Comparison of Browser Privacy and Disk Cleaning Programs

 

Cleaning programs can help you wipe out private information from your computer, conceal the web sites you have been visiting, or just clean up no-longer-necessary files from your disk. We have reviewed a number of well known cleaning programs in all price categories, including freeware. The quality of the programs differed widely. Some turned out to be outright dangerous for the average user because they don't even clear the files promised, namely AE Software's Clean Disk (see our bug list at the end of this article). Others, like the veteran CleanSweep from Symantec, offer countless time-consuming clearing options but few automation and you get lost in sub-windows quickly. CleanSweep's interesting (and by many programs mimiced) analogy with a traffic light, which helps you decide what can safely be deleted and what is better left alone, all but follows consistent rules. In general, better have a complete backup before deleting anything.

Some programs offer not just clearing and privacy, but also browser extensions around security, like a popup-killer for those persistent extra-window ads, or a boss-key that hides the browser with just one click (also from the taskbar). Usually, you'd have to pay extra for such features, so if you need them, here they are included.

12Ghosts Wash stands out like a beacon. It comes in two variants, a PRO version, and a version free for non-commercial use. If you are looking for free software for home use, 12-Wash LE is our Budget Tip. It does more than the other free programs and proved to be stable and reliable in our tests.

12Ghosts Wash PRO, on the other hand, wins hands down. It offers all the extra features and never failed clearing a file or setting. With its clear structure and extensive context help (right-click on an option) you always have the feeling that you control what is going on; you can also verify the cleaning process afterwards by using a number of 'View' buttons that open related folders before and after cleaning ("See, Timmy, it's gone!"). 12-Wash 6.2 PRO does the job, has the most complete feature set, and is the WINNER of this comparison of cleaning programs.

  WINNER Budget Tip
                   
Name and
Version
12-Wash
6.2 PRO
CleanSweep 
2002
HistoryKill 
2002  
Window   Washer 4.8  Evidence
Eliminator 5.0 
Cyber  
Scrub 3.0 
12-Wash
6.2 LE
Clean Disk 
2002  
CleanUp!
3.0  
Vendor 12Ghosts Inc.  Symantec Corporation SwankSoft
Technologies
Webroot Software, Inc. Robin Hood Software CyberScrub
LLC
12Ghosts Inc. AE Software Technologies Steven R. Gould
Price $29.95/$49.95 1) $29.95 $39.95 $29.95 $149.95 $49.95 Free 2) Free Free
Cache, History, Cookies
for IE, Netscape
Yes - (only Cache, Cookies of IE) Yes Yes (not NN6/7) Yes (not NN6/7) Yes Yes Yes (not NN6/7) Yes
AOL Folders Yes - - - - Yes Yes - -
Opera Yes - - - - Yes Yes - -
Clear index.dat 3) Yes - - Yes - - - - -
Address Drop-Down Yes - Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Exclude cookies Yes Yes (not permanent) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes (not permanent) -
AutoComplete Form Data Yes - - Yes - Yes - - -
Reset Save-As folder Yes - - - - - - - -
Run, Recent, Search Yes - Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Empty Recycle Bin Yes Yes Yes Yes - Yes Yes Yes Yes
Clear TEMP Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Clear ClipBoard Yes - - - Yes - - - -
Recent Files Menu of WordPad, Paint, RegEdit, Media-Player Yes (also WinZip, ACDSee, CuteFTP) - - 3rd party plug-ins 3rd party plug-ins Yes Yes (also WinZip) Yes Yes
Recent Files Menu of Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint, Frontpage Yes - - Yes (not Open/SaveAs drop-downs) - - - - -
                   
  12-Wash
6.2 PRO
CleanSweep  
2002
HistoryKill  
2002  
Window   Washer 4.8 Evidence   Eliminator 5.0  Cyber  
Scrub 3.0 
12-Wash
6.2 LE
Clean Disk  
2002  
CleanUp!  
3.0  
Shredder Yes - Yes Yes Yes Yes - - Yes
Delete locked files Yes - Yes - - - - - Yes
One-click for all Yes - Yes Yes Yes - Yes - Yes
Auto-Wash 4) Yes - Yes Yes - - - - -
Scheduled Cleaning Yes Yes - Yes - - - - -
Before shutdown Yes - - Yes Yes - - - -
Popup-Killer included Yes - Yes - - - - - -
Boss-Key 5) Yes - Yes (not configurable) - - - - - -
Log file Yes Yes - - Yes Yes - - -
Stealth Mode Yes - Yes - Yes Yes Yes - -
Password Yes - - Yes - Yes Yes - -
Protect Windows files Yes Yes - - - - Yes - -
Garbage Files Yes Yes - - Yes - Yes Yes (slow) -
Custom Files Yes - - Yes Yes Yes - - -
Custom Registry Values   Yes - - Yes - Yes (delete only) - - -
Unused Files Types   Yes Yes - - - - - - -
Duplicate Files   Yes Yes - - - - - - -
Redundant DLLs Yes Yes - - - - - - -
Zero-length Files Yes Yes - - - - - - -
Broken Shortcuts   Yes Yes - - - - - - -
Uninstall Programs   Yes Yes - - - - - - -
Context Help Yes - Yes - - - Yes - Yes
Help file included Yes Yes - Yes Yes Yes Yes - Yes
Known Bugs *) none 7 6 2 4 none none 7 4
                   
