With the wide range of programs available to keep your computer running with as few issues as possible, it’s difficult to choose the best one; for many years, however, I’ve been making good use of a quick and simple piece of free software to do just that. CCleaner.
CCLeaner has been around for a while and has undergone many updates, while still staying true to its basic aim, to make relatively frequently accessed maintenance tasks much quicker and simpler to do.
On installation of the small program, you are presented with options to add the program interface to the Recycle Bin right-click menu, or to add the facility to run the program silently. It might seem strange to add it to the Recycle Bin, but perhaps not when it’s basically a program to clean up your computer, and it’s a very handy placement. You also have the usual options to create a Program Menu group, Desktop Icon, Quick Launch Icon etc.
Using the program is simplicity itself; on opening you are presented with a clean looking interface, with icons representing the various tools available down the left hand side and a brief summary of your system specifications at the top, where you can also find some links to Piriform’s website.
By default, the Cleaner will search your computer for temporary files stored by the various programs on your computer; temporary Internet files, browser history, cookies, recycle bin etc. At the click of a button you can enable additional locations to check or disable the default options if, for instance, you wish to retain your internet cookies. You can switch between Windows files and those from your installed programs on the tabs at the top.
Clicking the Analyze button at the bottom will start the program searching, upon completion of which a list of found files are presented and the disc space to be recouped should you then click the Run Cleaner button. It isn’t necessary to analyze before running the cleaner.
The next tool available is the Registry checker. For those who aren’t aware, the Registry is where many of the important settings for your computer, operating system and software are kept. Over time, due to accessing, reading and writing information to and from the registry, uninstallation of programs and installation of new ones, the Registry develops errors. Not necessarily errors which are critical, but the accumulation of these small errors can result in poor system performance. It makes sense, then, to check the Registry for errors once in a while.
Again, using the Registry checker is simple. You are presented with a list of registry entries to check, all of which are enabled by default, but which you can disable with a simple click.
Clicking the Scan for Issues button will start the Registry scan, on completion of which you are presented with a list of all the issues found. The list can be quite lengthy and, in most instances, the issues found aren’t hugely important. All issues found are ticked by default and deleting them is as simple as clicking the Fix Selected Issues button, after which you have an opportunity to backup the Registry before you affect your chosen changes. It’s always a good idea to back the Registry up before making any changes, as, should something go wrong, a corrupt Registry could render your computer unusable.
There are many other programs which can do the above, and not all free, but this program offers some more tools which makes some other tasks just as easy, by clicking the tool’s button on the left.
The first tool, the Uninstaller, acts in the same way to the Windows’ Uninstaller, which is accessed from Control Panel,but the list of installed programs usually generates much more quickly in CCleaner and, alongside the uninstall option, you have additional options to delete or rename an entry. You can also export your list to a text file if you want.
The Startup tool, presents a list of programs which are scheduled to run automatically when you boot your computer. Many of these programs are important to the system and, unless you really know what you are doing, you might not want to disable, or delete any of them. It’s worth knowing, though, that many programs you install will also place its name in the list, to run automatically and, if the program isn’t needed that often, you can disable it here.
The next tool, System Restore, presents a list of all the System Restore points your computer has saved. System Restore is a facility on your computer which will, either periodically, upon an event or manually save all your important system settings at that time. The idea being that, should something go wrong with your computer, you can restore your computer to an earlier state and, hopefully, your computer will regain functionality.
The main issue with System Restore is that each time it is used, it takes up hard disc space, which can become an issue if your hard drive is getting full and this tool gives you the option to delete some of the restore points to recoup some disc space. It won’t allow you to delete the most recent restore point, however, for obvious reasons.
Finally, there is a drive wiper. This is a very powerful tool and, if misused, could result in you accidentally deleting a whole drive of all the data held on it. However, if you know what you’re doing, you have the option to wipe free space on a drive or the entire drive. You might not be aware that deleted data can be recovered with some knowhow, and even data from wiped drives can be recovered, so there there are even options to use up to 35 passes when wiping the drive, for added security.
The last icon allows access to many of the program’s default and advanced settings, so you can set the program up just how you like it. Options to include, or exclude, specific directories when scanning, cookies to ignore or delete etc, or to reset the program to its default settings.
To summarize, this program might not do anything which you couldn’t find elsewhere, but it does gather together an important set of tools, it does just what you want it to very well from a clean and easily accessible interface and, surprisingly nowadays, it does it for free.