without saving any information in the first place.

Clearing cache to save space isn’t a long-term solution because your browser will recreate it when needed. The cache helps your browser run more efficiently, so you normally don’t need to clear it unless you run into an issue.

Chrome-Clear-Browsing-Data

Uninstall Programs and Remove Startup Items

CCleaner’s Tools section includes several functions that duplicate built-in Windows options. To uninstall software, visit the same page you did above to remove CCleaner at Settings > Apps > Apps & features.

Managing startup programs How to Use the Windows 10 Startup Folder: Everything You Need to Know How to Use the Windows 10 Startup Folder: Everything You Need to Know The Windows 10 startup folder lets you manage which programs run at startup. Here's how to find the startup folder and manage its programs. Read More is easy with the Task Manager. Press the Ctrl + Shift + Esc shortcut, or right-click the Taskbar and choose Task Manager, to open it. Switch to the Startup tab and you’ll see everything that runs when you log in. Right-click an option and hit Disable to remove it from startup.

If you prefer, you can also manage these at Settings > Apps > Startup.

Windows-10-Startup-Apps

Find What’s Taking Up Space

CCleaner has a basic disk analyzer tool that shows you the biggest space hogs on your system. Unsurprisingly, you have better options for disk analysis Need A Disk Cleanup? Visualize What Takes Up Space On Your Windows PC Need A Disk Cleanup? Visualize What Takes Up Space On Your Windows PC Oh the pressure when you run out of disk space. What to delete? The fastest way to locate junk files is to use a tool that helps you visualize your system's file structure. Read More .

Other CCleaner Features

The above are CCleaner’s major features, but you might want replacements for the other minor functions too. In each case, you have options that aren’t obnoxious like CCleaner.

Don’t worry about the Browser Plugins tool—you can manage your browser extensions How to Clean Up Your Browser Extensions (The Easy Way) How to Clean Up Your Browser Extensions (The Easy Way) If you regularly check out cool extensions, then it is probably time to clean up those add-ons that you no longer want, like, or need. Here's how to do it easily. Read More manually. And there are other duplicate file finders 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 with more features too.

The System Restore is a duplicate of Windows’ built-in functionality, while you can use other tools to completely wipe a disk 4 Ways to Completely Delete Your HDD 4 Ways to Completely Delete Your HDD When selling an old computer, or HDD, or even if you're just looking to dispose of it, securely erasing everything on your hard drive is very important. But how do you do that? Read More .

Lastly, don’t worry about losing the Registry cleaner. Registry cleaners are useless, as even removing thousands of invalid entries won’t have the smallest effect on performance. There’s a better chance you’ll break something by cleaning the Registry than fixing it, so leave them alone.

CCleaner-Registry-Cleaner-With-X

Full Replacements for CCleaner

The above Windows tools and apps should take care of everything you used CCleaner for. But in case you just can’t live without a dedicated cleaning app, we recommend alternatives like atomiccleaner or BleachBit.

Have You Dropped CCleaner Yet?

It’s a shame to see a once-revered Windows tool go so far down the drain. It once was focused on helping you clean up crap, but has turned into a crappy software itself. While Piriform has made changes to the monitoring, these are too little, too late. And the forced updates are yet another annoying behavior that’s more like malware than a helpful utility.

You should use a tool that respects your privacy and preferences and isn’t susceptible to malware. Have a look at other popular security apps you should replace 5 Popular Security and Privacy Apps You Should Uninstall and Replace 5 Popular Security and Privacy Apps You Should Uninstall and Replace Not all security and privacy apps are made equal. Here are five security and privacy apps that you should uninstall and what to replace them with. Read More for more like this.

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  1. Jan Erik
    November 7, 2019 at 7:34 pm

    CCleaner forcibly sets an entry in the registry:
    HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run\[Path]\CCleaner.exe /MONITOR
    that prepares for starting the application with Windows. Even if you do not set it to start with Windows, that entry will be there and raise certain suspicions...
    If you remove it, it is back again as soon as you run CCleaner.
    However, you can use GPedit to delete the entry at shutdown. Then it will still be gone when you restart, but back again as soon as you run CCleaner.
    A kind of semi-workaround...

  2. Olivié Charbonneau
    October 27, 2019 at 7:53 pm

    Well this is an eye opener.
    Also a Microsoft support team employee told me that he would recommand not to use CCleaner in order to keep Windows 10 safe and stable.
    Cheers.

