Cleaning up Windows computers with CCleaner

CCleaner is a system optimization, privacy and cleaning tool for Windows. While I prefer the open source BleachBit, it is a popular and well-regarded tool.

CCleaner is available for normal installation onto a computer’s hard drive, or as a portable version to be installed and run from a USB stick. The latter speeds my work when fixing multiple computers.

To hard drive
Download CCleaner. Once downloaded, right-click on the installer and select “Run as administrator”, which is the proper way to install any security software. You will be given a number of installation options; select those you desire. I choose to add only a start menu shortcut.

To a USB stick
Download CCleaner Portable and decompress it to a USB stick. To run CCleaner Portable, double-click the version of CCleaner appropriate for your hardware: CCleaner.exe for 32 bit computers, or CCleaner64.exe for 64 bit hardware.

CCleaner Portable can be easily added to an instance of Portable Apps. Two identically named entries will appear on your Portable Apps menu, one pointing to the 32 bit executable and the other to the 64 bit version. Use trial and error to determine which is which, then right-click on each to rename accordingly.

Launch CCleaner and select Options. Set options as desired; my preferences are:

In Cleaner – Windows, I select everything in Internet Explorer and Windows Explorer. In System, I select everything except DNS cache. In Advanced Windows files, I select old prefetch data, user assist history, and IIS log files.

In Cleaner – Applications and in Registry, I usually select everything.

In Settings, set to automatically check for updates. I insure that all desired drives are set to wipe free space, and I select to wipe MFT (master file table) free space. In Cookies, I delete everything not needed (which is usually nearly everything).

The following is adapted from the CCleaner help pages

Launch CCleaner and select Cleaner – Run Cleaner. (This will act on the settings found both in the Windows and the Applications tabs.) Select Registry – Scan for issues. When finished, review the output for Registry keys you want to keep (there usually aren’t any) and press “Fix selected issues” followed by “Fix All Selected Issues”.

CCleaner only cleans the current user’s account, so repeat the above for each user on the computer. Don’t forget the administrative account. TODO: Find a similar tool that, when run from an administrative account, can clean all users’ accounts at one go.

CCleaner can remove an item from Windows’ Add/Remove Programs applet without uninstalling the application. This is useful, for example, for making it more difficult for public kiosk users to remove antimalware software. To do this, click the Tools icon on the left. In the Uninstall screen, select the name of the application you want to remove from the Add/Remove Programs applet and click Delete Entry.

CCleaner is a power tool, and not everyone should be entrusted with chainsaws. Consider the end user before you leave CCleaner installed on someone else’s computer. My experience has been that many Windows users expect to be protected from themselves.

Is CCleaner not what you’re looking for? You may prefer the open source BleachBit.

CCleaner home page


About Warren Post

So far: Customer support guy, jungle guide, IT consultant, beach bum, entrepreneur, teacher, diplomat, over-enthusiastic cyclist. Tomorrow: who knows?
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7 Responses to Cleaning up Windows computers with CCleaner

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