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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