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Clean Up Your Computer With BleachBit

Posted by nik on March 14, 2018

Why BleachBit?

BleachBit has a very simple, but very important function. It completely deletes files. Those files could be ones that you specifically tell it to remove, or they could be the junk files that clog up your computer and slow it down. Either way, BleachBit not only deletes them, it replaces the space that they occupied with random garbage, making it nearly impossible to recover those files.

So, the uses of BleachBit are twofold. First, you can use it to clean the junk files, like bloated caches, out of your computer and speed it up. Second, you can use BleachBit to completely and securely destroy sensitive files.

Before you call it into question, BleachBit is definitely secure under the right circumstances. During the 2016 election, BleachBit gained an unexpected bit of publicity when it was revealed that BleachBit was used to delete the missing emails from Hillary Clinton’s server. If those couldn’t be recovered, you shouldn’t worry too much about the files that you delete with BleachBit.

Install BleachBit

One of the great aspects of BleachBit is that it is fully open source and cross platform. BleachBit will detect many of the applications and folders on your computer, regardless of the operating system, and include the appropriate modules in its listing.

Windows

Bleachbit Install on Windows

Head over to the BleachBit download page and download the .exe installer.

When the installer is done downloading, start it up. Most of the defaults are good. Select your language, then the license. Somewhat ironically, the license is the GPL, which says that the software is free and must remain free, but you can do just about anything you want otherwise.

Select the components that you want. Make sure that you include the shred functionality.

Choose your install directory and finish up the install.

Linux

BleachBit is free software, so most Linux distributions package it, and you’ll find it in their default repositories. You can use your package manager to install BleachBit.

Bleachbit Install on Linux

Some Linux distributions may not be shipping the latest version of BleachBit. If you want the absolute latest, you can install one of the packages provided by the BleachBit developers.

Debian/Ubuntu/Mint

$ sudo apt install bleachbit

Fedora

# dnf install bleachbit

CentOS/RHEL

# yum install bleachbit

OpenSUSE

# zypper in bleachbit

Arch Linux

# pacman -S bleachbit

Using BleachBit

Bleachbit startup

For how powerful it is, BleachBit is actually very simple to use. Just click on the icon(wherever the launcher is) and open up the graphical utility. On Linux, it’s a better idea to run BleachBit as root from the terminal, since you may run into permission issues.

When you open it up, the interface that you’ll see is fairly plain. On the left side, there’s a checklist of items that can be cleaned up. There’s a small menu at the top too, but that’s about all. BleachBit will display any changes being made in the wide blank space to the right.

Junk Cleanup

The simplest thing that you can do with BleachBit is clean up junk files. On the left side, you’ll find a checklist of potential folders and files to clean up. Check off the ones that you want to clean.

BleachBit Check Items

Don’t check off everything at once. BleachBit is a bit of a bully. It doesn’t care if another system process is using a file, and it doesn’t care if it breaks something. Select your folders with care. It’s also a good idea, once you have your folders selected, to click the magnifying glass icon at the top of the list. BleachBit will run through all of the files that will be removed without actually touching any of them. You can check it out in the right pane and make sure that nothing important would be impacted.

BleachBit Preview

Finally, when you’re absolutely certain, press the trash can icon. BleachBit will run through everything that you picked, and destroy it completely.

The Shredder

If only this section was about a Ninja Turtles villain… Nevertheless the shredder functionality of BleachBit is very good. It takes either a file or folder and deletes it. Then, it fills the space that the file previously occupied with junk data(random ones and zeroes), so it’s nearly impossible to recover any information about the deleted file.

With normal methods, a deleted file isn’t actually gone. When you delete a file, the operating system just marks the space occupied by the file as writable. The file’s still there, but the operating system will overwrite the space when it’s needed. That means that the file can still be recovered until that space is occupied by something else. BleachBit fills the space with junk before marking it writable so that there’s nothing left to recover.

BleachBit Shred

To shred a file or a folder, click on “File” at the top of the window. Select either “Shred File” or “Shred Folder.” A new window will pop open and allow you to browse to the target. Select the file or folder, and press “Ok.” BleachBit will ask you one more time for confirmation. This is your last shot to change your mind. If you’re absolutely certain, click “Delete.” BleachBit will destroy the target file or folder and display a report of the results in the right pane.

Closing Thoughts

BleachBit is an excellent tool. It can seriously speed up a congested system, especially with Windows. It’s also a great way to help protect your privacy.

There is one catch, though. BleachBit’s shredder doesn’t exactly work on flash storage. That means that you can’t completely delete files on solid state drives, USB drives, and SD cards. Their design prevents it from working as intended. In those instances, it’s better to use an encrypted partition for your sensitive information.

3 thoughts on “Clean Up Your Computer With BleachBit”

Dmitriy says:
I don’t fall into this category. Besides a one time hack of CCleaner, how does it compare to CCleaner in regards to speed, number of items it identifies, etc. CCleaner also has a secure shredder feature.
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Dmitriy says:
any update?
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Nick Congleton says:
Both programs really do fill relatively the same space. Really, it mostly comes down to reputation. BleachBit has a better track record at this point. It’s also open source and cross-platform. Being more of a Linux guy myself, I’m not super familiar with CCleaner’s features, but Bleachbit just added a bunch of extra functionality for specific operating systems and web browsers.

Again, I wouldn’t say there’s a huge difference here in what these programs can do. It’s all about who you can trust more, and at this point, it looks like that’s BleachBit.

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Tom says:
Dmitry, it’s similar to ccleaner but unlike ccleaner it wasn’t hacked and didn’t infect it’s user’s computers with a pile of malware.
That said, neither program is appropriate for inexperienced users. Either could break your Windows installation if misused.

For less adept users, I’d suggest you use the shredding and clutter tools that are built into your 3rd party security suite. If you fall into this category, I hope you are running a full featured, major brand suite like McAfee, Norton, Bitdefender, etc. The other option is purchasing your computer from a brick and mortar store that actually has a tech department like Staples or Best Buy and contracting with them to keep your computer clean. It costs about the same as a single virus removal or diag and repair to contract with them for two years up front. If you don’t have the knowledge and tools at hand it’s money well spent.

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Sharron says:
‘Seriously? – Did I just hear you say “I hope you are running a full featured, major brand suite like McAfee, Norton, Bitdefender, etc. ”

Was that meant as an insult to the guy you were replying to? – Or do you just naturally hate people?

You then went on to say
“The other option is purchasing your computer from a brick and mortar store that actually has a tech department like Staples or Best Buy and contracting with them to keep your computer clean.”
You’re having a little joke with the guy there, right?
You must be joking; because that advice is probably the worst advice you could give anyone unless you actually work for Staples or Best Buy, or unless you’re advising somebody with unlimited money who you don’t really like.

Jeez. – Once upon a time you could get good advice from this site. What went wrong?

Reply
Dmitriy says:
How does it stack up against ccleaner
Reply

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