[Windows] Best free privacy, history, and system cleaner

As we use our computers daily– and by extension the internet– we basically leave behind a digital footprint which can be a cause for concern for many of us out there. The internet history left behind by browsers, windows temporary files, search histories, recent documents, network passwords and log files all leave behind potentially sensitive information which we simply would not want to be viewed by other users of your computer. Of course there is also the risk of being hacked which would make this information much more readily available to be used against you in that event if it is left behind.

This sensitive information can be removed manually but doing so would be quite tedious and the amount of time it would take to do so would turn off many users almost immediately. Luckily, there is software out there which can automate the cleaning up of the information. Yes, privacy cleaners are the solution. Anyone who shares a computer or anyone who uses the internet – so that makes everyone then – should look into using one of these since we all want to protect our privacy.

This review is part of our Best Free Windows Software section. Check out more articles on the best free Windows programs by clicking here.

Table of Contents [CCleaner vs BleachBit vs KCleaner vs Privazer]

Best Free Privacy, History, And System Cleaner

ccleanerProgram Name: CCleaner with CCenhancer

Developer: Piriform

Download Size: 4.8MB

Version Reviewed: 4.0.5.4520

Requires: Windows 8/7/Vista/XP/2003/2008

Pros

  • Is feature-filled, cleans multiple aspects of your privacy/history/temp files/junk/traces/etc. related to Windows features and third-party software, including web browsers
  • Several browsers supported, including Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and Opera
  • Functionality can be further enhanced with CCenhancer, a third-party program
    • Note: CCenhancer is not officially supported by Piriform so if you decide to use it, this will be at your own risk.
  • Allows for secure erasure of your data/privacy/history/etc.
  • Has extras such as uninstaller, registry cleaner, startup monitor, file finder and drive wiper
  • Has portable version
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • The installer version of CCleaner comes bundled with bloatware during installation, such as Ask Toolbar. You can get the ‘slim’ or portable versions to avoid the bloatware.
  • Sometimes registry cleaner must be run multiple times before all errors are taken care of
  • Uninstaller is basic

Discussion

CCleaner is tough to beat when it comes to effectiveness as a privacy cleaner. In addition to erasing sensitive data CCleaner can allow for the freeing up of free space on the order of gigabytes since the data which it deletes builds up and takes up unnecessary space over time. This combination of being an excellent privacy cleaner as well as its ability to create free space is what makes it the number one pick. Combine it with CCenhancer and its effectiveness increases further. What more could you ask for?

The user interface is clean and well laid out, making it easy for users navigate and select the various options. At the top of the main screen, along with the name of the program, information about the computer on which it is installed is displayed such as the version of Windows, processor type, amount of ram and chipset. On the left of the screen, the Cleaner function can be accessed as well as the Registry Cleaner, options and other built in tools such as an uninstaller. The middle section of the screen displays information about whatever function is being utilized currently; be it the Cleaner or otherwise.

The core of the program’s functionality is the Cleaner. This will take care of most if not all of the sensitive information left behind after a period of using your PC. The program allows for removal of information left behind by Windows as well as third party applications. The Windows categories are as follows:

  • Internet Explorer
  • Windows Explorer
  • System
  • Advanced

With Internet Explorer, temporary internet files, history, cookies, recently typed URLs, Index.dat files, last download location, autocomplete form history and saved passwords can be cleaned.

As it relates to Windows Explorer, recent documents, thumbnail cache, taskbar jump lists, the list in the Start Menu’s Run dialog box which contains programs run from it, as well as Windows Explorer most recently used lists are cleaned.

System files which can be cleaned are files found in the recycle bin, temporary files, information stored in the default Windows Clipboard, memory dymps, Chkdsk file fragments, Windows log files, Windows error reporting, DNS cache, Font Cache, Start Menu Shortcuts as well as Desktop Shortcuts.

Under the Advanced category, windows event logs, old prefetch data, the menu order cache, the tray notifications cache, the window size/location cache, the environment path, user assist history, IIS Log files, custom files and folder can be cleaned and the facility is also available for the wiping of free space securely. (Check out our Best Free Secure File Erasing Program article for further information on secure file erasing.)

To run the cleaner, you have the choice of doing an analysis first — which will give you detailed information about the files which will be cleaned — and then actually running the Cleaner.

In addition to information left behind by Windows, several third party applications are supported. These include Windows Media Player, eMule, Google Toolbar, Microsoft Office, Nero, Adobe Acrobat, WinRAR, WinAce, WinZip and many more including several of the browsers covered in our Best Free Web Browser article.

