written by: Brian Nelson•edited by: Bill Fulks•updated: 8/13/2009
Your activities leave traces all over your computer. Files are written on your hard drive with your private information, many of them unencrypted! Read this review to find the five best tools to hunt down those files and remove them to preserve your privacy.
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Protecting Your Privacy
Top 5 Privacy File Cleaners
These days, you can't be too careful with your personal data. We went from people stealing your mail to people crawling through dumpsters to get a look at your personal data. Whether you use a shared computer, or just worry about access others have to your system (cleaning staff, your boss), these privacy file cleaners will ensure that your private data isn't scattered all over your hard drive.
Half the privacy battle is knowing where your private data is. That's where CCleaner comes in. What started many years ago as a simple cookie deleter has grown into a full scale privacy keeper. CCleaner will delete not just your cookies, but your history, temporary internet files, and all sorts of files and indexes you've never heard of. What's more, CCleaner also cleans up all those files left behind by assorted applications.
Cleans browser tracks AND system files
Also cleans up applications like MS Office, Google Toolbar, Adobe and others
Only supports IE, Firefox, Opera
Privacy Eraser Pro
Privacy Eraser Pro, like CCleaner, removes those pesky tracks left behind by your internet surfing. It also hits the usual hotspots like Recent Documents and the recycle bin. But, it also allows for plugins that provide for privacy functionality on over 250 different applications. So, you can take care of more than your browser and system files.
Supports IE, Firefox, Netscape, AOL, Opera, and MSN Explorer
Plug-ins support additional privacy for other applications including Adobe, Office, Image Viewers, and Video Players
Can be scheduled to run on a regular basis
$29.95 price tag
Can be difficult for less experienced users to setup plugins
Privacy Guardian cleans up all those Internet files, temp files, and system files. It also supports plugins including lesser known chat programs. It claims to use DOD standard file wiping techniques to not only delete your files, but keep even the most savvy byte jockey from being able to recover them.
Supports IE, Netscape, Firefox and Opera
DOD standard file erasing means files are unrecoverable
Plugins available to clean even more products
Scans can be scheduled
"One Click" processes are difficult to configure (you can use the manual functions)
Webroot Window Washer
Window Washer removes all the standard internet browsing tracks plus over 450 other applications making it the most comprehensive product. It also allows for more customization, allowing you to decide to keep certain things if you choose.
Supports tons of 3rd party applications
Customizable to leave certain applications or files alone
Can be set to work on schedule
$29.95 (per year)
Customization can lead to user error – best to know what you are doing if you are going this route
Beefier profile than the others; uses more resources
WinClear does a solid job of erasing your tracks from your internet browser based activities. It takes care of the usual suspects like the cache, cookies, history, etc. It also automatically empties your Recycle Bin on startup. The best WinClear feature is that you can use hotkeys to start the cleaning process and it will all happen in the background without interrupting your work. Great for when you just finish doing something private ("What is the deal with this green discharge?") and you want to clean up right away without launching a program or waiting for the scheduled cleaning time.
Supports almost any browser - IE, Firefox, AOL, Netscape, Mozilla, Opera, MSN Explorer
Hotkeys allow instant start and runs in the background
Can be set to work on schedule
$37 price tag Mostly for Internet cleanup only, won't get data inside of 3rd party apps Other Editor's Picks from this writer >>> Windows Server 2008 Read Only Domain Controllers >>> Why Firefox is Better Than IE 7.0