Here’s What You Should Use Instead of CCleaner

It's a metaphor.

CCleaner just became worse. The popular system-cleaning tool now always runs in the background, nagging you and reporting anonymous data back to the company’s servers. We don’t recommend you upgrade to CCleaner 5.45. Here’s what you should use instead.

We haven’t been huge fans of CCleaner for a while now. CCleaner nags you to run it because the paid subscription can automatically run itself—you’re paying to disable the nags. CCleaner has even been hacked to contain malware.

Free Up Space

Windows has a built-in Disk Cleanup tool, and it works very well. Microsoft has been improving it, and it works even better in the latest versions of Windows 10. This tool removes temporary files, previous Windows installations, log files, old Windows updates, thumbnails, and various other cache files. If you’ve never run it, you can probably free up a few gigabytes of space by doing so. We don’t recommend a CCleaner alternative because Windows can already do a great job at freeing up space.

To access the Free Up Space tool on Windows 10, head to Settings > System > Storage and click “Free Up Space Now” under Storage Sense. Windows will automatically scan for files you can delete. Check the files you want to delete and click “Remove files” to get rid of them.

Warning: If you check “Recycle Bin,” Windows will also empty your Recycle Bin. Be sure you don’t want to recover any deleted files from your Recycle Bin before checking this option.

RELATED: Use Windows 10’s New “Free Up Space” Tool to Clean Up Your Hard Drive

On Windows 7, you can launch the classic “Disk Cleanup” tool from your Start menu to delete these files. The classic desktop Disk Cleanup tool is still included on Windows 10, but the new interface in Settings does the same thing and runs a bit faster.

RELATED: 7 Ways To Free Up Hard Disk Space On Windows

Manage Startup Programs

CCleaner can manage your startup programs, but Windows 10 has this feature built in. To access Windows 10’s startup manager, head to Settings > Apps > Startup. You can see how much “impact” apps have on your startup process and toggle startup programs on or off from here. A startup program with “high impact” slows things down more than one with “low impact.”

You can also launch the Task Manager, click the “Startup” tab, and manage startup programs from here. This works the same as the interface in the Settings app, but is also available on Windows 8. On Windows 7, you will need something like MSConfig to manage startup programs.

Clear Your Web Browsing Tracks

You don’t need a third-party program to wipe your browser history, cookies, and cache files. Your browser can handle this for you.

In fact, you shouldn’t even need to clear your browsing data in the first place. Just use private browsing mode whenever you want to access a sensitive website without any history being saved to your computer. If you never want your browser saving any private data, you can make your browser always start in private browsing mode. This is better than clearing your browsing data in CCleaner, as it prevents that data from being created in the first place.

RELATED: How to Always Start Any Browser in Private Browsing Mode

To occasionally clear your browsing data, you can use the “Clear Browsing Data” tool built into your web browser of choice. Browsers now have easy tools that can handle this in a few clicks.

We don’t recommend constantly clearing your browsing data or always running in private browsing mode. You’ll have to keep logging into the websites you use every time you open your browser, as their cookies won’t be kept on your PC. Deleting your cache files will slow down your web browsing, too. But, if you want to clear this data anyway, your browser has you covered.

RELATED: How to Clear Your History in Any Browser

Find the Files Wasting Space on Your Computer

To hunt down what’s actually using up space on your computer, install a disk space analyzer like WinDirStat. This tool scans your hard drive and shows you a graphical representation of what’s using space on your computer, sorting folders and files from the ones using the most space to the least. This works like the Disk Analyzer tool in CCleaner, but with a better interface that makes it easier to see what’s using space.

If you have some big files hiding somewhere on your computer, you’ll find them with this tool and you can remove them manually. If the files in question are part of a program, you should uninstall the program from your computer to remove them. If they’re temporary, cache, or data files, you can probably just delete them. You may want to perform a web search for the name of the files or the folder they’re in before deleting them—just to confirm you’re not deleting anything important.

Some programs do waste space. For example, NVIDIA’s graphics drivers use about 1 GB of space on your computer for old driver installers. Thankfully, NVIDIA told us they now automatically delete older driver versions, so this folder shouldn’t continually grow in size. You may need to delete folders like this one manually if you’re really tight on space.

Encrypt Your Hard Disk to Really Cover Your Tracks

If you use CCleaner to delete usage data and “cover your tracks,” here’s a better option: Encrypt your system drive. Anyone who gains access to your computer will need your password to decrypt your hard disk and view your files, so this is a much better method than occasionally deleting your tracks. It will protect any private files you have stored on your computer, too.

Here’s how to enable full disk encryption on your Windows 10 PC. Some Windows 10 PCs already have encryption, while others need Windows 10 Professional to enable BitLocker. if your PC didn’t come with encryption and you don’t want to pay for Windows 10 Pro, you can use VeraCrypt instead.

Most of the same tips apply to Windows 7. You can upgrade to Windows 7 Ultimate for BitLocker or install VeraCrypt for free encryption.

With your hard drive encrypted, you don’t have to worry about erasing your private data so much—whenever you turn off your computer, its hard drive will be encrypted and people will need your key to boot it up and access your data.

How to Download an Old Version of CCleaner

If you insist on using CCleaner, you may want to install an old version of it. This isn’t necessarily the best idea—old versions of CCleaner could have problems with newer versions of programs and the Windows operating system. They might remove important files and cause problems or miss cache files and not free up enough space. New versions of CCleaner sometimes fix these issues.

If you do want an old version of CCleaner, you’ll have to download it from another website. Version 5.45 of CCleaner forces Active Monitoring, so you may want to download version 5.44 from a website like UptoDown.

To prevent CCleaner from checking for updates, launch CCleaner and click Options > Settings. Uncheck the “Inform me of updates to CCleaner” option here.

You can also disable System Monitoring from Options > Monitoring, and deactivate analytics from Options > Privacy.

Again, this is a short term solution. CCleaner may stop working well if you stick to an old version for years.

CCleaner has quite a few tools that you don’t need, either. For example, you just don’t need a registry cleaner. While there may be some outdated entries in your registry, they take up a miniscule amount of space and don’t slow your computer down.

For anything else in CCleaner you might want, you can find a CCleaner alternative. For example, if you want a list of the programs installed on your computer, you can save a list of your installed applications with a single Windows command. To find duplicate files on your PC, you can install a duplicate file finder. For anything else, you can find a built-in Windows utility or a free application that won’t nag and monitor you.

Image Credit: ben bryant/Shutterstock.com.

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 Twitter.