The installation of CCenhancer alongside CCleaner adds support for cleaning of 1,000 additional programs that CCleaner doesn’t support natively, which can only be a good thing since many installed application has the potential to store sensitive information which could be used against you.

In addition to effectively erasing sensitive information, another effect an excellent privacy cleaner of the caliber of CCleaner has is the freeing up of valuable space on your hard drive. Of course, if you choose to utilize CCenhancer as well, even more free space can be freed up.

As mentioned previously CCleaner comes bundled with some useful features in addition to the coveted Cleaner. The registry cleaner is fairly self-explanatory. Simply select Scan For Issues after which your registry will be run through for errors and then select Fix Selected Issues to rectify them. You will be given the option of backing up the registry, in case any changes are made which negatively affect your computer’s performance.

Additional features include an Uninstaller and a Startup Monitor — which allows you to control which programs startup with Windows and the extensions which start with some selected web browsers — as well as allowing you to alter scheduled tasks and context menus. There is also a File Finder, a System Restore point manager and a Drive Wiper which allows for either the wiping of an entire drive or partition or the free space on the selected drive or partition.

It should also be noted that the files deleted by CCleaner can either be deleted securely or normally. Secure file deletion will take longer to complete than normal file deletion. The secure overwrite options are as follows:

  • Simple Overwrite (1 pass)
  • Advanced Overwrite (3 passes)
  • Complex Overwrite (7 passes)
  • Very Complex Overwrite (35 passes)

CCleaner also handles cookies intelligently, allowing you to keep cookies from services which you frequently use such as those from Google services as well as Windows Live services to name a few. You can also manually select cookies which you don’t want to be deleted. Select files and folders can also be included or excluded from the cleaning process.

CCleaner is solid all around and the only issue I encountered was that sometimes registry cleaner must be run multiple times before all errors are taken care of. CCleaner is effective and simple and will get the job done and if you haven’t, I urge you to give it a try.

Runner Up

BleachbitProgram Name: BleachBit

Developer: BleachBit

Download Size: 5.9MB

Version Reviewed: 0.9.6

Requires: Windows XP/Vista/7

Discussion

BleachBit is quite the capable privacy cleaner. In addition to being open source, it is both simple and effective.

Bleachbit’s interface is organized into 2 main columns. In the column on the left side, you will find what the author of the software refers to as Cleaners. These are simply the different categories of files which BleachBit is capable of scanning for and deleting. The main, right side column displays information about the files which will be deleted as well as the disk space which will be recovered on deleting these files.

In order to carry out an operation, you must first select all of the Cleaners which you wish to utilize, after which you have the choice of either carrying out a preview which will simply display information about the files to be deleted as well as the disk space to be recovered, or you can skip that step and immediately hit Clean which will permanently delete files associated with a particular Cleaner. You could also choose the more pragmatic route and do a Preview followed by a Clean thus giving you a better idea of what exactly you would be cleaning before doing so and giving yourself the opportunity to make any changes to the proposed actions before carrying them out. BleachBit is capable of identifying and removing the cache, cookies, Internet history, temporary files, and log files for 96 applications including Firefox, Opera, Safari, APT, Google Chrome and Flash.

On deleting files, you have the option to overwrite files once, making sure that they are securely erased. You also have the option of selecting individual files and folders for deletion as well as the option to overwrite the free space on your hard drives and partitions in order to prevent files deleted via the Windows Recycle Bin from being recovered. You can also specify a location which you do not want to be modified by BleacBit. BleachBit even allows you to destroy any evidence that you used the program in the first place. Simply select Shred Settings and Quit from the File drop down menu and the settings utilized while operating the program will be erased.

In terms of functionality, BleachBit is clearly top-notch. Where it falls down is in its user interface and the amount of supported programs; by default CCleaner (without CCenhancer) supports more programs than BleacBit. Of course the user interface not being as “pretty” as that of CCleaner can be considered a very minor issue as functionality is key in any program.

Overall, this is honestly a great program and can fulfill most of your privacy cleaner needs quite easily. It is quite deserving of being the Runner-Up today and is definitely worth checking out.

Honorable Mention 1

KCleaner1Program Name: KCleaner

NOTE: The installer version of KCleaner comes bundled with bloatware during installation, such as Relevant Knowledge. Either download the ‘lite’ version to avoid Relevant Knowledge or the portable version to avoid all bloatware.