  3. mark
    October 24, 2019 at 1:20 am

    Piriform has absolutely nothing to do with spam software "Avast"! CCleaner has always been under the name of Piriform - I checked it out! Basically this website I am sending this comment on is in fact a load of codswallop! If you haven't anything better to write about, other than nonsensical rubbish then I suggest you stop clogging up the internet with this fake nonsense and do something useful with your life.

    • Ben Stegner
      October 30, 2019 at 3:18 pm

      You're incorrect; Piriform is indeed owned by Avast. I linked to an official press release from Avast in the first section of the article announcing this.

      Here's another article from when the company acquired Avast in July 2017: https://venturebeat.com/2017/07/19/avast-acquires-piriform-maker-of-popular-system-cleaning-program-ccleaner/

      This is also listed in the "Our History" section of CCleaner's About page: https://www.ccleaner.com/about

      I'm not sure how stating facts is "fake nonsense," but I would say the 1,400 articles I've written are "something useful."

      • Alain Gohier
        November 3, 2019 at 3:52 am

        Good day. The second page link is right there :

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        Our mission is to simplify the task of looking after your devices by developing software tools that fix real world problems. We do this by providing excellent technology, amazing service, thought leadership and customer interaction.

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        We create software tools that run on desktop PCs, mobile, cloud and in complex corporate networks. Our users range from consumers, SMEs, IT help desks, MSPs and anyone else that ever has had a need to maintain a device. As well as the flagship CCleaner, our range of tools includes CCleaner, Defraggler to defragment hard drives, Speccy to analyze hardware and Recuva to restore deleted files. Our software is used and trusted by millions of home and business users and has been installed in every country worldwide.

        Our Statistics
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        Let me know where you see Avast anywhere here. In fact yes they are now a partner, a part of Avast. Like AVG, who they bought in the time.

        Have a nice day.

      • Alain Gohier
        November 3, 2019 at 4:10 am

        Oh by the way, one of the other authors of MakeUseOf.com encense Ccleaner here, in one of his 1747 articles. Maybe for the new readers of you website you should erase those... //www.makeuseof.com/tag/need-disk-cleanup-visualize-takes-space-windows-pc/

        Have a nice day.

  4. Perry Meison
    August 22, 2019 at 6:22 pm

    I can't believe someone that ignorant can be posting articles like this anywhere. Shame on the autor but overall shame to this site. Not gonna visit it ever again.

    • Ben Stegner
      August 22, 2019 at 6:42 pm

      What in particular do you feel is ignorant or unfair about this article? I've pointed out some demonstrably true security risks and shady behavior from CCleaner and recommended alternatives to use.

      If you want to continue using it, that's your decision, but I felt it was important to point out these issues since the software is so popular.

  5. ken jenner
    August 16, 2019 at 9:28 am

    OK I use Portable.app so it not run on task bar and update is by Portable App
    & delete the cook from Avast as I don't used Avast.
    and check with TCPView OK on my PC & see if you OK.

  6. Viking
    August 14, 2019 at 9:25 pm

    I think shading CCleaner permanently just because Avast made a 'hickup' initially, is overreacting. I still use CCleaner and I'm happy with it. However, the one thing I do not like, is it's everlasting update scheme. The purpose of all these updates are not to bring anything significant new to users, but simply to force updates in order to keep the download count among the highest in the industry. I wish Avast would stop pushing 'empty' updates with absolutely no benefit, to their users. Only updates with real value add should be offered, and please accumulate minor fixes or mods instead of constantly pushing for ever more downloads.

  7. William
    August 11, 2019 at 5:42 am

    CCleaner isn't shady.
    They had an incident, and it happened right before the acquisition, while
    Avast was still in the middle of acquiring Piriform. So technically it wasn't Avast
    that was at fault.

    This article is so blatantly biased. Like what is "This is unfortunately not surprising after Avast purchased CCleaner developer Piriform in July 2017." supposed to mean?
    Avast doesn't often have incidents like this, but you make it out to be that way.

    • the AVLien
      August 11, 2019 at 7:58 pm

      Respectfully, I disagree. They have gradually become more and more pushy about people upgrading to the paid version for one thing. Also, the website has become harder and harder to use to download the free version (I assume the web department would point a finger at the marketing people for this). Maybe they're not shady outright, but they're employing some questionable practices, at least in regard to web usability. I realize that these practices are becoming more and more common, but that doesn't make them a good idea. At one point keyword stuffing was commonplace after all, but it was antithetical to web searches returning useful information. These things are anathema to good customer relationships if nothing else.

