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Remove temporary and duplicate files with CCleaner

By , winhelp.us logo. Last updated: 2019-06-12

How to delete unneeded temporary and duplicate files with CCleaner in Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 8.1 and 10

While Windows Disk Cleaner does a good job at removing some temporary files, there are probably more non-Microsoft programs on your computer that have some leftovers and unneeded stuff on your computer. Piriform CCleaner (also known as Crap Cleaner) is a free program for cleaning up such unneeded files. It can also detect and remove duplicate files, securely wipe free space or whole drives, manage Windows startup items, installed programs and apps, and web browser add-ons.

Important security note as of 19th September 2017: all users of CCleaner version 5.33 on 32-bit Windows should update immediately to a newer version because this particular version was maliciously modified by hackers and contains a backdoor that allows data leakage. The press release about this is at CCleaner's site.

If necessary, go to CCleaner download page and click Piriform.com in the CCleaner Free section.
CCleaner download page, click 'Piriform.com' in the Free section.

There is only one thing to note during CCleaner installation: always clear the third-party offer (usually something by Google) in the bottom left, the Optional section. You should always install only what you need.
CCleaner setup. Always clear all check boxes in the Optional section before continuing.

Launching CCleaner in Windows

If CCleaner's monitoring function is enabled, you can launch the program by right-clicking its icon in Taskbar Notification Area (aka System Tray) and selecting Open CCleaner from the menu.
To clean up temporary files according to the last used settings, choose Run CCleaner. Please note that the action will not be confirmed and no windows will appear.
Options should be self-explanatory; Show last notification reveals the latest info popup, and Exit turns off the monitoring until you restart your computer or sign in again.
CCleaner icon in System Tray. To run the program, right-click its icon and choose 'Open CCleaner'.

Alternatively, open Start menu or Start screen by pressing Windows Key on keyboard.

Windows Vista, 7 and 10 users should type "ccleaner" and click it in search results.
Windows 7, Start menu. To run CCleaner, type ccleaner and click the result.

In Windows 8 and 8.1 Start screen, type "ccleaner" (you do not need to open Search charm) and click it in the results.
Touch-screen owners should swipe in from the right and tap Search first.
Windows 8, Start screen. To run CCleaner, type ccleaner and click the result.

Window XP users should expand All Programs, find the CCleaner folder and click CCleaner.
CCleaner in Windows XP Start menu, All Programs, CCleaner folder.

Important options to change in CCleaner

CCleaner version 4.18 and newer have automatic temporary files monitoring option enabled by default. This means an additional icon in Taskbar Notification area (System Tray). You can right-click (or tap and hold on touch screens) the icon to clean up temporary files with the last used settings by selecting Run CCleaner. Please note that the action will not be confirmed and no windows will appear.

On slower or older devices, active monitoring also means some slowdowns due to high disk activity while CCleaner counts potentially unneeded files. This is why you might want to disable it.

Here's an example of a CCleaner Alert: it displays the amount of disk space you can save by removing unneeded files, and provides the Click here to open CCleaner button. On the top right of the notification, there are two buttons: the left one allows pinning and unpinning the alert, and the one on the right closes the alert.
CCleaner Alert, cleaning can save disk space. Click the button to launch CCleaner.

To disable or enable CCleaner monitoring, open the Options tab and choose Monitoring. Now clear or tick the Enable system monitoring and Enable Active Monitoring checkboxes. The latter produces a warning, but you can safely proceed.
Please note that the disabling of Active Monitoring also removes CCleaner tray icon and automatic update checks.
CCleaner, Options tab, Monitoring. To disable temporary files monitoring, clear the 'Enable system monitoring' and 'Enable Active Monitoring' check boxes.

Move on to the Advanced tab. To add some extra guarantee that you're not removing something important, tick both the Only delete files in Windows Temp folders older than 24 hours and the Only delete files in Recycle Bin older than 24 hours checkboxes.

The Skip User Account Control warning option is meant for advanced users who set up scripting and boot-time cleaning.

