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How to Use CCleaner Like a Pro: 9 Tips & Tricks

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There’s more to CCleaner than clicking a single button. This popular application for wiping temporary files and clearing private data hides a variety of features, from fine-grained options for tweaking the cleaning process to full drive-wiping tools.

CCleaner is easy for beginners to use – just launch it and click the Run Cleaner button. But there’s a lot more you can do with it.

Consider What You Delete

CCleaner clears a lot of stuff by default. You might want to reconsider clearing the browser caches (Temporary Internet Files for Internet Explorer). Browsers store these files on your system to speed up browsing in the future. When you revisit a site, the site will load faster if images and other files are cached on your system. Clearing these will free up some space and increase your browsing privacy, if you’re worried about that, but frequent cache cleanings can slow down your web browsing.

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Erasing the thumbnail cache (under Windows Explorer) can also slow things down – if you open up a folder with a lot of image files, it will take some time to recreate the cache. Clearing it does free up space, but at the cost of recreating the cache later.

Many other options clear most-recently-used lists (MRUs) in Windows and other programs. These lists don’t take up much space, but can be privacy concerns – if there’s a most-recently-used list you rely on, be sure to uncheck it.

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Whitelist Important Cookies

CCleaner clears all cookies by default, but you might want to keep some. If you find yourself always logging into your favorite websites after running CCleaner, open the Cookies pane in the Options section.

CCleaner can help you with this whitelisting – right-click in the Cookies pane and select Intelligent Scan. CCleaner will automatically add Google, Hotmail, and Yahoo Mail cookies to your whitelist.

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You’ll probably want to add other cookies to the whitelist, too. For example, locate the howtogeek.com cookie in the list and click the right arrow button to add it to your whitelist. CCleaner will leave your How-To Geek cookie alone, so you don’t have to log back into How-To Geek after clearing your cookies.

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Beware the Registry Cleaner

While CCleaner does include a registry cleaner, I’d recommend against running it. The Windows registry contains hundreds of thousands of entries; removing a few hundred (at most) won’t give you an increase in performance. Registry cleaners can accidentally remove important registry values, however, so there’s risk with little reward.

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That said, if you’re dead set on running a registry cleaner, CCleaner is one of the safer ones. If you do run the registry cleaner, ensure you back up any changes you make. You can restore the deleted registry entries from the backup file if you encounter any problems.

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Manage Startup Programs

The Startup panel in the Tools section allows you to disable programs that automatically run when your computer starts. To avoid losing an autostart entry that may be important, use the Disable option instead of the Delete option. You can easily re-enable a disabled autostart entry later.

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Wipe Drives

When Windows or another operating system deletes a file, it doesn’t actually wipe the file from your hard disk. Instead, the pointers to the files are deleted and the operating system marks the file’s location as free space. File recovery programs can scan your hard disk for these files, and, if the operating system hasn’t written over the area, can recover the data. CCleaner can help protect against this by wiping the free space with its Drive Wiper tool.

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While some people believe that multiple passes are necessary to irrecoverably delete files, one pass should probably be fine. If you’re disposing of a hard drive, you can also perform a full erase of all the data on the drive with this tool.

You can also have CCleaner wipe free space every time you run it by enabling the Wipe Free Space checkbox under Advanced in the Cleaner section. Enabling this option will make CCleaner take much longer to clean up your system – CCleaner recommends leaving it disabled.

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Securely Delete Files

You can have CCleaner delete files securely, effectively using the Drive Cleaner tool on each file it deletes. Bear in mind that this is slower than deleting the files normally – that’s why operating systems don’t securely delete files by default. If you’re concerned about privacy, enable this option from the Settings tab in the Options section.

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Include Custom Files

If you use a program that isn’t included in CCleaner’s list of applications, or you have a temporary file directory you want cleared regularly, you can specify custom folders and files in CCleaner. CCleaner will delete these files and empty these folders when you run it.

To add a custom folder or file, open the Options section and use the options on the Include tab. Be careful when adding folders or files; you could accidentally add important files or folders and lose them.

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The custom files you specify here are only cleaned if the Custom Files and Folders checkbox under Advanced is enabled.

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Exclude Files

Likewise, if CCleaner keeps clearing something you don’t want it to clear, you can add an exclusion in the Options section. You can exclude an entire drive, folder, file, or registry key. You can also restrict the exclusion to specific file extensions.

