Is it safe to Disk Cleanup?

Disk Cleanup is a built-in tool in Windows that helps free up space on your hard drive by deleting unnecessary and temporary files. But is it really safe to use? Let’s take a look at what Disk Cleanup does and whether you should use it.

What Does Disk Cleanup Do?

When you run Disk Cleanup, it searches your hard drive for files that can be safely deleted to free up disk space. Here are some of the main types of files Disk Cleanup targets:

  • Temporary internet files – Browser cache and cookies
  • Recycle Bin – Deleted files
  • Temporary Windows files – Error reports, log files, etc.
  • Thumbnail cache – Thumbnail images of files
  • Offline webpages – Locally stored webpages for offline viewing
  • Old Windows updates – Installers for previously installed updates

Disk Cleanup calculates how much space you can recover by deleting each category of files. You can then choose which types of files to delete.

Is Disk Cleanup Safe?

Using Disk Cleanup is generally considered safe because it deletes temporary and unneeded files that are safe to remove. The types of files it targets do not contain personal data or programs you need to run your computer.

However, there are a few caveats to be aware of:

  • Make sure you do not delete the wrong files – Carefully review the file categories before deleting.
  • Backup important data first – As with any major cleanup, backup your files.
  • Don’t delete Windows updates – Unless you are very low on space.
  • Avoid Disk Cleanup bugs – Rarely, bugs could lead to important data loss.

As long as you are careful about which files you delete, Disk Cleanup should not delete anything you need. The major categories it targets are generally safe to remove.

Temporary Internet Files

Browser cache and cookies are safe to delete and even recommended to periodically clear out. Cache and cookies do not contain important data and clearing them can fix browser issues.

Recycle Bin

Deleted files in your Recycle Bin are already marked for deletion, so emptying the Recycle Bin just completes the process. Just make sure you don’t need any files in the bin.

Temporary Windows Files

Various temporary files related to Windows errors, logs, and other system functions are safe to remove. Clearing them can potentially fix issues caused by corrupt files.

Thumbnail Cache

Thumbnail images generated by Windows have no impact if deleted and recover wasted space.

Offline Webpages

Any locally stored webpages are only for offline access and are safe to remove if no longer needed offline.

Old Windows Updates

Once updates are installed, the original installer files are no longer needed and can be deleted.

When Should You Avoid Disk Cleanup?

While Disk Cleanup is generally safe, there are a few instances when you may want to avoid running it:

  • If you are low on disk space – Disk Cleanup requires free space to run smoothly.
  • If you need to recover lost files – Disk Cleanup permanently deletes files.
  • If you have corrupted system files – Deleting files incorrectly could make problems worse.

You also may want to avoid deleting certain file categories like Windows Updates if you have very limited disk space since these files may be needed in the future.

How to Use Disk Cleanup Safely

To make sure you use Disk Cleanup safely, follow these best practices:

  1. Backup your computer – Back up any important files before running Disk Cleanup.
  2. Review selected files – Carefully review which file categories are selected before deleting.
  3. Select one section at a time – Delete sections individually to isolate any potential issues.
  4. Check free space after – Verify Disk Cleanup freed up the expected space.
  5. Restore backups if needed – If any critical data was deleted, restore from backups.

Being cautious about which files you delete allows you to safely free up space with Disk Cleanup.

Disk Cleanup Alternatives

If you prefer not to use the built-in Disk Cleanup utility, there are several safe alternative disk cleanup tools:

Tool Key Features
CCleaner Deletes browser cache, temporary files, log files, and unused registry entries
Wise Disk Cleaner Cleans up junk files, old Windows updates, and residual file fragments
BleachBit Overwrites sensitive information in free disk space for added security
WinDirStat Scans disk and helps visualize disk usage for cleaning up space

These third-party cleanup tools provide advanced ways to scan your system and identify safe files to delete, while giving you oversight of the process.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Disk Cleanup completely safe?

Disk Cleanup is generally safe to use when you carefully review the files it flags to delete. Make sure you do not inadvertently delete any important personal files before running it.

What are the risks of Disk Cleanup?

The main risks are accidentally deleting important files by not paying close enough attention to what Disk Cleanup is deleting and experiencing issues from deleting files used by active programs.

Does Disk Cleanup affect performance?

Disk Cleanup can moderately improve system performance by freeing up disk space previously used by temporary files. Just don’t delete important system files like Windows updates.

Can you recover files deleted by Disk Cleanup?

It is difficult to recover files deleted by Disk Cleanup. Your best bet is to restore from a backup that was made prior to running Disk Cleanup.

Does Disk Cleanup delete personal files?

Disk Cleanup only deletes system files and other temporary files specified within the tool. It does not delete documents, photos, downloads, or other personal user files.


Disk Cleanup can be a useful tool to reclaim wasted disk space by safely deleting unnecessary system files. Exercising caution by backing up data, reviewing selected file categories, and avoiding Disk Cleanup bugs will allow you to maximize your free space without deleting important files. Alternatively, third-party cleanup tools also provide safe and effective ways to clean up your disk.