Over time, every Windows installation builds up excess cruft that just wastes space. Files and programs that we fail to clean up contribute to the problem. Unless you step in, you will soon encounter a low disk space warning or a slow computer.

Let’s take a look at the tools you can utilize to clean up Windows 10. We will go beyond alternatives to CCleaner! We’ll examine a variety of programs to use in different situations.

Clean Useless Files

When cleaning up temporary files on your PC, you have two main options: the built-in Windows Disk Cleanup and CCleaner. Since they have different strengths, however, they can be used in harmony.

Disk Cleanup

The Disk Cleanup utility is part of Windows. You can access it by typing Disk Cleanup into the Start Menu. Give it a few minutes to analyze the system and it will present you with a list of items for review.

You can remove most of the items without thought. You might want to hold off on cleaning the Windows ESD installation files option though. Removing this saves space, but you won’t be able to reset your computer using the PC Refresh feature without Windows 10 installation media.

Other than this caveat, you should have no problem removing files using Disk Cleanup. Feel free to exclude any category you aren’t sure about. Make sure to click the Clean system files button first to view everything that can be removed!


If you want to go further, using CCleaner is your best option. This trusted utility cleans many more applications than the built-in Windows tool. Open it up and use the Cleaner tab on the left to get an overview of everything you can remove.

CCleaner allows you to clean up more Windows files than Disk Cleanup, even down to small bits like the last download location in internet Explorer. You’re also able to clean up files for installed apps, such as Chrome and Firefox, media players, and Office applications.

It’s worth reviewing the checkboxes that CCleaner selects by default before using it. Some options, like removing thumbnails, aren’t necessary because Windows will re-create them when you access the files again. Use the Analyze button to find out how much space each category is taking up. Choose Clean when you’re ready to delete those files.

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CCleaner also has an option for cleaning the registry. Don’t do this. Even a trusted registry cleaner like CCleaner is useless at best, as removing hundreds of registry “errors” won’t improve performance at all, and you’re more likely to break something with the excess cleaning than help anything.

Clean Large Files

Once you’ve removed junk system files, the next step is to analyze installed apps and programs. Here, TreeSize Free can help you identify the folders that take up the most space on your system.

Scan for Large Items

Open up TreeSize and click Scan on the top bar. You can choose your entire C: drive (which is a good idea) or scan a particular folder. You might be asked to provide administrative permission. After a few minutes, TreeSize will show you everything on your system, arranged by the largest files first.

Your largest folders will probably be your Users folder, the Windows folder, and the Program Files folder. There’s not much you can do in the Windows directory without causing issues, so let’s stick to the Program Files and your User folder.

The Program Files folder (including the Program Files (x86) folder on 64-bit installations of Windows) contains all of your installed apps and programs. Massive installations like Adobe creative products, as well as games, are likely to show up here. Have a look to see which apps are taking up the most space.

Eliminate Large Items No Longer Needed

Once you’ve identified which software is taking up space and which you’d like to remove, type Programs into the Start Menu to open Programs and Features. While you can sort by size in this menu, it’s often not reliable, which is why we used TreeSize first. Locate the software you’d like to remove, then right-click its name and choose Uninstall. Follow the prompts, which might be different for different pieces of software, to toss the application out.

If you’re not sure of whether you should remove something, check out Should I Remove It? for advice from other users.

Last is your personal folder under Users. This is where Windows stores all of our personal files, including images and video. Another big folder might be AppData, which contains information used by apps for your preferences and information. Applications usually store cached files here.

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For example, if you’re saving music offline with Spotify Premium, you’ll see a lot of space being used in its folder (if you didn’t already run CCleaner).

To clean up space from your own folder, move large files to an external hard drive, or delete old stuff you don’t need. Additionally, if you have a lot of files synced from Dropbox or Google Drive, use their preferences menus to de-sync some files from your local machine in order to save space.

You’ll always be able to access those files through the web interface.

Clean Bloatware

We’ve cleaned up temporary files and gotten rid of user data we don’t need. The next step is to remove pre-installed bloatware. Whether “recommended” Windows 10 Modern apps or manufacturer-installed junk, removing this is a great step anytime you install Windows or take a big cleaning run.

We’ve shown you how to remove Windows 10 pre-installed apps using 10AppsManager. This free tool gives you control over Windows’ stock Modern apps. Once that side is done, use The PC Decrapifier to uninstall manufacturer crapware. This includes premium antivirus trials or branded software that duplicates Windows functionality.

Clean Your Desktop

Even with a clean computer, a messy desktop can lead to confusion. If you’re storing all your important files on your desktop, take some time to clean up your desktop once and for all — you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes.

The simplest way to clean your desktop is to move all files to another location. Next, create shortcuts to the files you really need on your desktop. If this doesn’t seem plausible, then Fences might be the app you need.

Fences allows you to manage your desktop icons much more powerfully than built-in Windows tools. With this tool you can wrangle similar icons together and hide them when you’re not using them, among other abilities.

With a clean computer and clean desktop, you’ll feel like you’re using a whole new system!

Careful Cleaning

We already touched on not using registry cleaners with CCleaner, but it bears repeating with all the fake software out there: do not download “My Clean PC 3000” or other such junk programs.

These fake apps find hundreds or thousands of “issues” that it asks you to pay to clean.

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The tools above will do all the cleaning you need for free. And they won’t spawn ads or other crap onto your computer like the fakes do. Even legitimate software should not be used to clean your registry. It’s just unnecessary.

Finally, be careful where you download from. It’s usually safest to grab software from the manufacturer’s website or trusted sites as many third-party sites like Download.com include bundled junk in their installers.

Go Back to Stock Windows 10

You’ve read all the above and you don’t want to do the work of cleaning? Maybe you feel that your system is so full of crap that it will never be fixed. Windows 10 has a built-in option that you’ll love!

The PC Refresh option is a way to jump back to a standard install of Windows, while keeping your programs. The only problem is that computer manufacturers can customize the Refresh images to install their own crapware back again.

If you want to use Refresh and get a standard Windows 10 image direct from Microsoft, type Recovery into the Start Menu to open the recovery panel. Scroll down to the bottom and click Learn how to start fresh with a clean installation of Windows. This will bring you to a page that helps you get started. You’ll have the option of doing a full reset (deleting your data) or just resetting installed programs.

Some computer vendors are worse than others with junkware. If you’re overwhelmed with crapware, this method might be faster than manually removing everything.

Squeaky Clean

These tools, while different, all work together to give you a clean Windows system. You might not need all of them right now, but they’re great to keep in your toolkit for when things get a bit messy.

Now that you know all about cleaning up Windows 10, take a few minutes to perform spring cleaning and clean up your hardware, too!

What other tools are essential for cleaning your system? Let us know how much space you freed up using these methods, and add to the list, down in the comments!

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