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How to easily and quickly clean your system and free disk space with BleachBit

When your computer slowly fills with files, it can become sluggish and problematic. One easy way to take care of this is with the BleachBit tool.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
Reviewed by Min Shin
A woman using her laptop in a busy cafe.
Image: Tom Werner/Getty Images

Your computer is filled with various types of files that you don't need or want hanging around. Given the way we work these days, much of that comes by way of the web browser cache, downloaded files, and temporary files. If you don't take care and remove those files, the applications that use or save them can become slow to respond or even not run at all.

It doesn't take much in the way of computer savvy to delete the various cached files your browser is saving. 

The thing is, you just have to remember to do it. There are, of course, other cached files you might not know about. 

Or, there might be applications that save cached files and there's no clear method of deleting those files. 

That's when a tool like BleachBit comes in handy. In a single sweep, BleachBit can clear caches, delete cookies, clear your internet history, shred temporary files, delete logs, and toss out junk files. BleachBit is available for both Linux and Windows and works with thousands of applications to keep your system free and clear of buildup.

Also: How to clear the cache on your Android phone or tablet (and why)

I'm going to show you how to install and use this handy tool, so you can keep your system free of unwanted garbage.

How to clean your system and free disk space with BleachBit


The only things you'll need for this are a supporting operating system (either Linux or Windows) and (in the case of Linux) a user with sudo privileges. I'll demonstrate the installation on Linux because the Windows installation is just a matter of downloading and double-clicking the BleachBit .exe file.

That's it. Let's get to work.

I'm going to demonstrate the installation on both Pop!_OS Linux and Fedora Linux, which will cover both RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux)-based and Ubuntu-based installations.

1. Download the installer file

Point your web browser to the BleachBit Linux download site and download either the .deb or .rpm package for your distribution. 

2. Install BleachBit on an Ubuntu-based distribution

For the Ubuntu-based distributions, open a terminal window, change into the Downloads directory (assuming that's where you saved the .deb file), and issue the command below. 

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Notice the * character in the command. That's called a wildcard. I put that in place of the BleachBit release number so that even if you download a newer version than is available on the date I wrote this piece, the installation command will still work.

sudo dpgk -i bleachbit*.deb -y

3. Install BleachBit on an RHEL-based distribution

If you use a RHEL-based distribution (such as Fedora), the installation command would be:

sudo rpm -i bleachbit*.rpm -y

That's it for the installation.

Using BleachBit

There are two ways to open BleachBit, with and without admin privileges. Here's the difference:

  • Without admin privileges isn't capable of cleaning files that require admin privileges but will clean your user profile.
  • With admin privileges is capable of cleaning files that require admin privileges but cannot clean your user profile.

I will also warn you that running with admin privileges should be done with care, as you could wind up deleting important system files. For example, running BleachBit with admin privileges allows you to clean journald, which cleans the journal (logging data) from the system. The admin privilege run of BleachBit also cleans shared parts of the system and cleans the root account. Because of all this, I would recommend not running BleachBit with elevated privileges. 

So, when you run BleachBit, make sure you run the version that is not listed as BleachBit (as root).

Also: How to clear the Opera browser cache and why you should do it regularly 

When the app opens, you'll see a very simple screen where you can select everything you want to clean by clicking the associated checkbox in the left pane. One thing to keep in mind is that, in order to clean saved app files and caches, that app cannot be running. So, before you start BleachBit, close your web browser, email client, or any other app you might want to clear.

The BleachBit main window.

Running BleachBit without root access is your best bet.

Image: Jack Wallen

After making your selections in the left pane, click Preview. Why? Because the Preview will tell you how much space will be freed up by the cleaning, what is cleaned, and if there are any errors in the process.

A preview run report from BleachBit.

As you can see, BleachBit would clear up 11.48GB of space and clean over 18,000 files.

Image: Jack Wallen

If you're satisfied with what BleachBit reports, click Clean and the cleaning will begin. Depending on how much you're cleaning, the process can take some time. When the process completes, you'll get another report (very similar to the Preview report) and you can close the application.

Also: The 5 best Linux distros for beginners

And that's all there is to clean those unwanted files from your computer. I've been using BleachBit for years to clean my systems and have never run into a problem using the tool. Give it a try and see if it doesn't become your go-to for regular system cleaning.

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