Developer: KC Softwares

Download Size: 1.4MB

Version Reviewed: 1.3.0.4.7

Requires: Windows NT/98/Me/2000/XP/2003/Vista/Server 2008/7/8

Discussion

If you are looking for an effective means of erasing your digital footprint, KCleaner is a very capable choice and is worth exploring.

Although its interface is not as polished as that of its counterparts CCleaner and Privazer, navigating around the user interface and carrying out various functions is relatively simple so you will not be left scratching your head trying to figure out how to operate the program.

The program can either be operated in Manual mode or in Automatice mode. In Manual mode, you have the option of carrying out either the Analyse or the Clean functions. You can choose to skip the analysing part and jump. Automatic mode carries out both the scan and cleaning. Other options for scanning and cleaning are also available. These are:

  • Analyse, clean and shutdown
  • Analyse clean and close
  • Analyse, clean and reboot

Several types of data can also be erased with KCleaner. These include, files from the recycle bin, windows installer duplicates, Apple installer cahce, Sun/Java Installer cache, adobe reader installer cache, temporary files, recent files, cookies, temprorary files, Firefox cache, Google updater chache and many more. You can also specify the deletion method which you prefer to use when deleting your sensitive data. The deletion methods are as follows:

  • Standard( just regularly deletes files)
  • 1 Pass random
  • 3 Pass DoD 5220.22-M

KCleaner offers more customizability in terms of adjusting exactly what is to be scanned when compared to Privazer and is unique in that it allows for either the shutdown or rebooting of your PC after analysing and cleaning it as well as closing the program after analysing and cleaning. It is however lacking in options when compared to CCleaner.

KCleaner is effective and flexible and is a solid privacy cleaner.

Honorable Mention 2

Privazer screenshotProgram Name: Privazer

Developer: Goversoft

Download Size: 4.8MB

Version Reviewed: 2.1.1

Requires: Windows XP/Vista/7/8

Discussion

Privazer is a decent privacy cleaner with a well laid out interface, allowing users to easily navigate the program and select exactly the areas which they wish to tend to.

Privazer is easy to use and requires little effort to begin scanning for sensitive information. You first begin the process of cleansing your computer of sensitive information by first selecting the device from which you want to scan and erase such data.

In addition to selecting the device which you wish to scan from, you can select what type of data you want to be erased. The options are as follows:

  • Residual traces of old file names
  • Residual traces of old files
  • Internet activity
  • Cookies
  • Messengers
  • Software use
  • Registry
  • Windows history
  • Memory
  • Start_JumpLists
  • Indexing
  • Temporary files
  • Recycle bin
  • Other(LOG files, etc.)

After making your desired selections, simply hit scan and you’re on your way.

Like CCleaner, Privazer is also capable of intelligently handling cookies and not touching those cookies related to frequently accessed services such as Windws Live services and Google services.

Like any decent privacy cleaner should, Privazer allows for the secure erasing of the data it deletes. It uses the following methods for secure erasure:

  • British HMG IS5, Baseline Standard(1Passes)
  • British IS5, Enhance Standard(3 Passes)
  • Russian GOST P50739-95(2 Passes)
  • German Federal Office for Information Security(3 Passes )
  • US Navy NAVSO P-5239-26(3 Passes)
  • Canada Communications Security Establishment ITSG-06(3 Passes)
  • German VSITR(7 Passes)
  • Bruce Schneier’s Algorithm(7 Passes)
  • Canadian RCMP TSSIT OPS-II(7 Passes)
  • Peter Gutmann’s Algorithm(35 Passes)

Privazer can no doubt hold its own but CCleaner offers far more options to users in terms of areas to clean and is more thorough. It is also quite limited in terms of the browser it supports when compared to both CCleaner and the CCleaner + CCenhancer combination. BleachBit also offers far more categories for cleaning.

Although not as effective as CCleaner, Privazer may come in handy for a quick run through and as mentioned before is easy to use and it is effective at cleaning up the areas which it supports.

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  9. melen001

    [@melen001]

    Came back to correct myself…… DiskMax DOES NOT, I repeat, does not have any Babylon Dll’s. I was terribly wrong. It is part of a Microsoft software. Check it out here>>> http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=265488 … You can also read this>>> I created a virtual machine and did a fresh install of Windows 8.1, with the intention of installing only DiskMax on it and investigating what you are seeing.