To be able to clear Taskbar Jump Lists in Windows 7 and 10, make sure the Enable Windows Jump List Tasks checkbox is ticked.
CCleaner, Options tab, Advanced. Turn on the 'Only delete files in Windows Temp folders older than 24 hours' and the 'Only delete files in Recycle Bin older than 24 hours' options.

Multiple user accounts and CCleaner free

The free version of CCleaner affects only global temporary files (created by Windows itself) and those of the currently logged-on user. If you have multiple user accounts on your device and you need to gain maximum disk and registry optimization, you must either run CCleaner from each account separately or use the Run as different user command. The latter is available in Windows 7 and newer: hold down the Shift key and right-click CCleaner icon on Desktop or in Start menu search results to access it. You must then enter the other user's name and password.
Windows 7, Shift+right-click menu. To launch CCleaner as a different user, click 'Run as different user'.

You can also buy CCleaner Professional to do the job for multiple accounts automatically.

Which items to select for removal in CCleaner's Cleaner tab

CCleaner's Cleaner tab has two main sub-tabs: Windows lists items directly related to the operating system, plus Microsoft Edge (if installed) and Internet Explorer; Applications tab lists detected third-party web browsers and programs/apps.

You can right-click or tap and hold any section to use commands like Check all, Uncheck all, Analyze, Clean or Restore default state.
For individual items, Analyze, Clean and Restore default state commands are available.
CCleaner, Section right-click menu.

Windows tab in CCleaner

To reclaim disk space used by Windows' built-in web browsers, you only need to select the Internet Cache option in the Microsoft Edge section (Windows 10 only) and the Temporary Internet files option in the Internet Explorer section.
All other browser options are related to privacy and security - select these only if you need to clear your usage tracks, or you want to sell or donate your device. These options have minimal impact on disk space.
Please note that ticking the Cookies and/or Saved Passwords checkboxes will clear your stored login and 2-step authentication (aka 2FA) data after using the Run Cleaner button.
CCleaner, Cleaner tab, Windows. To free up disk space used by Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer, turn on the 'Internet Cache' and 'Temporary Internet Files' options.

In the Windows Explorer section, uncheck all items. These options do not free up much disk space (except for the Thumbnail Cache) and they're things you probably do not want to be removed, as they help you find previously used addresses, commands and user names.
Activate these items only if you want to completely remove traces of your computer usage.
In Windows Vista, 7, 8/8.1 and 10, you should tick the Thumbnail Cache box only if you recently deleted hundreds of photos or videos, otherwise, Windows will just rebuild the same previews for the same photos and videos you already have on your computer.

In the System section, most users should select all items. These are temporary and cached files generally not needed, plus items on Desktop and Start menu/Start screen that are invalid (pointing to files or programs that do not exist anymore).

If you experience frequent computer crashes (aka Blue Screens of Death or BSOD-s) or spontaneous restarts, do not turn on the Memory Dumps and Windows Error Reporting (only in Windows Vista and later) options here. Use free WhoCrashed for analyzing the crash dump files and determining the cause of problems. You can safely delete the old dumps only after you've resolved the problems, or you do not have any trouble with Windows or installed programs.
Windows 10, CCleaner, Cleaner tab, Windows. Uncheck all items in the 'Windows Explorer' section. Turn on all options in the 'System' section.

In the Advanced section, enable the Old Prefetch data, Environment Path and IIS Log Files options. The IIS checkbox might not be available in Windows 8 and newer.

Windows XP users should also tick the Hotfix Uninstallers checkbox - this will probably free up loads of disk space if you've used Windows XP on the PC for years.

In some cases, there is the Old Windows Installation checkbox available - leave this one alone and use Disk Cleanup for this job. CCleaner can cause serious problems with video/graphics drivers that are still used by Windows from this folder.

Never enable the Windows Event Logs option: Event Viewer helps a lot in troubleshooting, plus user and system monitoring.

Those who need to be extra safe can turn on the Wipe Free Space option: this will make recovering deleted items much harder, but it will also consume a lot more time (from 10 minutes to many hours, depending on the speed of the drive and the amount of disk space available).
Windows XP, CCleaner, Cleaner tab, Windows. In the Advanced section, select 'Old Prefetch data', 'Environment Path', 'IIS Log Files' and 'Hotfix Uninstallers'. Windows 10, CCleaner, Cleaner tab, Windows. In the 'Advanced' section, select 'Old Prefetch data' and 'Environment Path'. Do not use the 'Old Windows installation' option.