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Manage Installed Programs

CCleaner’s tools include the Uninstall panel, which lists your installed programs. This panel includes a few more features than the default Windows one – you can rename or delete the entries here and any changes you make will also appear in the Windows Control Panel.

You can also save the list of installed programs to a text file – an easy way to keep a list of your installed programs in case you need to remember and reinstall them from scratch.

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Once you’ve got CCleaner set up, you can run it automatically each night or create a shortcut or hotkey to run it silently.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 05/7/12

Comments (39)

  1. Jaxon

    The best use of this is the include files, I use it to delete the infamous flash cookies at C:\Users\\AppData\Roaming\Macromedia\Flash Player\#SharedObjects\

  2. Michael

    There are a few viruses/trojans/malware programs out there that steal registry entries so that every attempt to run a particular program, or, sometimes, *any* program, results in running contaminated software instead. When the anti-virus programs fail to stop this behavior by correcting the registry entries, i have had some luck with ccleaner’s ability to clean the registry as a last resort before running ComboFix!

  3. George

    I’ve had really good luck with CCleaners registry cleaner. I suppose its like anything though don’t fix what isn’t broken, if your computer is running well no sense in playing with the registry but if something funny is going on its worth a try… I’ve run CCleaner from safe mode and it fixed a computer from blue screening on boot up.

  4. Justin

    Great article! I work at an IT help desk, and we use CCleaner all the time–just not like this!

  5. Kevin

    Just make sure to delete sandboxie with ccleaner or similar..setting it up to do so is preferable !!!

  6. JoeThePlumber

    I run a lot of my apps as portable versions, including CCleaner. You can also add your FireFox Portable location to the ccleaner.ini file (which will be created if you check the option under Options Advanced, and already exists if you run a portable version), eaxmple as follows

    CustomLocation1=”FIREFOX|D:\Portable\Firefox\Data\profile”

    Of course, don’t duplicate the CustomLocation number, and substitute YOUR path, not mine.

    You may want to mention: CCEnhancer (http://singularlabs.com/software/ccenhancer/) which when run, will allow you to point to your portable CCleaner, or automatically detect your installed version, and will download and add the latest winapp2.ini which holds 100′s of more entries for applications.

    Enjoy : )

  7. Caleb

    Really helpful guide, thanks!

  8. Sashank

    have given me the best reasons for not installing CCleaner
    cos I own a jv16 Power Tools 2012 which is far better than this , to increase performance ..

    Keep up the good job admin .. am a big fan :)

  9. Benjamin Spaulding

    Excellent Article. I’ve been using CCleaner a long time (the ‘C’ doesn’t mean ‘C: drive’…) and this touches many points we reccomend to our staff/membership as well. One of the best unchecked boxes to check that I’ve found is the ‘DNS Cache’ as that will also clear old entries and is helpful when a site has moved and won’t render new information.

    I also wanted to give Kudos on the Registry outline! Reg cleaners and ‘optimizers’ like Speed up My Pc and the JV16 PowerTools just mentioned often are the cause of nearly unfix-able issues we encounter. Our advice – just don’t do it! In 2nd level support here, we’ll run a Scan and eval the results, but rarely will use the ‘Fix’ on everything.

  10. hostolis

    Yeah, iirc, C stands for crap

  11. Chas8ch

    Just be careful if you subscribe to Sky Go and ensure that Microsoft Silverlight is not selected before you run CCleaner otherwise you will delete your Sky Go registration.

  12. Anonymous

    Be sure where you get CCleaner! Maybe some of you haven’t realized the crapware that might also get installed with CCleaner. It pretty much depends on where you download it from, but I’ve witnessed even some techs click right on through the installation and then wonder why they got that terrible tool bar.

    (It also seems like CNet is becoming a huge contributor to the crapware phenomena too).

  13. Joe

    As a photographer all my files are stored as thumbnails, and after each time I use CCleaner, they take forever to load. I have version 3.28.1707, but unlike the illustration, mine doesn’t show an option for Thumbnail Cache under Windows Explorer.

  14. moin sayed

    Thanks.
    nice apps.

