A system cleaner removes unnecessary files from the PC when it is run. It takes care of temporary files like Internet browsing caches or leftovers after Windows Updates. The effect is a cleaner leaner system with extra space that you can use for other purposes.
A second factor plays a role here as well. Privacy-conscious users run system cleaners to remove activity traces regularly. The Windows operating system records many information that may leak data to third parties. Think recent documents that you have opened in Microsoft Word, the last videos you played in VLC Media Player, or the websites that you have visited in Firefox or Internet Explorer.
Deleting those traces does not yield lots of additional free disk space, but it removes information from the system that you may not want anyone else to find out about.
The Best Cleaning Utilities for Windows
This guide looks at system cleaners only. While you may find some tools mentioned here that do more than that, like Advanced System Care, we are limiting the review to the clean up components they make available.
Why not start with the built-in tool that ships with Windows: Disk Cleanup. You can start the program the following way:
- Tap on the Windows-key.
- Type Disk Cleanup and select the entry from the list of results.
The program scans the computer for temporary files and displays its findings in the interface afterwards. As you can see from the screenshot above, it sometimes may free up Gigabytes of space.
It checks areas such as the recycle bin, temporary files, Game statistics or Windows Error Reporting information. It is suggested to click on clean up system files in the interface to run the program again, but this time with additional privileges that may yield a higher return.
If you do so, service pack backup files are also included in the clean up list which may free up a lot of space, especially after you have upgraded to a new service pack or operating system version.
- The program is built-in to Windows, no download necessary.
- It checks important temporary file locations for files that can be deleted.
- It lacks support for third party tools, e..g browsers.
- There is no option to customize what is being scanned.
- It is somewhat hidden on the system.
- The cleanup does not "shred" files so that they may be recovered.
- Only scans the selected drive.
Advanced SystemCare Free
Advanced SystemCare Free offers a lot more than just the cleaning of junk files on the system. If you only want to use it for that, you need to launch Disk Cleaner under Toolbox to do so.
It is similar to Windows's own Disk Cleaner more than it is to other programs listed in this overview. The Auto Clean feature supports the cleaning of other web browsers and popular programs though, and you can launch those from the main menu by selecting the Privacy Sweep option there.
- Options to exclude certain directories from being scanned.
- A portable version can be generated after installation.
- IObit Toolbar is offered during installation.
- Displays ad popups on the system.
- Reporting errors may occur. It listed 57,79 GB of log files on a 128 GB Solid State Drive that are available for cleanup.
BleachBit is an Open Source program that is available for Windows and Linux. It displays all temporary file and privacy locations on the left. The list is not as impressive as that of many other cleaning programs but it covers major programs like Firefox, Internet Explorer or Chromium next to popular applications and Windows core locations.
Users can add custom cleanup locations to the application, and exclude files or folders from the operation. It furthermore supports the secure deletion of data and ships with a preview mode that outlines how much space you will recover and which files will get deleted in the process without actually doing so.
- Open Source program.
- Available for Windows and Linux.
- Available as a portable version.
- No option to change the program language (defaults to system language).
- The report is not well structured, a grouped view would be helpful.
CCleaner is the shining star in the system cleaner vertical. It is the go-to program for many, and usually named when someone asks for recommendations.
Probably the number one reason why this is the case is the user interface. It is streamlined for the cleaning process, and does not blend users with fancy images, thumbnails or other visual effects.
It is one of the most comprehensive cleaning solutions out there, especially if you add CCEnhancer to it, an add-on that integrates hundreds of additional cleanup locations in the program.
That's not all though. You can add your own custom system locations to the program that you want cleaned of any files or data when you run CCleaner.
- Ships with - a lot - of default cleanup locations.
- Available as a portable version and installer.
- Option to add custom cleanup locations.
- Can easily be improved with CCEnhancer.
- Option to overwrite files securely to prevent file recovery.
- For it to be ultra-effective, you need to install CCEnhancer or add custom locations to the program.
Comodo System Cleaner
The program is not officially available anymore, as it has been merged with Comodo's Registry Cleaner into Comodo PC TuneUP.
The application offers various cleanup tools on start. It does not reveal how much space you can save, but only displays how many issues it has found instead. Even if you dig deeper, you do not find any mention of disk space that you can save by running the cleaner.
The program supports popular applications like Thunderbird or Firefox, but lacks support for others such as Google Chrome.
It also lacks options to add custom cleanup locations to the program. While you can use force delete to remove Registry keys or files from the system, it is a one-time operation and not one that is automatically executed whenever you run the cleaner.
- Option to filter entries.
- No option for custom cleanup locations or file exclusions.
- Does not display the disk space you gain by the cleaning operation.
- No portable version available.
Glary Utilities Free
Glary Utilities is free for private use. It is comparable to Advanced SystemCare in terms of functionality, which means that it ships with modules to clean temporary files and such, but also with many other tools that some users may find useful to run.
