When you first bought your PC or laptop, it probably ran smoothly and without too many problems. However, over time it can easily get bogged down with various apps, files and the remains of installations, all of which can seriously impair performance.
The need to do something about all this excess clutter might be obvious if you’re getting low storage warning, but it can have a big effect even if you have plenty of spare capacity.
Windows has some built-in tools to help you clear unused files and programs, but for the best results you’ll want to use dedicated PC cleaner software. There are many apps available, but those we’ve tested here are all relatively inexpensive while offering a comprehensive service.
IObit Advanced SystemCare
- Free version available
- Automatic driver updates (in paid version)
- Very limited free version
Advanced SystemCare has long been a useful tool for optimising your PC’s performance. It comes in two varieties: Advanced SystemCare is free, while the Pro version adds deeper optimisation and registry maintenance tools, plus the ability to stop overeager apps from hogging your RAM. At the time of writing, a one-year subscription to Pro, which usually costs $89.99 for three PCs, is reduced to $19.99 (around £15 for those in the UK).
The free version features a new AI mode that analyses your system alongside your own personal optimisation habits, then can provide one-click solutions for cleaning up your drive. There’s also real-time monitoring, so you’ll know when something is causing problems, firewall protection that keeps your PC’s defences in prime condition, plus a software updater that keeps programs on the latest versions.
Running a system scan identifies any slow-downs that might come from programs that boot at start up, spyware threats, as well as junk files and old registry entries. These can then be fixed by clicking a single button.
If you keep clear of unsavoury websites and generally practice safe-surfing, then the free tier is a very capable way to keep your PC ticking along nicely. Heavier users would do well to look at what Pro has to offer with its more powerful cleaning tools it can root out a lot more cruft that can bring down the speed of your device. These include automatic driver updates, malware scanners, disk optimisation, not to mention the internet booster that IObit claims can speed up browsing by up to 300 percent.
Bottom Line: An easy to use and powerful way to keep your PC in the best of health.
Iolo System Mechanic
- Privacy feature
- One-click optimisation
- Premium version required for some features
Iolo has a number of optimisation products available for Windows PCs, including security apps, drive scrubbers, password managers, and System Mechanic. The latter is a great tune-up utility that provides a quick way to get your machine back in tip-top shape.
It’s available as a free version, but this doesn’t include some of the latest and most useful tools.
The interface now has a darker colour palette that is easy on the eyes. Controls are straightforward, with plenty of options to choose from. There are Quick or Deep scans, the first of which restricts itself to the essentials, with the Deep option being more thorough.
System Mechanic employs something it calls LiveBoost technology, which aims to ensure that the CPU, RAM, and hard drive are not overused by aggressive programs. This can give PCs a decent performance improvement, especially if you have resource-hogging software.
Tools are available to monitor the physical attributes of your HD, and predict if a crash is on the horizon, while others search for any potential operating system issues that could become a problem.
The app also has an All-in-one PC Cleanup PowerTool that automatically removes anything cluttering up your browsers, chat programs, or hard drives, plus there’s a new Privacy Shield feature that disables Windows data collecting services that can prove stubborn otherwise.
While it’s relatively expensive at full price (US$49.95, approx. £37), the current deal means you can get a 1-year license for US$14.98 (approx. £11). Watch out for extra charges at the checkout for tech support, and remove them if you don’t want to pay for this.
Botton Line: System Mechanic is a comprehensive suite with many useful features. Available right now at an excellent price.
- File Shredder
- Windows Registry cleaner
- No free version
- Quite expensive
MacPaw is a company probably more familiar to Mac users, as its CleanMyMac X optimisation tool is highly regarded. Windows users don’t miss out though, as Clean My PC offers the same smart design, easy to use interface, and choice suite of tools.
You can search for files that are no longer used but still take up space on your drive, then easily remove them, and there’s a powerful tool for cleaning up the Windows Registry which gets rid of the deteritus some apps or system processes leave behind.
To remove apps and all their support files completely, you can use the Uninstaller feature, which saves even more time by allowing you to delete multiple apps simultaneously.
As you’d expect, there’s a simple way to control startup programs and disable ones that you don’t need, plus you’ll find a variety of privacy protections, a file shredder, and browser extension controls to keep your web surfing moving along swiftly. There’s even a quick way to find and remove hibernation files that can hog a fair bit of storage for no real purpose.
Clean My PC is a friendly, powerful app that lets you feel in control at all times. It’s not free though, so to use it you’ll need to invest £34.95/$39.99 per year for the one PC license or £69.90/$79.90 per year for two machines.
- Powerful tools
- Capable free version
- Some features Pro only
CCleaner has been around for a long time now, with Avast claiming over 2.5 billion downloads of its software. This isn’t that surprising as CCleaner is an easy-to-use, powerful addition to any PC.
The software has a comprehensive range of tools, although some are reserved for the Pro version that costs £24.95/$29.95, but which does offer a 14-day trial. The tools include a new automatic driver updater to ensure that your PC runs at optimum performance and doesn’t fall foul of any security vulnerabilities. There’s also the ability to find unused files that are taking up space, fix redundant settings, update software to the latest versions, automatic deletion of cookies and browser history to stop tracking, disable programs that automatically run when you start your PC and more.
