Software

Five easy to use drive janitors to help clean up your hard drive

There are times when a handy disk janitor utility can swoop in and save the day. Jack Wallen lists a few of his favorites.

One of the most frustrating jobs I come across is a hard drive filled to capacity. In many cases this is just a matter of migrating user data or temp files. Sometimes, however, the task isn't so easy. This is especially true when you're looking at a Windows server with a smallish C drive that is near capacity. You can dig around and find nothing to remove. That is when a handy disk janitor utility can swoop in and save the day.

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If you're looking for a good clean up tool, where do you start? You could start with a built-in tool and move outward. Of course, once you step outside the platform, you're looking at tools that are notorious for either not working or installing malware. I've gone through a number of such tools and found the ones that are not only safe (scanned by Malwarebytes, SEP, and Calwin), but do a good job of freeing up space. Each tool offers a unique take on the task and, in the end, can save the day.

Five apps

1. Microsoft Windows Disk Cleaner

Microsoft Windows Disk Cleaner is the built-in disk cleaner that can be found in Windows XP and up and it does a good job of cleaning up temporary Internet files, downloaded program files, emptying the recycle bin, removing Windows temp files, removing optional Windows components and applications you no longer use, and deleting all but the most recent restore point. This tool offers the unique ability to compress certain files that have not been accessed for a set period of time. While Windows Disk Cleaner is one of the most feature-rich of the tools, it is also the slowest.

2. Bleachbit

Bleachbit is the only cross-platform (Windows and Linux) cleaner on the list. It has been my experience that Bleachbit does the best job (of all available tools) of freeing up the most space. Bleachbit not only frees up space, but helps to keep private your data by clearing all available caches, deleting cookies, clearing Internet history, shredding temporary files, deleting logs, and discarding junk. Bleachbit also has the ability to wipe unallocated disk space in order to improve compression ratio for disk image backups. Cost: Free.

3. Disk Max

Disk Max is a small, donation-ware application that does a great job of cleaning up behind users. Upon startup, you can select one of four pre-defined profiles (Quick, Standard, Detailed, Complete), each of which will dig in deeper and deeper to give you as much free space as possible. Disk Max will clean: Windows cache, debug information, help center caches, repair information, DLL caches, logs, Windows and Internet temp files, and much more. Disk Max also offers the option of deep scanning to remove all files of type: log, old, prv, chk, swp, bak, gid, wbk, tmp and dmp. Cost: Free.

4. FileJanitor

FileJanitor allows you to do scheduled purges of files from your hard disk. You can also specify how many days files should be retained within specified folders. All you need to do is configure which folders to monitor and FileJanitor will do its job in the background - you don't even have to be logged in for it to work. You can also get a bit more granular by configuring the file type to be deleted from within the specified folders. Cost: A 30-day free trial is available, but the retail price is $28.74 USD for each workstation license.

5. CCleaner

CCleaner is not only a great way to clean up temporary, cache, log, and Internet files, it also allows you to clean up your Window's registry. CCleaner is one of the few tools that will clean all temporary internet files - for nearly every browser on the planet (including ones you may never have heard of). CCleaner also does a great job of removing temp files and recent file lists from most apps used on the PC. For a Windows PC, you cannot beat CCleaner for both quickly freeing up disk space and cleaning up the registry. Cost: Free.

Bottom line

If you have machines with drives that frequently fill up, it's time to take a look at one of these tools. Not only are they incredibly easy to use, they can keep your machines running more smoothly and relieve the stress of having to dig around on a drive for ever-elusive free space.

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About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

29 comments
thenetdoctor
thenetdoctor

I'm frankly amazed that so many seem to think this is about storage or space. It is about maintaining the system drive. With such large drives nowadays, people often use an unpartitioned drive, I know, but many still partition and keep the system separate, for many reasons. These drives don't have to be big, just fast ideally - hence SSD's, but you cannot stop some things writing trash to them (yes there's much you CAN stop....) . Hence these utilities have their place as a convenience to help in maintaining the system drive.

