PC cleaning apps are digital snake oil.
The web is full of ads for applications that want to “clean your PC” and “make it feel like new.” Don’t pull out your credit card — these apps are terrible and you don’t need them. If you do want to “clean your PC,” you can give Frankenstein Computers and Networking a call, or stop in and we will take care of you.
Let’s Investigate a PC Cleaning App
So what do these apps do, anyway? To investigate, we ran MyCleanPC — don’t try this at home; we installed this bad software so you don’t have to. MyCleanPC is one of the most prominent PC cleaning apps — it even advertises itself with television commercials.
First, let’s look at its Frequently Asked Questions to see what it promises:
“The full, paid version of the MyCleanPC software will attempt to remove issues found with your PC’s registry and hard drive, including removal of junk files, unneeded registry entries, Internet browsing traces, and fragmented portions of your hard drive.”
We’re already on thin ice here — Windows can remove junk files, clear Internet browsing traces, and defragment your hard drive without installing additional software.
MyCleanPC offers a “free diagnosis,” which is little more than an attempt to scare people into thinking their computers have thousands of “issues” that can be fixed for an easy $39.99 payment.
After running a scan, you’ll see an alarming count of the number of problems on your computer. It found 26267 issues on our computer. That’s an extremely alarming number — but what exactly is an issue?
- Every browser cookie and history entry counts as a single issue.
- Every temporary file counts as a single issue, no matter how tiny it is.
- Invalid registry entries are considered issues, although they shouldn’t actually slow down your computer.
- Our registry can be compacted a bit, but this shouldn’t make a noticeable different in performance
- Every fragmented file counts as a single issue. MyCleanPC is measuring fragmentation based on the number of fragmented files, leading to a scary-looking 21.33% data fragmentation statistic. For comparison, the Windows Disk Defragmenter tells us we have 2% fragmentation.
Now that they’ve scared you, this is the part where you would take out your credit card and give them $39.99 to clean your PC.
Don’t Believe the Hype
Temporary files are not slowing down your computer, and neither are browser history entries or cookies. Registry entries are generally not a problem — there’s a reason Microsoft once created a registry cleaner of their own before discontinuing it and advising people not to use registry cleaners.
Yes, your computer can be slow because its file system is fragmented. We can fix this by running the Disk Defragmenter tool included with Windows — the Disk Defragmenter runs automatically on a schedule, anyway. Most people shouldn’t have to worry about defragmenting their hard drives anymore.
A test performed in 2011 by Windows Secrets found that the Disk Cleanup tool included with Windows was just as good as paid PC cleaning apps. Note that this is true even though PC cleaning apps fix “registry errors” while the Disk Cleanup app doesn’t, which shows just how unnecessary registry cleaners are.
So yes, it’s been tested — PC cleaning apps are worthless.
At worst, PC cleaning apps are digital snake oil. At best, they do a few marginally useful things. Don’t believe the hype — skip the PC cleaning apps. Bring your computer to Frankenstein Computers and Networking and let us help you out with all your computing needs!
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