    But even before I installed DiskMax, on that fresh Windows install, there were already entries related to the Babylon Toolbar there (legitimate compatibility-related information bundled inside Windows):

    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Extension Compatibility\{2EECD738-5844-4A99-B4B6-146BF802613B}

    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Extension Compatibility\{97F2FF5B-260C-4CCF-834A-2DDA4E29E39E}

    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Extension Compatibility\{98889811-442D-49DD-99D7-DC866BE87DBC}

    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Extension Compatibility\{2EECD738-5844-4A99-B4B6-146BF802613B}

    And more…

    Each of those entries have forwarding links that go through Microsoft (to Babylon.com):

    http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=265488

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  11. melen001

    [@Giovanni]

    Hello…

    Just want you to know about DiskMax and what I encountered after installation … Please read email that was sent to DiskMax site…. Hello,

    Just want you to know that after downloading and installing DiskMax I found Babylon Toolbar DLL’s in my registry. I’m not sure if you are ware of this but I would advise you to take a look and examine you software and the installation process. You do have a very good piece of software and it’s a pity that this must happen. Sorry to say that I have uninstalled it and I will not use it even thought it is very good.

    Sincerely,

    George Melendez
    Humacao, Puerto Rico

    Also read my review on Cnet…. Very good but just one BIG PROBLEM……”

    October 25, 2013 | By melen001

    Version: DiskMax 4.71

    Pros

    Works perfectly well and does everything it says it does.

    Cons

    There is one very BIG PROBLEM. It installed Babylon Toolbar DLL’s and that is not part of the deal. I did not see anywhere when installing advising that Babylon Toolbar was to be installed or it’ DLL’s either so I am not very trust worthy of this software. Who knows, maybe when up-dating it just might be that the missing files for Babylon Toolbar just might be installed with the up-date. Who knows what else can happen… I’m just saying so I’m not taking any risk so I am uninstalling this tool after I finish this review. Sorry Diskmax… nice tool but very poor “surprise” included in the installation.

    Summary

    BYE BYE Diskmax…. Good tool but sneaky installation including Babylon DLL’s… just not right…

  12. MarkQ

    [@Mr.Dave]
    As regards Lite version of KCleaner, to the best of my somewhat-outdated knowledge, it’s just the standard installer MINUS the “goodies” (similar to the slim-build of CCleaner). Portable version, however, as you must already know, can’t create directories, shortcuts or shell extensions and, therefore, requires a little experience to use.
    Your second question, I believe, can’t be answered in a general ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Personally, I’m always vigilant, as William advises, when installing any software and have never had anything undesirable sneak in on any of my computers (on the rare occasion I wasn’t, I must have been lucky). In order to avoid even the slimmest chance of something managing to break in despite all my vigilance (although it has never happened to me), I always look for plain/lite/slim or portable versions. And if I can’t find one and am wary, I don’t install the program at all.
    Reputability of the vendor (and the download provider) is very important for me as well but I also trust my firewall, antivirus, anti-spyware and instincts. Cheers.

  13. MarkQ

    A few things concerning the part about CCleaner that I’d like to point out (as a sincere critique):
    1- A con that I believe needs highlighting is the lack of an off-line help manual (often overlooked by people who know enough or who aren’t inquisitive enough).
    2- The bundling of bloatware with the installer is not an issue with the software itself, and should be mentioned (just like you did with KCleaner) in the introduction.
    3- Since it is as a privacy/history(/junk) cleaner that you’re reviewing it, you could have left out cons of registry cleaner and uninstaller altogether or brought them up in the discussion.
    4- Lastly, why “CCleaner with CCEnhancer” and not just “CCleaner”? I mean, isn’t it enough including that information as a pro and especially when BleachBit (and, of course, System Ninja) can also use CCEnhancer/winapp2.ini.?
    Great job overall and appreciate you both, William and Ashraf, for all your hardwork.

  14. Tom

    Late to the party… but that doesn’t deter me from mixing…

    CCleaner… I really like the ability to disable shell context entries on my file explorer right-click menu. Simple, safe and reversible.

    Privazer… 1) check out their “Shell Bag” tool… I found remnants of files that were on my system since day one… Why Windows registry saves these artifacts is beyond me. 2) provides a menu context entry for file/folder/drive wiping… nice to have.

