Disk Cleanup is a built-in tool in Windows that helps free up space on your hard drive by removing unnecessary and temporary files. It can safely be used to regain storage space and keep your computer running smoothly. However, there are some things to keep in mind when using Disk Cleanup.
What does Disk Cleanup do?
Disk Cleanup searches for files that can be safely deleted to free up disk space. Some of the file types it targets include:
- Temporary internet files
- Temporary system files
- Recycle bin files
- Error reports
- System log files
- Old Windows update files
By removing these unnecessary files that accumulate over time, Disk Cleanup can recover gigabytes of storage space. It essentially helps clean out the clutter on your hard drive.
Is it safe to use?
Using Disk Cleanup as recommended is generally safe for freeing up space on your Windows PC. The tool is built into Windows specifically for this purpose. It has several safety checks built-in:
- Disk Cleanup will calculate how much space can be recovered before deleting anything. This lets you preview how much space you will free up.
- It shows you which types of files will be removed, allowing you to deselect any you may want to keep.
- Any files deleted will first go to the Recycle Bin, in case you need to restore them.
- It will not touch any personal documents, media, downloads, software installations, or system files you need.
Microsoft has refined Disk Cleanup over many Windows versions. When used properly, it should not delete anything you still need.
What are the risks?
There are some risks to be aware of when running Disk Cleanup:
- Accidentally deleting important files – While rare, you may accidentally delete files you still need if not paying close attention to what is being removed.
- Removing Windows updates – Clearing out old Windows Updates can sometimes cause issues or re-download updates you’ve already installed.
- Deleting the wrong downloads – Downloads that appear unused may still be needed, so exercise caution when deleting them.
- Clearing relevant log files – System log files can help diagnose problems, so don’t over-clear logs.
- Interrupting the scan – Let Disk Cleanup fully complete its scan and cleaning to avoid corruption.
As long as you monitor what is being deleted and are cautious about removing Windows Updates and logs, Disk Cleanup presents little risk of deleting anything useful. But it’s still wise to backup your system periodically.
How can I use it safely?
Here are some tips to ensure you use Disk Cleanup safely:
- Preview what will be deleted first – Carefully review the file types it flags to ensure you don’t need them.
- Backup important files – Keep backups just in case you ever do remove something important accidentally.
- Select file types carefully – Only tick the box for file types you are sure can be removed.
- Don’t delete Windows updates – Unless you are certain an update is causing problems, don’t remove it.
- Leave system logs alone – Only remove log files that are older than a few months.
- Scan individual drives – Make sure to customize which drives are scanned rather than just cleaning your whole system.
Exercising some caution goes a long way in keeping Disk Cleanup safe. Take time to understand what types of files it finds and selectively clean only what you don’t need.
When should you avoid using it?
There are some instances where you may want to avoid running Disk Cleanup or at least be very careful if you do:
- If your computer has been having hardware problems or blue screening, as important logs could be deleted.
- When diagnosing a problem, issue or crash on your PC.
- If you don’t recognize what some of the file types are that it finds.
- When you’re hurried or distracted, as you may not review the files carefully.
- On a brand new Windows installation, as little accumulation needs to be cleaned.
- Before editing the registry, updating drivers, or making major system changes.
- If you don’t have backups of your important files.
It’s best to avoid Disk Cleanup when diagnosing system problems, making major changes, or if you don’t understand what files it wants to delete. And running it carefully is wise if you lack backups.
How often should you run it?
There are no hard rules for how often to run Disk Cleanup, but here are some general guidelines:
- Run it once a month for regular cleaning of temporary files.
- Run it after major Windows updates which often leave update files behind.
- Run it if you notice your hard drive space getting low.
- Don’t run it more than once a week in most cases.
- You can run it on new PCs to remove manufacturer bloatware.
- Only run it when your system seems sluggish or you need more space.
Disk Cleanup doesn’t need to be run too frequently. Let temporary files build up for a month before cleaning them out. And only run it when you really need more free disk space.
What are the steps to run Disk Cleanup?
Running Disk Cleanup manually is simple. Just follow these steps:
- Open the Start menu and search for “Disk Cleanup”.
- Click on the Disk Cleanup desktop app icon when it appears.
- Select the drive you want to clean up and click OK.
- Disk Cleanup will scan the drive for files to remove.
- Once the scan completes, you can preview how much space can be saved.
- Review the file types listed and uncheck any you don’t want removed.
- Click the Clean up system files button for more options.
- Click OK to start deleting the selected file types.
- Allow Disk Cleanup to complete fully before using the PC.
Be sure to review the list of file types thoroughly before clicking OK. And consider creating a system restore point before running Disk Cleanup the first few times.
What are the pros of running Disk Cleanup?
Some benefits of using Disk Cleanup include:
- Frees up disk space – Its main purpose is recovering gigabytes of hard drive space.
- Removes clutter – Wipes away useless system files and downloaded clutter.
- Improves performance – A clogged up hard drive can slow down your PC.
- Ease of use – Disk Cleanup is fast, simple, and built right into Windows.
- It’s free – There is no cost to run Microsoft’s built-in tool.
- Increases available storage – Recover space to store documents, media and other files.
- Facilitates upgrades – Freeing up space can allow installing major Windows updates.
The bottom line is that Disk Cleanup can quickly regain large amounts of wasted hard drive space with just a few clicks. Just be sure to use caution when selecting files to delete.
What are the cons of running Disk Cleanup?
