This article was updated on 31/01/23
PC cleaning software is a booming market, and it feels like everywhere you look there are ads purporting to cure your gaming PC of all its woes.
Sluggish computer? Click here!
Think you've got a virus? Click here!
Whether unscrupulous companies are trying to fleece you with fake virus popups or telling you they can get rid of all your junk files with their "free" software, it is a complete minefield. Our top five reasons below will tell you why you should never use third party software to clean up your PC.
1: Windows Already Does It All
"But I've used CCleaner for years!" I hear you cry. Well, that's fine. In fact, the previous version of this article actually recommended CCleaner. However, there's a few things you should know, now we have the wonderful Windows 10 updates in place, Windows 11 working brilliantly, and browser improvements over the last few years. They have made access to cleaning tools much simpler and safer.
CCleaner has been a popular tool for protecting Windows computers for many years, certainly. It was created to fill the gaps in protection that Microsoft Windows lacked, all wrapped up in a lovely GUI that anyone could use - no matter what their experience with PCs. However, these gaps have now been well and truly filled, Windows and browsers have been updated to get you to the tools easier, and it turns out CCleaner could potentially do more harm than good. So, PC experts like myself and the staff here at CCL are no longer recommending it.
One of its main features is erasing browser history and cookies, but modern browsers now have these privacy features built in. Opera GX, for example, is an absolute master at this, and it'll also ensure you don't chew up all your RAM like Chrome, too.
Same with the registry cleaner, which CCleaner promises to remove unused items from the registry, but Microsoft doesn't recommend using registry cleaners and they could mess up your Windows system. Plus, there's no proof that registry cleaners actually make Windows run faster. Windows 10 is way better at managing the registry, so you don't even need a registry editor app.
Bottom line, CCleaner isn't needed anymore. Windows has improved and there are better, safer ways to protect your computer.
Windows comes packed with a bunch of tools you can run and clean up a PC that has loads of junk files.
Remove Unused Applications
Go to the Start Menu > Settings > Apps & features.
Add Remove Programs
Scroll down your list of applications and remove any that you no longer use:
Removing programs you no longer use
Go to Control Panel > System and Security > Administrative Tools > Disk Clean-up
Disk clean up
Windows will automatically check how much space can be freed up.
Disk clean-up options
Select all of the types of data you wish to clean up, and hit OK.
Defragment Your Hard Drive
If you have an SSD, you won't need to do this. If you have a hard drive, however, it is recommended to run Disk Defragment regularly.
In Administrative Tools, select Defragment and Optimise Drives.
Defragment and Optimise Drives
Select the drive you want to defragment, and hit Optimise.
This will remove any files that are left over from uninstalls, or partial temporary files that are generated during tasks.
2. Use Windows Antivirus and Firewall
Windows comes with Windows Defender firewall, which also acts as a defence against viruses and malware. Windows Defender is one of the most trusted and up to date technologies, which sets the standard in finding new virus definitions.
In your Start Menu, search for "Windows Security".
You can click on any of these options and customise the security levels on your PC. If any of the above do not have a green check mark, you can activate the security by clicking on it and activating it.
3. They Do More Harm Than Good
Most of the security and PC clean up applications that pop up as an advertisement can be ignored totally, and are actually recognised by Microsoft as a virus. One such software is "MyCleanPC", which has an extremely poor reputation for being a scamware application.
Installing one of these applications can result in your PC running much worse than it did before, your browser being hijacked to show you yet more scam websites, and worse still - installation of ransomware locking your PC down altogether and demanding a fee to unlock your files.
Because of the proliferation of these scam applications, it is recommended that you do NOT install anything that you see on a pop-up, in an email or anywhere else without doing your due diligence.
4. They Don't Actually Work
This is a critical point: a lot of this software doesn't work at all, and will often miss the files you actually need scanning for viruses, cleaning up or deleting. Sometimes, they will only remove a partial amount of the file or registry entry, and can cause more damage by doing so.
When it comes to antivirus software, you can rely on Windows Defender, or you can use a dedicated application like BullGuard, Avast, Comodo or any others that appear on AV-Test's website as being reputable and reliable. AV-Test is an independent company that tests antivirus software for Android, MacOS and Windows, ranking them by protection, performance and usability.
AV-Test antivirus tests
By using independent websites such as AV-Test, you can make informed decisions about antivirus apps.
5. Scam Applications Are Linked To Organised Crime
As much as we don't like to think about it, organised crime makes a LOT of money from these scam applications. In recent years, one of the most prolific scams were revealed to be making over $120 million from unsuspecting computer users.
FTC shuts down massive “PC cleaner” scam - GigaOM.com
Whilst this was an incredibly well-planned sting, there are still many investigations ongoing into groups just like the ones behind the above story. There are many thousand of scam applications just waiting to be downloaded, and organised crime is usually at the heart of it, funding and growing the enterprise. The recent pandemic enabled scammers to take their activities up a gear, and every crime agency in the world did their level best to warn the public. The National Crime Agency recommends the following in relation to computer service fraud:
National Crime Agency warning
Cleaning up your PC and getting rid of junk should not be a major chore, and Windows 10 and Windows 11 do their best to make the process very simple and thorough. The built-in tools you get with Windows are actually just as in-depth and take roughly the same amount of time to run, so there is virtually no benefit to having another application to do it.
Whenever you see one of those pop-ups again, keep all of the above in mind. Not only will it save you money, but it might also save your PC from damage that can't be undone!