A Free PC Cleaner? Is There Such a Thing?

Here's how to get a true free PC cleaner

If you've done any kind of search for a free PC or computer "cleaner," then you've likely encountered many that were anything but free.

Sadly, it's become increasingly common to advertise that a registry or other PC cleaner program is free to "download" even though the all-important "cleaning" part will cost you.

How these companies get away with that sort of practice is beyond belief. Fortunately, among the hundreds you'll find in a search, there are several very good, completely free PC cleaner tools available.

Physically cleaning your PC is a related subject, but that, of course, involves a very different procedure.

Where to Get a True Free PC Cleaner

Completely free PC cleaner tools are available from many companies and developers, and we've put together a list of the very best to choose from in our Best Free Registry Cleaners list.

Only freeware cleaner programs are included in this list. There are no shareware, trialware, or other for-pay cleaners. In other words, we don't recommend any programs that charge a fee of any kind. You will not have to pay for anything, there are no donations required, the features will not expire after a certain period of time, a product key isn't necessary, etc.

Some computer cleaners do include extra features that you have to pay for, like scheduled scans, auto-cleaning, malware scanning, automatic program updates, etc. However, none of the tools from our list above require you to pay in order to use the PC cleaning features.

But I'm Looking for PC Cleaners, Not Registry Cleaners!

Back in the "old days" there were many programs that billed themselves as registry cleaners and that's pretty much all they did. However, as registry "cleaning" became less needed (it never was, really), these programs morphed into system cleaners with the ability to do a lot more than remove unnecessary entries from the Windows Registry

So what has happened over time is that our list of registry cleaners has become primarily a list of system cleaners, adding many more features than they had ten years prior.

If you want to skip right on to our favorite, check out the 100 percent freeware CCleaner program that lets you do lots of system cleaning with just a couple clicks of your mouse.

CCleaner, in particular, is a full suite that includes lots of features in addition to registry cleaning. It lets you clear your private web browser data like the history and saved passwords, delete temporary program and operating system data, disable programs that start up with Windows, find duplicate files, wipe an entire hard drive, manage browser plugins, see what's filling up all the space on your hard drive, and more.

CCleaner analyze results

If you're not a fan of CCleaner, some similar programs we recommend are Microsoft's PC Manager, IObit's Advanced SystemCare Free, and Wise Disk Cleaner. While all three have various tools that make cleaning up your computer a breeze, IObit's program is a bit more bloated than the other two—it feels heavy and cluttered, and shows annoying pop-ups to try their other software. However, it's still free to use.

If you're instead looking for a PC cleaner that checks for viruses and other malware, see our list of the best free spyware removal tools or install a dedicated antivirus program from our Best Free Antivirus Software list to always be on the watch for malware threats. You can also clean up your Windows desktop to free up visual clutter.

Important Note About Other Free PC & Registry Cleaner Lists

A blue sign that reads FREE STRAIGHT AHEAD.
jdillontoole / DigitalVision Vectors / Getty Images

There are certainly other lists of free PC and computer cleaner programs out there but many of them include cleaner tools that, at some point during their download or use, charge you something.

The scanning may be free, but when you get to the cleaning part, you're prompted for a credit card number. Worse yet, sometimes only the "download" is free, but actually using the program is not. It's all semantics—and it's not very ethical.

We are not affiliated with any of the companies in our curated list, nor do we receive any compensation from any of them for promoting their programs. We have tested each of them personally and, at least as of the date in the piece, each one was completely free to download, scan, and clean your system and registry.

Registry cleaning should only be used to troubleshoot actual issues and should not be part of regular PC maintenance (see our Registry Cleaners FAQ for more on why you'd use one). System cleaning (removing temporary files, clearing cache, etc.), while useful to free up hard drive space and solve some browser error messages, is also not something you actually need to do on a regular basis to keep your computer working.

Was this page helpful?