I’ve had my fair share of customers’ computers where they’ve absolutely messed up everything. Usually they complain of it being slow, cluttered with stuff and cursed with a shrinking hard drive. For some of these I tend to find that it’s just a general maintenance thing that needs to be seen to. For those disasters that came into my care, I used CCleaner to do the job.
CCleaner is an all-in-one maintenance program, registry cleaner, disk cleanup utility and uninstall utility developed and maintained by Piriform Software Ltd. The install process is simple and easy and only takes a few clicks, taking 5 windows until the install is completed. Those cautious about their data usage should untick the option to download Google’s Chrome – all of the software from Piriform contains this option in their installers.
The interface is simple and clean once the program is launched. The most-used option is the Cleaner tab, wiping your system clean of unused files and unnecessary leftover bits from applications. It’s important to note that once you uncheck an option it remains unchecked – power users like myself commonly leave options unticked and run the Cleaner option by right-clicking the recycle bin without opening the program itself at all. Sadly this action can’t be automated in Windows’ Scheduled Tasks utility, but running the program once a month is perfectly enough. Remember to uncheck your browser history and recently typed URLs; once those are cleaned, there’s no getting them back.
The registry cleaner is the second most-used part of the program. The utility scans your registry and checks for broken entries, missing linked files, and DLL files no longer in use by applications. This is particularly useful when uninstalling and updating graphics drivers, as it deletes the entries left over by Nvidia’s and AMD’s installers that can cause conflicts. As a general rule of thumb, after uninstalling applications you should run the registry scanner to keep your system clean. If you’re confident enough, there’s no need to back up changes made to the registry (it’s never given me issues in the 2 year that I’ve been using it).
Moving onto Tools, there’s a fully functional Uninstall utility, a start-up checker, a link to System Restore and a very good drive wiper for reformatting those pesky flash drives that are too cluttered. And interesting option are the secure wipes, making a total of 35 reformats for those who really, really want to hide that alien porn you copied from a friend before you lend the stick to your significant other.
Finally, the Options tab brings you what you would expect. Advanced users will love the deeper system wipes for the Cleaner, as well as including specific folders for cleaning and removing. A good thing to point out is that anyone who uses Photoshop CS5 will love this option – Adobe hides a temporary file for all your changes to your projects and occasionally doesn’t empty this; using the advanced options here would solve that with one right-click on the Recycle Bin and running the Cleaner from the context menu.
In a word, CCleaner is brilliant, and all the better because it’s free to use and distribute. A thumbs up from me, then.