Applications tab in CCleaner

You should also check what's listed in the Applications tab.

If you have other Internet browsers (Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera, etc) installed, tick their Internet Cache and Compact Databases checkboxes to increase available disk space.
All other browser options are related to privacy and security - select these only if you need to clear your usage tracks, or you want to sell or donate your device. These options have minimal impact on disk space.
Please note that ticking the Cookies and/or Saved Passwords checkboxes will clear your stored login and 2-step authentication (aka 2FA) data after using the Run Cleaner button.

If the Utilities section lists the NVIDIA Install Files item, you might be able to gain 100-200 megabytes of additional disk space by activating it.

For other listed applications, CCleaner usually clears only the list of recently used commands and files, so no considerable amount of disk space can be freed. These are meant for clearing your usage tracks only.
CCleaner, Cleaner tab, Applications. For web browsers, enable only the 'Internet Cache' and 'Compact Databases' options to increase free disk space. CCleaner, Cleaner tab, Applications. Uncheck all sections except for web browsers.

You could click the Analyze button next and see an analysis about what's going to be deleted, but that is usually a waste of time - you're going to delete the unnecessary files anyway. Move right on by clicking the Run Cleaner button.
CCleaner, Cleaner tab. To remove selected items, click the 'Run Cleaner' button.

CCleaner will warn you that you are going to delete files permanently. Click OK.
CCleaner, This process will pemanently delete files from your system, Are you sure you wish to proceed? Click OK.

Although CCleaner is able to remove items related to Internet Explorer while the program is open, it will display a warning if you have some third-party web browser open. Click Yes to close it automatically, or close it yourself.
Some browser processes might take a long time to close, so CCleaner will warn about this - click No after waiting for another 10-30 seconds.
CCleaner, browser needs to be closed to clean the Internet Cache, Do you want CCleaner to close browser? Click Yes. CCleaner, The application is taking a long time to close, Would you like to force it to close? Wait about 10 seconds and click No.

Users of Microsoft Outlook might receive notices about Internet Explorer running in the background even when they have not launched IE at all. This is because the latest versions of Outlook silently spawn two iexplore.exe processes that are also visible in Task Manager. This is completely normal, just close Outlook and continue.

After a few seconds to a few minutes or so, you'll see the "Cleaning complete" message with the time consumed and details of files deleted.

Checking disk space usage by file type with CCleaner

Since version 5.01, the Disk Analyzer tool in CCleaner helps to find large files you completely forgot about.

Beware: this is a tool that also lists important system files if you configure it incorrectly - so please do not remove any item you do not know about.

Open Tools, Disk Analyzer. By default, the feature will find picture, music and video files, plus common document types. This is fine in most cases.

If you do want even better results, you can tick the Compressed checkbox in Categories section, but please make sure you do not delete files in system folders such as Windows, Program Files, MSOCache (MS Office installation cache folder), etc.

Tick the drive(s) you want to check and click Analyze.
CCleaner, Tools tab, Disk Analyzer. The default Categories are fine. Choose the drive(s) you want to check and click Analyze.

The process will take several minutes to complete, depending on the total number of files on the drive, and the speed of the disk.

You can click any item in the list of categories or the pie chart to display only the files that fall into the selected category. To show all detected files again, click All Categories on the left.

The file list in the bottom can be sorted by any column visible. Use check boxes to select or deselect displayed items.
If you have linked some folders with Junction or MKLink to get around the limitations of OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive), Dropbox or Google Drive, you will see duplicate entries for all files in these folders - do not delete any of these with Disk Analyzer!
CCleaner, Tools tab, Disk Analyzer, results. The file list below can be sorted by any column. Click a category name above to display only these file types.

You can hold down the Shift key to select multiple adjacent items in the file list, and Ctrl key to select non-adjacent items. Please do not select files in system folders such as Windows, Program Files, MSOCache (MS Office installation cache folder), etc.

