Often, when you talk to any computer-savvy technician (orfamily member) about how to protect your computer from viruses or malware,they’ll tell you that you should install a collection of apps to keep your PCsafe.
These apps usually include antivirus software, anti-malwaredesktop and browser apps, and inevitably they’ll also suggest CCleaner.
CCleaner has been a mainstay for protecting Windowscomputers for many years. It was created at a time when Microsoft Windowslacked many built-in protections and features, so CCleaner filled those gaps.
Today, those gaps are gone, and many people who installCCleaner could be doing their computer more harm than good.
One of the primary features touted by CCleaner is the fact that it “protects your privacy” by erasing your browser search history and browser cookies.
The reality is that people usually use one primary browseron their computer, and these days privacy features are built right into thebrowsers themselves to automatically clean up cookies and search history.
For example, in Google Chrome, you can easily automate this:
These two settings changes will ensure that local data andcookies related to your browsing activities are immediately cleaned wheneveryou exist the browser.
You can also prevent malicious advertising from becoming aproblem in Chrome by going back to the Contentsettings screen and under Ads,make sure the first switch reads Blockedon sites that show intrusive or misleading ads (recommended) rather than Allowed.
These are common settings available in nearly all modernbrowsers today and obsolete the need for a third-party app like CCleaner toreach into your browser files and modify anything.
CCleaner also promises to remove all the following from yourregistry if they’re unused on your computer:
Registry cleaners were very popular years ago when computerdisk memory was very limited, and every small ounce of space was very precious.
The reality is that any small number of left-over pieces inthe registry (from uninstalling an app, for instance) takes up an insignificantamount of space. It isn’t an image or video file stored in the registry. It’ssimply text.
Also, Microsoft has never recommended running registrycleaners, nor has it developed its own, mostly because it doesn’t want usersmessing around with the registry. Just one inadvertent mistake in deleting aregistry key could potentially corrupt your entire Windows operating system.
The reality is that there are stories out there of people experiencingdamage to their Windows OS by running CCleaner’s registry cleaner.
If it’s dangerous for you to manually go through theregistry and edit it yourself, why would you let a third-party application goin and try to “guess” what registry keys are unnecessary? There is also noevidence that registry cleaners speed up Windows.
Add on top of that the fact that Windows 10 is far moreeffective at managing the registry than all past versions of Windows, andthere’s really no need to use any registry editor application at all.
Another feature touted by CCleaner is its ability to speed up how quickly your computer starts but reducing the number of startup applications that it loads on bootup.
The application shows you all programs configured to runwhen your computer starts and provides a tool you can use to disable or deletethose startup tasks.
The reality is that CCleaner is simply providing you with aredundant app that Windows 10 already has.
You can easily view the programs that are scheduled tolaunch when your computer starts.
As you can see, it’s easier to just go through and disablethe apps you don’t want to start, right from this tool that’s alreadyintegrated with Windows 10. There’s no need to install anything.
Ironically, as you can see above, when CCleaner is installed, it configures itself to load as one more application that launches when your computer starts up, slowing it down even further.
Another thing CCleaner promises it can help you with isdeleting “junk files” from your computer system. The claim is that by regularlyemptying files you don’t need, it’ll speed up your computer.
There are two fallacies to this. The first is that deleting files will speed up your computer. It may reduce the amount of hard drive space you use, but it won’t necessarily make your computer run any faster. The second fallacy is that you even need CCleaner to do this.
Microsoft introduced a new feature into Windows 10 with Creators Update (version 1709). This introduced a new option in a Windows 10 feature called Storage Sense. This will automatically delete any files in the Downloads folder, temporary files, or the Recycle Bin, that haven’t been changed in 30 days.
To enable this:
This will always ensure that your Temporary Files andRecycle Bin remain free of clutter .
You can fine tune how this feature behaves by clicking onthe Change how we free up spaceautomatically link.
There, you can fine tune how often Windows cleans up theseareas, and how long Windows allows unmodified files to remain in these areas.
This is just one more example of how features in Windows 10make CCleaner obsolete.
By default, when you install CCleaner, it’s configured tosend “anonymous usage data” to CCleaner. The Data Factsheet claims that theonly usage that’s monitored is how you use the CCleaner application.
While there’s nothing that clearly states what specific datagets collected, it still means that CCleaner will regularly connect with theinternet and send data to CCleaner servers while you’re trying to use the webfor other purposes.
Considering that CCleaner is configured to run as a startupapplication by default, this means CCleaner could be communicating withCCleaner servers without you even realizing it.
For an application that claims to try and reduce the time ittakes for your computer to boot, and to try and speed up your PC, the fact thatthis is enabled by default seems counter-intuitive.
The most important aspect of software like CCleaner istrust. When users download an application to keep their computer clean and freeof garbage or junk applications, it should be an application with a reputationof being free of malware or viruses.
Unfortunately, in 2017 hackers successfully injected malwareinto the CCleaner app to distribute itself across millions of users who hadCCleaner installed.
It wasn’t until researchers at Cisco tracked the securitybreach to servers at Avast (the owners of CCleaner), that Avast quicklyresponded by patching the security flaw that allowed the hack in the firstplace.
Unfortunately, the damage was done.
What the attack proved is that installing applications likeCCleaner just introduces a new path for hackers to find their way into yoursystem. It also proved that the CCleaner software isn’t robust enough toprevent such attacks.
And since you can essentially accomplish every featureavailable in CCleaner by tweaking existing settings in Windows 10 anyway,there’s really no reason to install CCleaner at all.