  15. Dark Reality

    Awesome. Big fan of CCleaner for a few years now. Shame Piriform is so paranoid about PortableApps and Ninite, though. I can’t help but imagine the developer as this kind of conspiracy nut who wears a tinfoil hat and has a shelf full of books about aliens and 9/11, but he makes a good app and it’s not tacky.

    Thanks Joe for the point towards the winapp2.ini updater. I’ve used the file from the forums, glad somebody coded an app to do all that automagically.

    And thanks to the guy who offered to buy us all $29.95 licenses to that tacky-looking jv16 app, but no thanks, I’m happy with what I got. I like free software that just works, y’know?

  16. cam2644

    Good article for those still stuck on Windows. With Linux you don’t really get the problems that CCleaner has to cope with.

  17. James

    Anyone use CCEnhancer? It (ironically) enhances CCleaner, a friend uses it and I’m debating putting it on my machine.

  18. shakingaj

    yes, i use cc enhancer and it adds about 50-75 entries to the base model for cleaning. I have never had a problem with it destroying something shouldnt have- its a great privacy tool, espec if you share the machine with tech savvy users who can other wise see what uh hem mischief you’ve been up to.

  19. Ryan Price

    CCEnhancer from MajorGeeks.com works wonders, it’s great for adding extra programs to the list and really puts a crap ton of applications, it also has an updater.
    I use it frequently with 0 issues, just pay attention to the entries with Asterisks since that means advanced users only should be messing with those boxes.

  20. Terry

    Great article! Too bad most of it’s over my head. Anyway, I’ve been using CCleaner almost a year now.

    It seems to me that CCleaner comes out with a new version every 2 or 3 weeks.

    Is it necessary to upgrade and download, (or is it download and upgrade) every time!?!

    Oh yeah! Does anyone ever answer the questions in these comments?

  21. Ushindi

    I had never tried the “Save To Text” option on the “Install” section. Now I did and was amazed at the number of programs I actually had – hadn’t really paid attention before.
    Now I need to go through and see how much is old crap I don’t really use or need. Thanks for this eye opener.

    @Terry: Yes, I answer all the questions asked here – I just don’t tell you what they are…lol

  22. Benjamin Spaulding

    Terry – you can check the changelog on the Piriform site to see what the changes are. I often skip 5+ versions between updating. Each time Windows updates are available, I look them over, then also look over impact on 3rd party apps (I get to do it for my job, but it makes my personal machines easier to work with too). I update as needed. Thankfully I don’t have a ton of apps to cross check compatibility with.

  23. Alwin

    I have another little tip to run CCleaner silently. Just pin CCleaner to your taskbar and when you right click on it you’ll get a Run CCleaner option in the menu. Selecting it will run CCleaner silently in the background. Saves you a couple of mouse clicks. :)

  24. Nosaj H

    Been using CCleaner for a few years now and i still think it’s one of the best free-bees on the market. I also use their speccy program and the defrag.

  25. JoeThePlumber

    @James @shakingaj @Ryan Price

    As I mentioned in an earlier comment .. CCEnhancer is from Singular Labs (not Major Geeks) (website is here -> http://singularlabs.com/software/ccenhancer/). You can use the exe or simply download the actual winapp2.ini file (which you put in your CCleaner root directory. This adds over 500 more settings/apps (but by default when loaded, will only show the ones on your machine and will be unchecked) – so you will not be met with a huge list to troll thru and you can select what you want to additionally clean out. So yes, James .. why the debate … just do it : )

    @Dark Reality – yes, very simple “automagical” .. love that word : )

  26. Doc

    “Erasing the thumbnail cache (under Windows Explorer) can also slow things down” That’s only if you use Thumbnail View at all. :)

    “Beware the Registry Cleaner” I call BS on this…I’ve used the Registry Cleaner since I first found out about CCleaner (and used several others, including ToniArts’ EasyCleaner and MS’s own cleaners), and have never had a problem with them. Normally they only remove registry keys (such as file associations) that are left over by uninstalled programs that didn’t clean up after themselves, and will prevent “Windows cannot open this file, please locate UninstalledProgram.exe” errors, etc.

    I’m surprised that you didn’t mention CCleaner Enhancer (although that article shows up as a “Related Story.”