Greenknight_z
Greenknight_z

Wise Disk Cleaner. Very fast, does a nice job, never caused me any trouble. Also has "System Slimming" feature to selectively remove some files Windows includes that you may not need, and a pretty good defragmenter

JCitizen
JCitizen

to help fight malware in the session. I run it whenever I wan't to get rid of pesky temp files that may be serving up spy activity. It also helps prevent start-up folder injection by Zeus type variants, that try to survive until the next logon or reboot. I relate this as a restricted rights account user; if you run as administrator all the time, all bets are off.

alawishis
alawishis

It has, perhaps, the worst name in all of app-dom. Windirstat is a must have to cleanup your hard drive. This freeware tool gives you all the data you need to identify the worst offenders for consuming disk resources. Both enterprise level and home user use this tool. If you're not familiar check it out some time.

Gisabun
Gisabun

Hey Jack. It's not Windows Disk Cleaner. Just "Disk Cleanup".

Jim Johnson
Jim Johnson

Many of these clean-up tools do too good a job. After cleaning my system of 'junk files', I often find that all my automatic logins to sites like this one have also been wiped. Anybody know an EASY way to identify and exclude the deletion of logins to sites where I checked "Remember Me"?

GrizzledGeezer
GrizzledGeezer

(née, Crap Cleaner) for years. I don't know what I'd do without it. Not only is the basic unsupported version free, but it's regularly updated. It's not true that "needing" to clean up means you should buy a larger drive. My IE temp files are on a 2TB drive, yet once there's about 500MB of them, IE starts acting a bit "touchy".

Luke G.
Luke G.

Maybe it's just me...but I'd *avoid* an application that advertised that it would clean my registry. Wasn't that a big deal back in the 90's that was quickly debunked as doing more harm than good? Do we still need to have a highlighted feature that's not only ineffective in speeding up a system but really capable of crippling it this day and age?

Madsmaddad
Madsmaddad

a free de-duplicator. I am sure that I have duplicates of files, and some of them may not differ from later ones. Anyone know of a free de-duplicator?

theMezz
theMezz

If someone has to continuously erase files because they need the space, then it's time for a larger hard drive(s). Most of those erased files will return anyway - the temp files are there for a reason.

SerrJ215
SerrJ215

Also dont forget that CCleaner has a portable version that can be run from a USB drive. Meaning that it wont take up space with its own installation.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

In this day and age of relatively cheap storage, do you find yourself scrounging for more disk drive space on existing drives or do you just purchase more capacity?

andrew.mcwhirter
andrew.mcwhirter

I agree: Windirstat is awesome, and indispensable if you want to answer the question: Where Has All My Disk Gone? But, it's not a "drive janitor" per se...It won't delete anything.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

The "Remember Me" is accomplished be means of a cookie. Most of these cleaners probably allow you to mark cookies to keep; I know CCleaner does. Once you've logged in to a site that you want to stayed logged in to, open your cleaner and add the new cookies for that site to the "Ignore" or "Save" list in the cleaner.

Greenknight_z
Greenknight_z

Sites "remember" you by setting a cookie on your computer, if a cleaner deletes all cookies you lose those logins. CCleaner has a function to manage cookies selectively. Click Options > Cookies. You'll see 2 panes labeled "Cookies to Delete" on the left and "Cookies to Save" on the right, with arrows in between pointing both directions. Find the site(s) you want to save the login cookie(s) from in the list on the left, click the arrow to move it(them) to the right pane. Cookies you move into the "Save" list are saved from then on, unless you move them back. (Didn't see JCitizen's post before I added this. Oh, well...)

JCitizen
JCitizen

In IE to go to Tools>>>Internet Options>>>Privacy Tab>>>Sites and add the URL to the list as [Allow]ed. The other browsers are easy to set access permission like this. Also CCleaner has an allowed cookie bunker for such sites, so you can add the necessary cookies you don't want cleaned. You'll find it under [u]O[/u]ptions >>>Cookies in the CCleaner console. Passwords aren't always the problem if the site is not completely allowed like this. In fact even password managers that never forget your password sometimes don't work because of these settings.

rjoss2004
rjoss2004

Make sure that "Saved Passwords" is not checked in the Cleaner. It will leave them alone.

Greenknight_z
Greenknight_z

CCleaner has about the safest reg cleaner around. Since many people insist on reg cleaning in spite of the proof that it does almost no good and can do great harm, better they should use CCleaner than something more dangerous.