  12-Wash
6.2 PRO
CleanSweep  
2002
HistoryKill  
2002  
Window   Washer 4.8 Evidence   Eliminator 5.0  Cyber  
Scrub 3.0 
12-Wash
6.2 LE
Clean Disk  
2002  
CleanUp!  
3.0  
                   
  WINNER Budget Tip

1) Security package: $49.95, comes with an advanced shredder, wipe disk, startup guard, and more.
2) Free for non-commercial use.
3) "index.dat" files keep all web sites you've visited. They are locked, so they can only be deleted by restarting Windows, however, their contents can be cleared.
4) Start cleaning as soon as Internet Explorer is closed
5) Boss-Key: Hide all Internet Explorer windows with one key. Also hides them from the taskbar
 

Reference and Known Bugs

12Ghosts 12-Wash 6.2: http://www.12Ghosts.com/ghosts/wash.htm
Known Bugs:
    - None

Symantec CleanSweep 2002: http://www.symantec.com/
Known Bugs:
    - Analyzing disk cannot be stopped, the Cancel button has no effect
    - Cleaning Registry Values help file implies that it is safe to delete all entries referring to files that don't exist. This is not true for all applications that store paths that may point to (currently) not existing files, for example a clean up program (sic!).
    - Cleaning Registry Values displays user configuration settings as safe to delete. At least backup, editor, launching, and cleaning programs would cease to work when you removed all registry keys marked 'green' (safe to delete).
    - Cleaning Registry Values: the recommendation of 'green' (safe), 'yellow' (dangerous) and 'red' (cannot be deleted) seems to be absolutely random. For example, the entry "C:\*.c" is green but "C:\*.cpp" is red.
    - Cleaning Registry Values finds all values twice, with and without capitalization of Software and SOFTWARE, pretending to clean twice as many keys as it actually does.
    - Redundant DLLs: in our tests, 8 out of 12 redundant DLLs could not be selected, although they were identical and not in the Windows or Windows System folders.
    - Duplicate Files: in our tests, 2672 out of 5460 duplicate files could not be selected, although they were identical and not in the Windows or Windows System folders.

SwankSoft HistoryKill 2002: http://www.swanksoft.com/historykill/
Known Bugs:
    - Crashes when you click Run Auto-Kill, Cancel
    - Wash on Close works only after 30 seconds
    - Starts washing when you click ESC
    - Doesn't allow changing the boss-key from Alt+Space, effectively making the the system menu inaccessible
    - Doesn't remember window position after restart
    - Doesn't appear on ALT-TAB

Webroot Software LLC Window Washer 4.8: http://www.webroot.com/
Known Bugs:
    - Didn't find our Netscape 6.2 installation
    - Locked files are reported as being cleared, although they are not

Robin Hood Software Evidence Eliminator 5.0: http://www.evidence-eliminator.com/
Known Bugs:
    - Aggressive marketing, in other words, they do SPAM
    - The price tag appears to be a bug, too
    - No download without ordering, although they claim to have a "Test Version"
    - Comsumer Warning: http://evidence-eliminator-sucks.com/

BeyondSec Technololgies CyberScrub 3.0: http://www.cyberscrub.com/
Known Bugs:
    - none

AE Software Clean Disk 2002: http://www.aesoftware.com/
Known Bugs:
    - doesn't clear locked files, e.g. index.dat
    - Internet/ "IE Cache" doesn't find any files, so nothing can be cleared
    - Internet/ "Netscape" both don't do anything
    - Tracks/ "Windows Temporary Folder" doesn't clear subfolders
    - Tracks/ "Find Files or Folders" does nothing
    - Programs/ "WinZip File Menu" is not cleared
    - Garbage: no error message if a file could not be deleted (e.g. locked files)
    - Garbage: searching is slow, no cancel, only one drive at a time

Steven Gould CleanUp! 3.0: http://www.stevengould.org/
Known Bugs:
    - "Custom Directories and Files" doesn't do anything
    - "Scan local drives for temporary files" only removes a handful of known files
    - Cannot clear single options without clearing all browser and newsgroup caches, too
    - The not-optional emptying sound is a flushing toilet which is rather irritating

 

2003 PD - You are free to copy and use this page or any part of it.