CCleaner Cleans Up Windows Vista and XP

Check out this free, handy tool to help you get rid of unneeded Windows files and objects, and to keep your Registry clear of orphaned and unnecessary entries.

CCleaner is a free Windows utility that works on both Windows Vista and Windows XP. It does only a few things, but it does them very, very well, including file and object cleanup (I seldom run the program without it cleaning up at least 300 MB of stuff from my system/boot drive, often more), as well as Registry cleanup (it usually finds at least half-a-dozen items it can clear out on my behalf). These functions come from the built-in Cleaner and Registry tools shown at the upper-left quadrant in this screenshot.

CCleaner image
The Cleaner tool is well-versed in the kinds of files that Windows leaves laying around in its wake, including various types of IE files

  • Temporary Internet files, which include markup and graphics for Web pages you’ve viewed recently
  • Cookies, or the invisible but often important text data that Web sites like to record and store about themselves
  • History, or the URLs you’ve visited recently
  • Index.dat file (which indexes all the other zillions of files that IE uses, and can grow very large over time; MS says you can’t delete it, but this tool cheerfully manages to do so anyway)

It also deals with various Windows Explorer data files, including:

  • Items from the Recent Documents list
  • Run command recent arguments
  • Autocomplete text
  • Various other lists of most recently used objects and elements (MRUs, as they appear in the tool text above)

Finally, the Cleaner tool also clears out numerous system files and objects, including

  • Recycle bin contents
  • Temporary files of many kinds, including .tmp files and others
  • Clipboard contents
  • Memory dumps (created any time Windows crashes and writes a .dmp file)
  • Chkdsk disk fragments (unusable file chunks that Chkdsk finds and saves for later inspection)
  • All kinds of Windows log files


Greyed out items show what’s available in the commercial version of this tool, but I’ve never suffered overmuch by sticking purely with the freeware version.

CCleaner Registry Tool image

Next, let’s take a look at the CCleaner Registry tool, as shown in the preceding screenshot. It sweeps through the Registry looking for evidence of broken, orphaned (no longer connected to anything outside the Registry), or erroneous Registry entries, then deletes them for you. Unlike other Registry clean-up tools I’ve used (most notably those included in the Fix-It Utilities and PC Tools collections), this one has never caused me any pain after I’ve followed its recommendations and gotten rid of what it finds in need of removal. That said, the program always prompts for a Registry backup before you delete anything and common sense dictates that you create such a snapshot in case my blithe assertion about my problems (or lack thereof) doesn’t transfer to your situation intact (I have had to restore such snapshots using other tools, including the aforementioned, but never with this tool).

CCleaner Tools entry image

The Tools entry provides access to the Uninstall utility that may also be accessed using the Programs and Features entry in the Vista Control panel (Add/Remove Programs in XP), but with a couple of interesting and useful twists. For one thing, you can delete or rename entries for programs in the Registry itself (this has no impact on the related software, but can be a good way to get rid of troublesome remnants of improperly or incompletely uninstalled programs). It can also let you change names on Registry entries and allow you to install new versions of software when old ones might otherwise get in the way. You can also save all the entries in this tool into a text file for later examination or other use, which can come in handy when spelunking in the Registry for other improperly or incompletely removed entries that some programs leave behind, even after an uninstall program is run.

In short, this program is useful, effective, and fast enough to seldom get in your way. I run this puppy on my machines at least once a week. I think everybody else should, too, but it’s up to you to decide if you want to visit and grab this <3MB download and use it yourself.



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