Gisabun
Gisabun

And this has what to do with disk cleaning? Just because CCleaner is generally associated with registry "cleaning", it doesn't mean that's it sole function. I know somne who use it just for the disk cleaning and not the registry cleaning.

hartvix
hartvix

"The temp files are there for a reason", you say. I'd like to turn that around: They are placed in a folder named TEMP for a reason, namely that they were only needed temporarily. It's been many years since I've run into a situation where some application suddenly needs a file I have deleted from Temp. Of course, you should always make sure all installation procedures have been allowed to finish properly, and give the computer a restart if the installer wants one. This is also the reason many cleaners will by default leave your newest "junk" alone - just for extra safety. If a program puts data it will need beyond a specific situation in a Temp folder, that's reason enough for me to kick it out! You say they will come back anyway. Well, a few files WILL return, but most will only add to what's already there. Many application installers still don't bother to remove their temporary files in the end - I've seen GB-sized remains just wasting space. People tend to forget that this is not just a question of available space. Sure, it usually takes quite a while for these files to eat up a significant part of a modern harddisk. But they clutter up the file system with countless files in all sizes, often very fragmented (like log files). Your defragger will waste time on them, and even the QuickSearch of your AntiVirus/Antimalware will waste time including the Temp folders every time. When I do the "cleaning", I even tend to end it by running a %temp% command (a shortcut is a good idea) to see if the cleaners have left behind something that can clearly be deleted. In modern versions of Windows, the system won't let you delete a file if it's being used anyway.

egmccann
egmccann

In this day and age of available housing, do you find yourself cleaning the house or just buying another one when the first gets too full? :) While there's some storage I want to expand (such as in my little home NAS, currently with two mirrored 750gb drives) usually when I start feeling a space pinch, a cleanup and consolidation takes care of it fairly well.

Craig_B
Craig_B

Even though disk space is fairly inexpensive, I find I still need to clean up disk space. I find people tend to fill what they have, regardless of how huge it is compared to the past. I have found TreeSizeFree from Jam Software to be a handy utility to assist in cleaning up old/large data.

alawishis
alawishis

WinDirStat does delete files however it's just not automated, other. Maybe the title should have stated as "automated disk cleanup tools". If you want a push button solution then the programs listed are good choices.

Jim Johnson
Jim Johnson

Correct. Sites like this one "Remember You" by setting a cookie. But they also tend to set many cookies and you can't determine which is the login at a glance in CCLearner. And then there is the task of going through potentially hundreds of cookies to exclude a handful. That's why I ask for an EASY (deliberately in caps) way to keep the files I want. Seems no one has that answer.

Luke G.
Luke G.

I was just surprised that in 2013 it had to be highlighted in the article that this app also does registry cleaning. Cleaning the cruft from your hard drive is great, but I don't find registry cleaning to be a feature that I'd be highlighting in an article these days. So I agree: what does the registry cleaning have to do with disk cleaning? :)

Who Am I Really
Who Am I Really

then yes, replace & migrate the contents at the first sign of trouble or at a specified time frame to prevent loss if HDD Mfg. decided that it would be good for business to build disks that last 50 -100 years (average lifespan of a house) I'd have no problem with using the existing storage space and keeping it cleaned up I personally in the last 7 years have condemned more HDDs to the bin after a failure than the average town or city condemns houses to be demolished in the same time frame

JCitizen
JCitizen

Before setting up a site I want to go to frequently, I clean all cookies then join or login to the site and see which ones look like access type cookies - the tracking cookies are fairly obvious - like double-click or googleanalytics - so I skip those - I add the access cookies to the "bunker", and voila! No more problems! A good site will list their required cookies in the FAQ section of customer support, but my method has worked well, and much faster.

Greenknight_z
Greenknight_z

I always clean up useless files, defragment when needed. Defrag takes longer when the drive is full of clutter, and nothing works an HDD harder than defragging. If drive is fragmented, it's working harder all the time to locate files. Either way, extra files mean extra wear. Malware scans take longer, too. Again, more wear. I think this is why you're killing so many HDDs. Also, I don't let a drive get too full. Plenty of free space to write to means less fragmentation and better defrag performance. I strive to keep HDDs no more than 60% full. I run test builds of freeware programs, downloading updates all the time, yet my HDDs last and last.