  27. monet beltran

    Where should I download the ccleaner

  28. needhelpnow

    yes I have noticed cnet is not what it once was I no longer trust it at all. I took off system mechanic and the computer seems to run better and I have looked at ccleaner in a light, I just love this place (how to geek) you seem to have a lot of good things to offer. you have changed my view of reg cleaners and fix everything buttons much thanks really great

  29. Dark Reality

    @needhelpnow: System Mechanic is badware. It does a couple things like CCleaner, but if you buy it and enter the license incorrectly, it will wreak havoc on your machine (according to the developer, this is an anti-piracy measure, because honest people never make typos).

    And yeah, C|Net has gone to crap lately, maybe it was because they were bought by CBS? I think their reviews are decent, their news side is okay, but their Download.com has pretty much always been garbage. Garbage in, garbage out. When you index all the crap, some of it has to (relatively) shine, but it’s still all (mostly?) crap. Like system tuners. It’s snake oil. Let’s be honest, what CCleaner and others do doesn’t really make your computer go faster. Computers are too fast for that these days. It’s just a superficial thing, cleaning up the clutter. But CCleaner is free. The ones that are charging are just doing bad business.

    You wanna make your computer go faster? One — do the 2 hard drive thing. First drive is Windows and apps. Second drive (or all other drives) is your docs and media. At the drop of a hat be able to reformat the first drive and reinstall Windows. Two, get more RAM. Three, get an SSD. #3 alone will make most computers faster. Make the SSD your first drive. 40GB is enough for just Windows and apps. You will need more if you want to game, since games are huge.

  30. Tom

    ccleaner can clear old notifications icons.
    Registry cleaner is pretty safe. Never have a problem until now.

  31. Dee Bee

    I’ve used CCleaner for quite a while, and while it has helped, my XP on a Duo 3.3 4GB memory still takes almost 10 minutes to load from a cols start. Is there a list of essential only startup list anywhere for XP home or Pro? Task master has about 68 processes running when start up is complete. Once started, everything generally runs fine.
    Also, how much of a difference in startup time does the number of Hard drives (internal or external) you have connected, or the size of your data files (photos, movies, scansoft) and so on. Basically, where are the big bottle necks? I don’t fool with the registry, and I defrag all time.
    Any help is appreciated, including the info that this startup time is in the right ballpark for XP and my cpu.

  32. Chris Hoffman

    Thanks for the kind words, everyone.

    I should have backlinked CCleaner Enhancer — glad it shows up as a related story anyway.

    @Doc

    I just don’t think the registry cleaner does much good. In general, it’s playign with fire — if your computer is working fine, running the cleaner won’t really help or speed up your computer at all. It could cause problems, though. As I said in the post, CCleaner is probably the safest registry cleaner out there. Still, make sure to back up changes just in case.

  33. Gotaoli

    This is an unrelated question.. but why do you have 2gb of ram on a 64 bit OS? Would the performance differ if you were on 32 bit? (Again, sorry for the unrelated question, I just wanted to know).

  34. Chris Hoffman

    @Gotaoli

    I’m using an older computer while my laptop’s being repaired. More RAM would be ideal. I don’t think the performance difference is massive either way in terms of 32 vs 64 bit.

  35. Ken

    I have used ccleaner for a while now but someone mention about seperating the harddrive into two as my desktop is 1 TB with 6G ram so i would love to know on how to half the 1TB harddrive like say having 2 500GB does any body have this info for me please?

  36. Brian

    cam2644

    Ubuntu and Mint have a similar problem with residual packages etc. On an fresh install I have found the same package in 5 to 10+ languages – a localization issue. Each is very small but when there are 1500 packages it adds up. I use BleachBits to remove them.
    NB BleachBits is available for Windows. I use BleachBits and CCleaner on my W7 laptop.

    Brian

  37. Sam

    I too have used CCleaner successfully for a few years .

    However, what is the difference betwen CCleaner and CCleaner Professional? Thanks for any clarification, Sam.

  38. Chris Hoffman

    @Sam

    I’m not entirely sure. It appears to have professional support, automatic updates, and maybe other features — the website doesn’t offer much information. I’ve never used it, though — the free version works just fine. I don’t begrudge them trying to make money, though.

  39. bob lou

    CCleaner is the only Registry cleaner I trust…I still would be careful using it and I often wonder if I’m deleting something important. But at least you can back up before using it.

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