Crapware cleaners

29 Oct 2009
Crapware cleaners

We put three of the top crapware cleaners through their paces to see how they perform

Just as crapware is big business for the laptop firms, so the market for PC-cleaning software is booming.

Hundreds of products promise to eradicate clutter, remove unwanted applications and boost your computer’s performance. We put three of the best known under the PC Pro microscope.

TuneUp Utilities

The first, TuneUp Utilities 2009 (£25 exc VAT), is typical of many of the applications that can be found online: a snazzy interface that promises to boost performance, free up disk space, solve problems, and make your PC run at peak efficiency.

However, there isn’t an awful lot of innovation going on under the bonnet. The StartUp Manager offers nothing that Windows’ own tools can’t handle, and the Process Manager brings little that’s new to the table.

The Registry Cleaner was more helpful, making a potentially fraught and technical process easier. Despite this, TuneUp Utilities 2009 does little more than gather many already available utilities into a
slick interface.

Autoruns

The much-vaunted, Microsoft-owned Autoruns goes into a terrifying amount of depth, listing every application, service, driver, codec and DLL file that loads when you turn on your PC – and plenty more besides.

There may be a vast number of options – including tweaks for Internet Explorer add-ons and obscure Winsock and LSA security settings – but Autoruns is often bewildering.

Its interface is rudimentary and there’s no explanation of options, so the only people who’ll be comfortable with this are those who are happy rooting around in the Registry.

CCleaner

Those looking for ease of use and power, meanwhile, will be well-served by CCleaner, which won the Software of the Year prize at the 2008 PC Pro Reliability & Service Awards.

It may not offer as broad a range of tools as TuneUp Utilities or go into as much depth as Autoruns but, for cleaning a PC of unwanted apps and stubborn crapware, not much beats it.

CCleaner works on a simple two-part process: one button analyses your system, scanning your web browser, office suite, operating system and multimedia tools for problems, while another one instantly cleans up these problems.

It’s effective, too, with CCleaner finding 328MB of data worth destroying on our test machine, compared to a paltry 11MB from similar tests offered by TuneUp Utilities.

This process is repeated for your computer’s Registry, too, with one button scanning it for problems – such as unused file extensions and obsolete software keys – and another backing up your Registry and correcting the problems.

CCleaner’s Registry tool found 24 defects on our test PC; TuneUp Utilities told us nothing was wrong.

CCleaner therefore remains our recommended PC cleaner: we’re not convinced that TuneUp’s software can comprehensively cleanse your system, and Autoruns isn’t user-friendly enough.

CCleaner is free and offers depth, ease of use and impressive results – and still looks to be worthy of last year’s PC Pro Award.

Cleaning tips

Open up the Start menu and type “msconfig” and you’ll unleash one of the prime tools in the fight against crapware – the System Configuration utility.

Navigate to the Services tab, tick the Hide All Microsoft Services box and you’ll be presented with a list of every non-native service running on your machine – simply untick anything you don’t want to load when your PC boots and you’ll be granted an instant speed boost.

The next tab, Startup, lists every application that loads when your PC is booting – again, untick the ones that you don’t want to load and your laptop will boot faster and feel more responsive.

If there isn’t an Uninstall link in your software’s Start menu entry, open up the Programs and Features tool, which can be found in the Control Panel.

This is a list of your PC’s installed applications – double-click on anything unwanted to begin the uninstallation process and eradicate it from your machine.

(Illustrations by Lee Hasler)

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