  8. George Branchaud
    July 23, 2019 at 3:14 pm

    I'm with the folks who disagree with this article. CCleaner is Exactly the tool for me. I don't want to go to 30 different places in Windows to accomplish everything CCleaner can do in one place. I'm not a PC novice. I have 30 years' experience with Windows, back to 3.1. I've been a happy CCleaner user for 6 years. I know what settings to turn on and which ones to turn off. It is true that it shouldn't be installed and run as-is. To say that it's beyond useful is not true at all. As with any powerful utility that you're granting such deep access, of course CCleaner needs to be watched and checked.

  9. Fabrizio
    July 5, 2019 at 10:16 am

    CCleaner works perfectly and hasn't never done a damage on thousands PC I manage.
    This article seems a fake.
    Otherwise the "alternative" methods suggested are not an equivalent of cleaning the registry from unnecessary entries.
    I usually "Clear browser history", "Clean junk files", "Uninstall unnecessary programs" and so on, but in some cases CCleaner used on Registry gives an IMPRESSIVE boost, especially on old machines where many installations/uninstallations have been done.

  10. Alistair Jones
    June 25, 2019 at 1:10 pm

    I have had cc/cleaner for a long time, and was shocked to find what you have said about it.I can live without it but when you talk about replacing it you speak of Windows 10,I have Windows 7 and I won’t part with it .So what you recommended for W 10 ,can I use for w7 ?I’ve tried free upgrade to Windows 10 but found it absolutely awful wishy washy and a complete nightmare .Thank you

  11. miguelito
    June 15, 2019 at 4:26 pm

    If you know how to unzip and use only the exe, and also block the program in the firewall, you should't have any problem.

  12. ITsec
    June 12, 2019 at 10:06 am

    While this article is interesting, as a support specialist I still use this tool for its convenience of doing most things in one place, however I would never recommend installing this or any other similar tool. Using the stand alone program when necessary and not having it installed, negates most if not all the issues mentioned.

    Getting the stand alone program(s) is as easy as downloading the latest installer, opening it with 7-zip or similar and dragging out the 32bit and 64bit exe files which will run quite happily by themselves and not run anything in the background. If you have an older version it will ask if you want to download the latest version and you can say no if you don't want it.

  13. Xaneo
    March 18, 2019 at 12:19 am

    While this article is OK, I wouldn't follow it to the dot. Go into Task Scheduler ( taskschd.msc ) and modify the tasks you don't want the CCleaner to run. Also, I always tell people, if you installed a new piece of software, just go in and check every single option to make sure you're not advertising your favorite porn sites.

  14. Iceman
    December 22, 2018 at 10:07 am

    Tnx u i unistalled right after readin article

  15. Zhong
    October 28, 2018 at 1:53 am

    If you run the portable version, will that cause any issues? Since it's not installed, it couldn't make itself available to the system unless there's a chance that it runs something in the background for a silent install.

  16. Bobby
    October 9, 2018 at 9:49 pm

    I've stayed up on the who's who in the ccleaner world,but I have noticed a couple of years back already that cleaner has become shady. I used to recommend it ALL the time and now I've stopped using it a couple of years ago and strongly urge people to NOT use it. And that goes for any software that forces an update when the preferences are set to "NO"

  17. DJ
    October 4, 2018 at 1:21 am

    Your article didn't mention ccleaner's registry fix capabilities. I find this tool indispensable, of course I have a bit of time in the chair so I know better than to just say fix all. Also a registry backup before running is a must.

    • Ben Stegner
      October 4, 2018 at 2:22 pm

      I did mention the Registry utility, under the "Other CCleaner Features" heading. I mentioned that Registry cleaners are mostly worthless for 99% of users.

      • DJ
        October 5, 2018 at 12:11 am

        Ben,

        On this point I also disagree.

        In my experience, folks that use CCleaner Pro know when and why to use the Registry Fix Utility and also know to review the entries before pressing the fix button (and know to backup the registry before fixing). However I admit that I very rarely come across a novice using this application (or any care & maintenance product).

        To say that you're better off to leave it alone is fool-hardy, better to say "know what you're doing before using this feature".

        As you also must know that the registry is Window's map. If the map has incorrect/outdated entries and pointers to applications or file extensions to use when the user makes a selection not only adds delays to the experience but will also result in error/warning messages that 99.99% of Windows computer users will panic over (some just get frustrated about those messages).