  15. melen001

    What can I say but Ccleaner is the best or is it? What I mean is that I’ve started using JetClean and it does a job equal or maybe better that Ccleaner. I’ve been using JetClean for about 2 weeks so I will have to give it a ride for a longer period of time to to be partial but it truly does a VERY GOOD job so maybe you guys should give it a try and so if you agree. Anyways Ccleaner is an EXCELLENT tool no doubt…….

  16. William
    Author/

    [@HROCH] [@Ashraf] Thank you very much for your kind comments.

    [@Mr.Dave] Portable apps are just as their name suggests, portable. They can be placed on removable media such as USB flash drives and run on any computer without actually installing them.

    It is also possible to avoid installing bloatware. Just be vigilant while installing any software and watch out for any suggestions to install the bloatware.

  17. CJ Cotter

    I occasionally use Privazer, but be aware of one of the quirky things that it does.

    Some banks, like Chase, require that your computer be “recognized” as having accessed your account previously, before they will allow you to access it again. It’s not a cookie that they use. It’s something else like a registry script or something written in a .dat file.

    If your computer is not “recognized”, Chase makes you go through an additional step of sending you a temporary access code either by email or phone call. Once Chase verifies that it is you, your computer is “tagged” somehow for future account access.

    Privazer erases the Chase tag, so that I get the “We don’t recognize your computer….” message the next time I want to access my account. My daily temp-and-internet files cleaner does not cause this problem. Just Privazer.

  18. Mr.Dave

    I think it’s great that we get warnings about bloatware and “nasties” in both reviews and comments, everyone recommends getting “lite” or “portable” versions. It would be helpful to know:
    a) do the portable or “lite” versions have the same functionality?
    b) is it possible to prevent all the undesirables from moving in, by carefully unchecking or checking the right boxes during installation?

    If the answer to (b) is ever “No”, then I would not want even a different version of -anything- from that company…. They’ve already proven themselves to be disreputable and who knows what an upgrade would invite.

    By the way, CCleaner for several years now. I also use IObit’s Advanced System Care, they each find things the other misses.

  19. Godel

    You won’t need more than a single over-write with today’s HDDs. Most of the multipass erasure methods are for drive technologies of days gone bye.

    Certainly the Gutmann 35 pass method is unnecessary; Mr Gutmann said so himself in the mid nineties.

  20. MarkQ

    Another vote for CCleaner which I consider enough as it is, and to which Piriform keeps on adding newer entries with nearly every new version. Its effectiveness, however, can be increased manyfold by coupling it with CCEnhancer; a convenient means of downloading and placing a carefully maintained latest winapp.ini where it belongs (one can, of course, do that manually as well).
    Privazer is AGGRESSIVELY thorough; gives one little control except when to pull the trigger and, therefore, totally not-recommended for inexperienced users. Has a portable version, by the way.
    BleachBit is open-source; has a portable version; is pretty similar-looking to CCleaner and can use the winapp.ini mentioned above too (+4).
    Never used KCleaner, but if you feel like giving it a whirl, be sure to look for and use the portable or the Lite version (the standard one is loaded with nasties!).

  21. Godel

    Oh, BTW what’s the situation with these kind of programs and SSDs?

    With the SSD’s firmware acting as a man-in-the-middle due to wear leveling, I don’t think it’s possible anymore to deliberately overwrite a particular byte or block. On the other hand, with Trim, the need to do so is probably reduced.

    I dunno.

    You’d also need to be mindful of Windows 8′s File History function if you were really determined to get rid of some file or folder.

  22. Godel

    CCleaner with CCEnhancer for daily use, but the most thorough (and possibly most frightening) is PrivaZer.

    While I’ve never had a problem with it, make sure you have a backup before you use it for the first time. Read all the options before you commit to clean. The first scan can take a long time but subsequent scans are much shorter.

    Privazer is updated fairly frequently.

  23. Seamus McSeamus

    Not to sound like a parrot, but it’s CCleaner with CCEnhancer for me. I’ve test driven others over the years (most recently, Privazer), but I always stick with CCleaner.

    Ashraf, I suspect this could be the most one-sided “Best Free Windows Software” article yet!

  24. JonE

    CCleaner with CCEnhancer

    I used XCleaner once, still have it installed, but didn’t care for it much. There was another one I installed, a Geovanni recommendation, that I don’t remember the name of that was promtly uninstalled. I can see where XCleaner might be good, I just haven’t had the time to learn to configure it.

    I also use Evidence Eliminator; not Free, of course. I read an article not too long ago that indicated that Robin Hood Software will once again be developing software in the future, but can’t remember where I read it.