Right-clicking allows many different actions: most useful are selecting highlighted files, and selecting all files of the selected type. Using the Open containing folder command helps you to move the large files to external drives.

If you're planning to remove many files at once, you should first export their paths and names using the Save to text file command - this allows easier recovery in case you erase something important by accident.

After double-checking the files you plan to get rid of, select Delete Selected Files from the right-click menu.
CCleaner, Tools tab, Disk Analyzer, results, right-click menu. After checking the files you want to remove, click 'Delete Selected Files'.

CCleaner's Disk Analyzer warns that you are about to delete the selected file(s): this really means delete, not something like moving to Recycle Bin for easy recovery.

Always check, double-check and triple-check that you're not removing anything important or something that you have no clue about, take a deep breath and click OK.
CCleaner, This process will delete the selected file(s) from your system, Are you sure you wish to proceed? Click OK.

Whoosh... you now have more available disk space.

Finding and removing duplicate files with CCleaner

CCleaner has an option to detect and erase duplicate files, but please beware: this is a powerful tool, so use it with extreme care!

The feature can be accessed by clicking the Tools tab and then opening Duplicate Finder (in CCleaner 4, it was called File Finder).
By default, most options are selected in the Match by and Ignore sections, and you should not change these unless you really know what you're doing. The Reset button allows reverting to defaults if you've messed the CCleaner's Duplicate Finder settings up real bad.

The Exclude tab can be used for defining drives and folders, or file types that will always be ignored during the search for identical items.

In the Include tab, all hard drives are selected by default. You can also search other drives if you need to, but in most cases just click Search.
CCleaner, Tools, Duplicate Finder. Click 'Search' to search for identical files.

The search for duplicates might take from several minutes to half an hour, depending on hard drive speeds and the amount of data to compare.
After the process has finished, a "File search has completed" message appears. Click OK.
CCleaner, Duplicate Finder, File search has completed. Click OK.

Go through the list and see which files or folders are safe to delete. Please remember: you do need to have some idea about what is necessary for programs to work properly.

Do not select files you have no idea about! Always leave duplicates in Program Files, Program Files (x86) and ProgramData folders unselected - these files are most probably required by Windows and/or installed programs.

You can choose the files to remove using checkboxes. Additionally, you can right-click on an item, expand Select duplicates in and click a folder name to quickly tick all detected duplicates inside it.
Please do not use the root of the drive (for example, C:\) here - deleting all these duplicates will most probably ruin your Windows installation and your day!
In the example below, the AMD graphics adapter driver's cache folder is used, but you should probably leave it alone if you have one. This is just a screenshot. Wink
You could also use the Select All of Type item on the right-click menu to quickly select all duplicate JPG image files, for example.
CCleaner, Duplicate Finder, results. Use right-click menu for quickly selecting items.

Then you can also mark certain folders as excluded - this will prevent displaying duplicates in there. For example, if you have linked some folders with Junction or MKLink to get around the limitations of OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive), Dropbox or Google Drive, you must exclude the symbolic links to prevent deleting important files.

To exclude a folder, right-click on an item in it, expand Exclude menu and choose the path.
You can later manage exclusions easily in the Exclude tab of CCleaner Duplicate Finder.
CCleaner, Duplicate Finder, results. Use right-click menu for quickly excluding items.

Now comes the final warning - Duplicate Finder removes the selected files permanently, without moving them to Recycle Bin! You might want to download and install Recuva before erasing anything.

Using the Save to text file button can later be helpful in finding out which items you removed (and possibly need to restore).
Please double-check (and triple-check) the list of selected items and only then click the Delete selected button on the bottom right.
CCleaner, Duplicate Finder, results. Click 'Delete Selected' to remove the identical items you selected.

The final warning appears, click OK after making sure you are not deleting the World Peace Project That Actually Works documents or Cure For Every Disease notes. Wink
CCleaner, Duplicate Finder, This will permanently delete selected files from your system. Click OK.

File removal probably takes just a few moments - it is always so much easier to mess things up than to restore order. After completion, a "The selected files have been successfully deleted" dialog appears. Click OK.

That's it!


 

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