While most can be done via a one-click option, you can also take a more detailed look at what’s affecting your system. With this route you can decide which applications are examined, the types of files you want to clean, as well as the specific parts of Windows that you feel need attention. There’s also a dedicated Registry section for keeping the OS free from broken elements left behind by apps.
All the options are well laid out, making the tasks straightforward and understandable.
There’s also a PC Health Check feature, which can analyse, tune and fix any issues across privacy, space, speed and security.
Should you want it, there’s the CCleaner Browser, which boasts plenty of privacy features to keep your internet experience quick and tracking-free.
Bottom Line: A tried and tested cleaning app with plenty of useful features. The relatively inexpensive Pro version also brings additional capabilities and automation.
- Wide ranging tools
- Automatic software updater
- No completely free version
- Single-device subscription poor value
Alongside its main role as a provider of security and anti-virus software, AVG has a range of apps for online privacy, driver updates, and optimising Windows. The latter is AVG TuneUp, which is a subscription-based package but one that does offer a free 30-day trial.
There is a free version available for Windows, but this will only diagnose problems and prompt you to upgrade to the paid version when you click to fix the problems.
The clean interface makes it easy to run a system scan that identifies broken registry items and shortcuts, system junk, tracking cookies, browser cache items, start-up programs and such. A new automatic software updater means you won’t have to worry about keeping your apps on the latest versions, as AVG TuneUp will do that behind the scenes.
Another recent addition is the Disk Doctor, which analyses your PCs physical drives to look for any signs of deterioration or potential failures.
You’ll also find automatic real-time monitoring, deep cleans for your hard drive, internet speed-up tools, and a universal driver updater.
In addition to Windows and Mac versions, there are apps for Android or iOS. This means you can declutter your phone or tablet just as effectively.
AVG Tune Up costs $59.99 (around £43.50) per year for a single device or $69.99 (around £50) for ten devices, which is obviously the better deal. AVG does have regular sales and discounts though, so check its site and you may save some money.
Bottom Line: Not the most affordable at full price, but the current discounts make it a serious contender. Full of useful tools and with a simple interface.
Norton Utilities Premium
- Automatic clean-up
- Permanent file shredder
- No free version
Another company more renowned for its security credentials is Symantec, the creator of Norton Security Deluxe Antivirus and a range of other popular software. Amongst its stable of programs is the very useful Norton Utilities Premium, which features a full suite of tools to put the spring back in a PC’s steps.
An automated cleaning and repair setting monitors your usage, then applies various tidying and repair work when your PC is sitting idle. The upshot is if you go and make a cup of tea, your PC can do a little housekeeping while you’re away. Running a complete system spruce up via the 1-click Optimisation setting is nice and easy too.
Of course, there are the usual capabilities of removing broken program links, patching up the registry, a digital shredder for getting rid of old but potentially sensitive data files, and Norton even has preset profiles that can help eke out more performance from your machine.
The full package costs £39.99/US$39.99 per year, although this covers up to 10 different PCs.
Bottom Line: Strong performer that’s an excellent option, although it’s on the more expensive side.
- 1-click optimisation
- Quick scans
- No free tier
WinOptimizer 19 is an easy product to recommend, as not only does it offer plenty of features, but they’re accessible via a 1-click optimisation button that scurries off and checks how your PC performance can be improved.
The app de-clutters your hard drive, removes junk files, repairs program shortcuts, fixes Registry errors, and clears out your browsing history and cache. There’s also the option to securely delete sensitive data, or add password protection and encryption instead. The Energy Manager adjusts settings and resource requirements to make your battery life more efficient, plus there’s a wealth of privacy and system protection features thrown into the bargain.
Launch the Boot Centre and you get access to all the programs that launch when you start your PC, making it easy to see what’s happening and disable apps with a click.
For those who want to dig deeper, you can access a detailed analysis of the operating system and modules that can help improve things like boot times and internet connection speeds.
WinOptimizer 19 retails for £44.99/$49.99 (covering 10 devices), but Ashampoo regularly runs promotions that can cut this down by quite a margin.
Bottom Line: A well respected and dependable collection of optimisation tools for your machine. Regular discounts mean it offers excellent value for money.
OneSafe PC Cleaner
- Registry cleaner
- Data recovery tool in Pro version
- Some features only in Pro version
OneSafe is another solid app that offers fixes for registry, system, and internet-related junk files, plus the usual tidying up of invalid shortcuts, startup programs, as well as scanning for anything malicious lurking on your PC.
The free download has basic tools for assessing the health of your system and addressing a few of the problems that are found, but the bulk of the power in OneSafe PC Cleaner resides in the Pro version that comes in different price tiers depending on how long a subscription you choose. At the time of writing, a single month is £9/US$10, six month reduces this to £4.50/$5 per month and a full year brings it down to £2.50/$3 per month.
The Pro package offers duplicate files deletion, removal of any emails or messages that could give away your bank details, a file shredder, plus tools to recover deleted or damaged data.
Bottom Line: If you opt for the Pro level package then you’ll be getting plenty of power for your money.