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CCleaner: Tips for cleaner workstations and servers

Use CCleaner to neaten the data in your workstations or servers. Here's how you can get the most out of this free tool.

The free tool CCleaner addresses one of the least appealing jobs of a system administrator: neatening up all of the junk that tends to accumulate in the cracks and crevices of a system.

Sometimes these accumulations are just annoying, like stale IE cache data that refuses to disappear. Other times they're downright harmful, like invalid Registry entries that can confuse programs and cause them to fail. Here are some quick ways to get the most out of CCleaner, whether it's running on a workstation or server.

  1. Configure the program for automatic cleanup. To do this at startup, create a shortcut in the Start menu (or in the user's roaming profile) that invokes CCleaner with the /AUTO command-line switch. This performs all of the standard cleaning actions; the program closes automatically after it's done. Run the program once first, by hand, to select the appropriate cleaning options to use by selecting Cleaner from the left-hand menu and then checking or unchecking all the appropriate options in the Windows and Applications tabs.

  2. Set the program to clean out Temp directories in User Profile folders. These directories -- usually found in \Documents and Settings\<username>\Local Settings\Temp -- are a massive dumping ground of data used by various programs, especially installers, which routinely unpack files into them and leave them there. Many problems with a given user profile can be traced to a garbage-cluttered Temp folder.

    One word of caution about Custom Folders: CCleaner uses a directory-tree interface to let the user select the directory to add to the Custom Folders list. It's not possible to type in a path by hand, and the tree will not show hidden files or folders if they are disabled in Explorer (i.e., it reflects Explorer's current behavior vis-a-vis those files).

    If you're trying to add a Temp directory found in a user's Local Settings folder, you won't be able to see it unless you have Explorer set to show hidden files and folders. Once you do that, click Options | Custom Folders | Add Folder, and browse to the Temp folder in the appropriate user profile.

  3. Be careful not to prune log files on servers. Under Cleaner | Windows | System, there's an option labeled Windows Log Files. Don't check this option on servers, since keeping log files is usually pretty critical! You may not want to check the Memory Dumps option either, depending on whether you habitually preserve memory dumps created by a crash.

  4. INDEX.DAT files can only be cleaned after a reboot. Internet Explorer's INDEX.DAT files, which control which files are cached, can become corrupt and may need to be manually removed. In Cleaner | Windows | Internet Explorer, the Delete INDEX.DAT Files option only works after a reboot, which may not be practical on some systems.

Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter. Check it out for the latest advice and musings on the world of Windows network administrators -- and please share your thoughts as well!

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