To clean up disk space, select Advanced Tools and there the cleanup option. The privacy eraser is listed here as well. Note that you need to run both tools separately from here.
The privacy eraser covers core Windows locations and web browsers such as Internet Explorer, Firefox and Google Chrome. There is however no option to select portable web browsers or browsers that have not been mentioned in the previous sentence. The Opera browser is however supported in the Disk CleanUp module.
The software supports adding custom files and folders to the cleanup, and an ignore list that you can make use of to protect files from being deleted.
- Supports custom cleanup locations and file exclusions.
- The privacy and disk cleaner modules are separated.
- No portable version is available (it was offered up to version 2.56).
JetClean ships with options to run one or all of the clean up tools that it makes available. It covers Windows locations such as the Recycle Bin or Error Reporting logs, and popular apps including web browsers and programs such as uTorrent or SnagIt.
What is not so good is that the program does not display which files it will delete, as it only provides you with an item count and the size gained by the deletion for most entries.
You can however add Registry locations and cookies to the ignore list to protect them from being deleted in the process. What is missing is an option to do the same for files and folders.
- Easy to use interface.
- Tries to install a toolbar during installation.
- Does not list files that will get deleted for most programs or locations.
- No option to exclude folders or files from the cleanup.
- No option to add custom clean up locations.
Ever since I first reviewed Privazer here on Ghacks I have come to like the program a lot. When you run it for the first time, you get options to install it, create a portable version or run it directly without installation.
It ships with one of the largest list of cleanup locations, support for portable web browsers, and options to add custom cleanup locations in advanced mode.
The program interface on the other hand is not the easiest to work with, even in basic mode. The core reason for this is that it divides options on several screens that you have to go through. A more streamlined design like that of CCleaner would do wonders to the popularity of the application.
- Available as a portable application and installer.
- Ships with more cleanup locations than any other program by default.
- Option to add custom cleanup folders in advanced mode.
- Deleted files are overwritten to prevent data recovery.
- The interface is confusing.
- There is no option to exclude certain files or folders from being included in cleanups (you need to make sure of that manually once the scan has finished).
SlimCleaner is a system maintenance tool that ships with a cleaner component. The scan is incredible fast, but you may notice that it does not ship with as many cleanup sections as CCleaner. To make matters worse, there does not appear to be an option to add custom locations to the application.
While you do get support for all major web browsers, several core Windows locations, and popular applications, you do not get any customization options
- It includes many cleanup locations including support to clean all major web browsers, popular applications and core Windows locations.
- Option to overwrite files securely to prevent file recovery.
- A portable version is not provided.
- There is no option to add custom Registry or folder / file locations.
Wise Disk Cleaner
Wise Disk Cleaner divides cleanup tasks into three tabs in the main interface. Common Cleaner displays a list of locations and components that you can scan with it. While it does include several key locations, like Internet caches or some popular applications, it lacks support for many "other applications" that apps such as CCleaner or SlimCleaner ship with.
It is however possible to add custom folders under Settings > General. While this is limited to folders, it offers an excellent option to customize the cleanup operation.
The advanced cleaner scans for temporary files on system hard drives that you specify, while the Slimming System module suggests Windows programs and features for removal that you may not need.
- A portable version is available directly on the developer website.
- Custom cleanup locations are supported.
- Files can be deleted securely (activate under Settings > General > Secure Deletion).
- The structure is not the best. It is not really clear why web browser components are divided into different modules. If you want to clean all Internet Explorer or Google Chrome data, you need to click on Surf the Internet under Useless Files in Computer, and Surf the Internet under Traces in Computer.
Xleaner is available as a portable version or installer. An extended version is available as well which can only be downloaded if you register a (free) account at the developer website. The extended version includes all plugins and add-ons that you can download separately for the program.
If you are stuck with the regular version, you will quickly notice that its initial support is not that extensive. While it does take care of Internet Explorer and core Windows temporary file locations, it ignores other web browsers or popular applications.
For that, you need to either install plugins that take care of that, add custom locations manually to the application to do so, or enable the cleaning in the settings.
- A portable version and installer is provided by the developer.
- Supports secure deletion, which you need to enable under Options > Security.
- You can add custom cleanup locations for files or Registry keys.
- Plugin system that provide additional cleanup options.
- Some cleanup locations, web browsers and Office for instance, need to be enabled in the options. That's easily overlooked.
- The interface is too complicated and not streamlined for fast cleaning.
So what is the best system cleaner then? That depends on your requirements. CCleaner needs to be mentioned as it offers a streamlined interface that is really easy to use and ships with customization options. Other programs are equally good or even better in terms of what they can clean.
Privazer is one of my favorites, even though it needs a better interface.
When it comes to system cleaners, which are you making use of on a regular basis?