Unless you are a bit of a tech expert, it can be quite a task to keep your computer free of what we used to call “cruft”: the old computer slang word for anything that is left over or redundant. There are also other more modern aspects to computer health, such as malware, but CCleaner has always had a goal of making your machine better by taking out the trash, requiring only a minimum of advanced tech knowledge. This was true even before it evolved into what it is today: the Swiss Army Knife of device optimization.
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Getting Super Clean with CCleaner
CCleaner is the pinnacle of the system cleaner’s art. The default mode is a sort of wizard that scans your system for litter and cruft and reports what it finds, leaving you with the option of cleaning it up.
The interface for the tool is clean and businesslike, following the traditional format for utility programs with a list of options down the left column and the controls and display of each task in a panel on the right. The options are Health Check (the 4-in-1 cleaning files, tracker, updating and startup wizard), Custom Clean, Performance Optimizer, Driver Updater, Registry, Tools, and another link for options, similar to settings. The best way to think about it is that free users get Privacy and Space benefits, and Pro users get Speed and Security.
You don’t have to opt for the paid version right away. There is a version that is free for home use, which in fact doubles as a trial for the Pro version. From this you can upgrade to Pro, which unlocks some of the more advanced tools, such as Performance Optimizer that will require a modest fee for a subscription.
There are a few system cleaners out there, and combination virus and malware checkers and system optimizers too, but they tend to be much the same banal piece of software and do an indifferent job.
This is not what CCleaner is. CCleaner has been around for a long time, nearly 20 years, and is one of the longest established cleaning utilities on Windows and built from the ground up.
They added macOS back in 2012 and Android versions in 2014, but the meat and potatoes of their business is Windows. This professional company has spent the thick end of two decades cleaning and sprucing up Windows computers and earned a patent for its Performance Optimizer technology.
The mundane job of cleaning up Windows manually and removing orphaned files and installation leftovers is really quite hard. You definitely have to know what you’re doing and know where to look. It’s worth doing, as these files take up disk space. While most are inert without the host program, some can lead to system anomalies if they get caught up with other software.
The best way to keep your machine clean and fast is to clear out any unused or orphaned code. This is the basic level of care that CCleaner offers, and a once-a-month wash with the automatic wizard will keep your machine clean and fresh.
The process is simple: just scan your machine, wait for the results, then kick off the repair process. It takes a fair while to complete this pass, but it’s nothing too arduous. You may find certain things while it’s running. For example, I found that a bunch of programs that were updated reinstalled their desktop icons. It’s a simple matter to delete them.
But there’s a refinement you can do to that cleaning process. Custom Clean allows you to do the same search and removal tasks, but it’s targeted solely toward specific areas of your machine. Choose these areas from a menu and select the zones for scrutiny. For example, if you want to make sure that Firefox is running clean more often, you can check all the boxes and save it as a custom clean to be done more frequently than the overall wizard.
The most impressive part of the Pro side is the patented tool, Performance Optimizer, which is my favorite tool in the pack. It will scan your machine and let you know which specific pieces of software on your machine are leeching clock cycles from your processor. It mitigates this inevitable system creep by allowing you to keep the programs but send them to sleep when they’re not needed, freeing up speed and power.
When the programs are needed, they will wake up and get to work. When finished, they just fall back into a restful snooze. You can also wake them up manually if you feel you need them beforehand. This is a genius tool, a very clever system, and works perfectly.
That in itself would be more than worth the price of entry, but there’s more. The driver updater is exactly what it sounds like, a system that scans your drives and checks whether they need an update. It then fetches the latest one and installs it on the machine. I find this very useful, as I am dreadful at remembering to do this essential bit of digital housekeeping myself.
This is one of the tools I would use with a small measure of caution. Updating drivers is helpful of course, but sometimes updating drivers when you are busy and need everything to work can be disruptive. You may want to hold off, waiting for a quieter time. When you’re messing with drivers, you need to have time to fix any problems that arise and set a restore point before doing so. CCleaner is aware of this and has roll-back tools to help you.
That brings us to the Registry tool, which does the same thing for registry anomalies and seeks out all the problem and orphaned DLLs. But, and I can’t emphasize this enough, do not just let this rip without looking through the entries or taking some precautions. Apply the same warnings that were give above for drivers, and take them even more seriously, if possible.
While I”m slightly uncomfortable letting a machine do this on auto, I do trust CCleaner. My instinct would be to save a restore point, and this is good advice before ANY deep maintenance like this.
CCleaner is what I consider to be an essential tool if you are a Windows user. It takes much of the guesswork out of keeping your machine in good running order and gives you a leg up in terms of not being required to learn about the nuts and bolts of your machine.
The basic subscription for Pro will currently cost you $29.95/PC/yearly. The next step up is CCleaner Professional Plus, which will cost $44.95/3 PCs/yearly. Or get the CCleaner Premium Bundle for $69.95/5 PCs/yearly. The fees are a great value for such a quality tool set.
All screenshots taken by Phil South.
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