Speed Up your PC with CCleaner

System optimization, security, and maintenance are three of the most important functions of computer support specialists across all areas of personal computing. With that said, there are countless pieces of software and a deluge of services, which claim to beat out the competition in these specific areas. Within this four part series, we take an in depth look at the competitive advantages of Piriform’s quintet of free to use applications.

To begin, we start with Piriform’s flagship product, CCleaner, which was first launched in 2004. It has the primary function of optimizing systems by cleansing their resources of unused, unnecessary, and temporary files, allowing for better performance from Windows, and protecting your privacy by removing traces of online activity and application use. Does it work as intended though? Let’s find out…

Introduction to CCleaner

Piriform Homepage


CCleaner has a truly painless installation process, and the most current version can be obtained with a short download from the manufacturer’s website. It can also be acquired through a number of mirror sites such as CNET’s Download.com, where it currently ranks 2nd in total downloads in the Diagnostic Software category, behind only IObit’s Advanced SystemCare Free (more on how the products compare in a bit).

Once you have successfully downloaded CCleaner and run the installer, you will need to agree to Piriform’s Terms of Service, and then select how you would like the installation to be configured. The interesting aspects of this specific installer include the ability to add ‘Run CCleaner’ and ‘Open’ options to the Recycle Bin Context Menu, and to allow CCleaner the ability to automatically check for updates.

Piriform regularly updates their software, so if you would like to have the most current version at all times, be sure to check this box. Overall, the program installs very quickly, operates seamlessly, and has an intuitive presentation that adds to the quality of the product.

CCleaner Installer

CCleaner Installer

CCleaner in Action

CCleaner provides three primary areas of system optimization and maintenance, and these include the System Cleaner, Registry Cleaner, and additional Tools functions, where you will find utilities to manage the software’s Uninstall, Startup, System Restore, and Drive Wiper abilities.

System Cleaner

The System Cleaner is the first utility and interface you will encounter when you open the program. From here you have either the option to ‘Analyze’ your system for removable files, or to ‘Run Cleaner’, which will go ahead and delete files from your system. You have full control of what files should be deleted, but the primary areas the Cleaner services are your temporary internet & browser files, Windows Explorer cache, temporary system data stores, and a number of more advanced locations which Piriform gives you the option to regulate.

System Cleaner

System Cleaner

System Cleaner also recognizes installed applications, and has the ability to clear the local cache data for programs such as Adobe Reader, Google Earth, Audacity, and Quicktime.

The manufacturer makes it explicitly clear that the program is configured to complete these functions without deleting or destroying data that you will need later, and I have never experienced a single instance of the program doing so since I began using it a few years ago.

It is important to note that the program also allows you to activate and deactivate specific areas of the cleansing process, and also flag specific files and locations to be skipped if desired. [Don’t choose to delete your recycle bin if there are files there you would like to recover].

Registry Cleaner

The Registry Cleaner is a comprehensive tool which allows users to safely and securely remove unused and obsolete registry entries, such as File Extensions, ActiveX Controls, and ClassIDs from uninstalled programs. In a number of my field tests this utility indeed appeared to provide systems I was working with a performance boost after a single run-through.

The tool also allows for backups of the registry before making any changes, which protects users from any risk of inadvertent damage to their settings or system performance. (This in and of itself is a valuable function for individuals who like to manually edit registry settings.)

Registry Cleaner

Registry Cleaner

Additional System Tools

The additional utilities found under the ‘Tools’ section of the CCleaner interface, present a few more powerful options for system and hard drive maintenance and cleansing. Generally they focus on uninstalling and managing programs, managing and utilizing system restore points, and securely erasing either the entire contents, or just the free space, of the hard drives you have installed in your system. These utilities are as follows:

  • Uninstall – Lists all programs installed on your system and allows you to run the uninstallers for each. Also allows users to rename and delete program entries.
  • Startup – Lists all programs which are set to run at system start-up. Allows you to enable, disable, and delete these programs.
  • System Restore – Allows users to manually delete system restore points. Latest entry is automatically disabled to protect the system.
  • Drive Wiper – Securely erase either the entire contents of a drive, or simply the free space which is found within it. Allows for Simple (1 pass) to Very Complex (35 pass) drive wiping.
Drive Wiper Utility

Drive Wiper Utility

Design and Interface

CCleaner, as is the case with all Piriform products, has a truly simple and easy to use design that allows a user to tend to system maintenance with ease. It would be nice if the program displayed a bit more information regarding hard drive and memory usage, or allowed the recovery of deleted or corrupt files, but Piriform has instead chosen to offer standalone products for these functions in Speccy and Recuva, which allows CCleaner to shine in the areas where it truly excels.

The beauty of CCleaner lies in its ability to be flexibly used with a low overhead and impact on system resources, and streamlining the product over years of development has allowed CCleaner to do just this.

CCleaner Full Screen View

CCleaner Full Screen View

CCleaner Minimized View

CCleaner Minimized View


  • Compatible with almost 50 languages, and available with premium support
  • Allows user to delete browsing and application history on public or shared computers, maintaining privacy
  • Allows user to safely and securely improve performance by optimizing hard drive usage
  • Allows user to control programs configured to run at start-up, or remove them from their system altogether
  • Allows for secure file deletion and hard drive cleansing, and the ability to back up and restore system settings


CCleaner is an extremely fast program in relation to many of its competitors. Piriform has also created both portable and slim versions for advanced users to utilize with thumb drives. From top to bottom CCleaner has been designed to be flexible and intuitive, while improving system performance, not bogging it down.

In field tests, it has been one of the few tools I have been able to use successfully across multiple Microsoft platforms, and with both 32 and 64 bit operating systems. I have personally tested it with Windows 7, Vista, XP and 2000 systems. CCleaner also performs well under the pressure of limited system resources.


The true value of CCleaner, as well as all of Piriform’s non enterprise products, is that they are completely free to download and use. If you so choose, you additionally have the option of adding Piriform’s Priority Technical Support for $24.95, or $39.95 for small businesses.

Piriform also provides a networked version of CCleaner allowing remote deployment and management, which is compatible with Active Directory and Windows Server 2008 RC2, 2008, and 2003. (Link to pricing for those interested)

Competition & Conclusion

Though there are many programs which address system cleansing and performance, I have encountered very few that have the robust and comprehensive functionality that CCleaner presents, in such a streamlined, affordable, and well designed package.

Where some programs try to be a little bit of everything, with the addition of half baked services such as malware cleaners, CCleaner has established a well defined purpose, and is optimized to work quickly with a low overhead in achieving its goals.

Piriform’s CCleaner presents a robust yet elegant platform for cleaning and maintaining computer systems in both business and home environments. It is a comprehensive product that beats out the competition in price, performance, and presentation in many regards. Piriform’s paid support options, and their addition of slim and networked versions, makes CCleaner the perfect compliment to a technician tool box. It is certainly worth a download for either personal or professional use.



Windows optimization, cleaning, & maintenance.