        Also, using strictly the built in browser cleaners for Windows Edge (or Chrome, Firefox, Opera for this matter) will not clean all the cache, temporary files or cookies because those files are used expressly for partners to use for targeting ads at the user: A third party cleaner does a much better job when they aren't being paid to look the other way.

  18. .
    September 21, 2018 at 11:10 pm

    But those of us who got Windows 7 can't use Windows 10 features, obviously !

  19. Spencer O
    September 21, 2018 at 4:00 pm

    To be fair the forced update is most likely the EU's fault. We all know that the EU is a joke when it comes to technology. And they've done it again by trying to destroy the economy of the world; how, you might ask. Simple, they've threatened every company online to adhere to their long, useless, criminal aiding law to help criminals hide all their tracks of illegal activity more easily. And if you don't comply you have to worry about paying billions of dollars for every user you can't comply for. So even if you are a small 1 man company you now have to have a couple billion dollar insurance policy, hire a law firm, or triple your developers working on your project or you might as well not be a company at all. So I don't blame CCleaner for this however it is a bummer they were bought by the crappy Avast company. Seriously first it was the joke of the law about the cookies and now the terrible GDPR laws... The EU needs to get rid of all it's members and start over with those that are literate in today's world standards of the internet.

  20. GAK
    September 21, 2018 at 12:30 pm

    Try this to eliminate CCleaners automatic update: Click START; type Task Scheduler in SEARCH BOX; Click Task Scheduler at top of list; then double click(Important) on TASK SCHEDULER LIBRARY; this should bring up a list of all the programs you elected to load and run and their triggers; scroll down to CCleaner Update, right click it; menu: Disable, Export, Properties, Delete will appear. Click either Disable or Delete--I prefer Delete.

  21. Ignacio
    September 21, 2018 at 3:00 am

    Hey, you go to great lengths to describe each evil procedure that CCleaner does, yet *on the very same page of your site*, you have a link to a "6 CCleaner tips and tricks to effectively clean your computer"!!! Talk about stepping on your own toe!
    MORE: On this same page, again, you write: "Lastly, don’t worry about losing the Registry cleaner. Registry cleaners are useless, as even removing thousands of invalid entries won’t have the smallest effect on performance. There’s a better chance you’ll break something by cleaning the Registry than fixing it, so leave them alone.", and yet you have a link on the same page, right above the link mentioned above pointing to "top 5 registry cleaners that improve PC perfomance". What is this about? Ridiculous!

    • JE
      December 1, 2018 at 9:25 am

      Most likely the site has an automated 'related posts' feature that displays relevant posts to the article, hence any post tagged with 'CCleaner' or registry cleaner might show up. Just saying it may not be intentional.

  22. Greg
    September 20, 2018 at 10:35 pm

    Or use CCleaner's startup functions to remove all instances that startup CCleaner or anything else that minimized or silent or in the background. And keep on using it.

    I did, almost every program seems to want to be in the startup so I always use CCleaner to remove them.

    Greg

  23. Kevin M
    September 20, 2018 at 7:08 pm

    This is very depressing indeed. I am a very long time user of CCleaner and was not even aware that Avast had purchased it. I despise that company and I really did not need to read past that in this article to know it was going to be wiped off my computer and never installed again! Now I have to consider the mass of people I have told in the past to purchase it and told them what a fantastic tool it was. Hopefully they wont be to mad at me but I will NEVER be telling anyone else about CCleaner. Although I thank you for the info on what to replace it with I feel there is the need for someone else to enter this space with a utility like CCleaner. I am not convinced anything Microsoft has created is worth a damn, much like my feelings towards Avast I honestly would not even use Windows if my business and software did not demand it. Anyone that thinks Windows can even remotely do what CCleaner does is a fool and needs to be educated!

    • Pat Anablak
      June 18, 2019 at 4:53 pm

      Hear! Hear! Well said Kevin, I totally agree.
      I have been looking for a replacement that has ccleaner's ability to print out the installed apps. Any help appreciated.

  24. Benjamin D'Overr
    September 20, 2018 at 4:14 am

    Why not just block all comms CC makes at the firewall. Anonymous data collection my foot . Not without this here internet cord plugged in you won't. Same difference.

    • me
      September 22, 2018 at 4:22 am

      Nothing you say makes sence!

      • Higgsinspace
        June 29, 2019 at 2:11 am

        Sence? That's a river in Leicestershire, England