Some downsides of Disk Cleanup include:
- Risk of deleting needed files – The biggest risk is accidentally removing files you still need.
- Requires monitoring – You have to carefully check the files it flags to avoid mistakes.
- May Delete useful logs – Excessive deleting of logs could impact diagnosing PC issues.
- Interruptions can corrupt files – Letting it fully finish reduces corruption risks.
- Doesn’t delete all junk files – Other cleaners like CCleaner can target more unnecessary files.
- Requires occasional re-scanning – Temporary files will eventually build back up again.
- Can’t retrieve original files – You can only restore deleted files from a backup.
The main drawback is that Disk Cleanup can permanently delete files, so appropriate care must be taken when running it. Maintaining backups provides an added level of protection.
What are some alternative disk cleaners?
Some alternative disk cleaner tools besides the built-in Disk Cleanup include:
|CCleaner||Popular third-party cleaner that removes browser caches, temporary files, and unnecessary Windows components.|
|Wise Disk Cleaner||Cleans residual junk files, malware, and fixes registry issues.|
|BleachBit||Open source disk cleaner that shreds files to prevent recovery.|
|System Ninja||Cleans junk files and optimizes system settings for better performance.|
|SlimCleaner||Manage startup programs, clean the registry, remove bloatware, etc.|
These tools can target more unnecessary files than Disk Cleanup, but may require more technical skill to use properly. Disk Cleanup remains a safe baseline option.
Should you use Disk Cleanup or third-party cleaners?
For most users, running the built-in Disk Cleanup utility periodically is sufficient for basic cleaning of Windows systems. Advanced users may benefit from supplements like CCleaner for more aggressive clean-up of browser caches, download folders, and unused Windows components.
Third party utilities like Wise Disk Cleaner offer useful extras for power users like registry cleaners and malware scans. But they require more discretion to avoid removing anything important.
Ultimately, a combination of Disk Cleanup for simple cleaning and an additional utility like CCleaner for cache management tends to work well for most people. But sticking strictly to Disk Cleanup is fine for more casual users.
What happens when Disk Cleanup deletes files?
Here is what happens when Disk Cleanup deletes files:
- The tool flags unnecessary file types like temporary internet files, logs, and system caches.
- You select which types of files to delete after reviewing the list.
- Disk Cleanup moves the selected files to your Recycle Bin when deletion starts.
- If your Recycle Bin reaches maximum size, older files will be permanently deleted.
- Files in the Recycle Bin can be restored until it is emptied manually.
- Once the Recycle Bin is emptied, deleted files are permanently gone from the system.
So files removed by Disk Cleanup can be recovered from the Recycle Bin until you manually empty it. But emptied files cannot be restored without a backup or recovery software.
Does Disk Cleanup improve computer speed?
Cleaning up your disks with Disk Cleanup can provide a modest boost to system performance and speed in some cases. Here are some of the ways it helps:
- Removes files that slow down boots – Lots of temporary files bog down startups.
- Frees up RAM usage – With more free disk space, RAM can work more efficiently.
- Speeds up searches – Finding files is faster with less drive clutter.
- Improves application loading – Apps launch faster with cleaner storage.
- Reduces fragmentations – Heavily fragmented drives access data slower.
- Deletes update leftovers – Old Windows update files take up space.
- Cleans bloated caches – Web browser caches can keep growing.
The actual performance gains will depend on how cluttered your system is and hardware like your CPU, RAM and drive speeds. But Disk Cleanup can help reclaim wasted resources to deliver a minor speed boost in many cases.
Should you use Disk Cleanup on SSDs?
Disk Cleanup can be used on solid-state drives (SSDs), but the benefits are more limited compared to traditional hard disk drives (HDDs).
Since SSDs don’t get fragmented like HDDs, one of the main advantages of Disk Cleanup goes away. Still, it can reclaim a bit of space by deleting browser caches, logs, and other unneeded files on an SSD.
One thing to keep in mind is that constantly writing and deleting files on SSDs can wear them out over time. So aggressive or repeated use of cleaners may shorten the lifespan of an SSD slightly. Moderately using Disk Cleanup only when space runs low is recommended for SSDs.
Does Disk Cleanup improve security?
Disk Cleanup can offer some security benefits by removing unnecessary files and caches that may pose privacy or malware risks:
- Deletes browsing history – Wipes out logs, caches and cookies from web browsing.
- Removes download files – Gets rid of old downloaded program installers and files.
- Clears Windows patch logs – Can contain details about your system that could assist attacks.
- Erases system event logs – Logs can record usage patterns and operations.
- Wipes free disk space – Reduces leftover fragments that could hold private data.
- Limits storage for malware – Malware may be unable to install and spread without free space.
That said, Disk Cleanup is not a replacement for security software and good privacy practices. But it can mitigate some potential risks by removing artifacts that could hold clues for bad actors.
Disk Cleanup is generally safe to use on Windows PCs as recommended by Microsoft. It deletes primarily temporary files and system caches to recover storage space and modest performance gains. Exercising care when selecting file types to remove avoids deleting anything important accidentally.
Using Disk Cleanup every month or so to wipe away clutter is fine for most users. The built-in tool offers a simple way to clean your disks by removing gigabytes of unnecessary files. Just be sure to review the file list carefully first and maintain backups of critical data.
Advanced users may also supplement Disk Cleanup with a more aggressive utility like CCleaner periodically. But Disk Cleanup alone can satisfy the basic disk cleaning needs of many people when used properly.