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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
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