NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, November 2012
Slim Utilities - Excellent Suite of Free PC Maintenance Software
By Ira Wilsker, Radio Show Host,
Columnist, College Professor and deputy sheriff
(click to email author)


A few weeks ago I wrote a column about several new versions of "all in one" PC maintenance utilities. In that column I mentioned that I was previously familiar with most of the utilities, but that there was one utility that was new to me, Slim Cleaner (slimcleaner.com). For review purposes, I downloaded and installed it, tried it, and wrote positively about my experiences with it. Not just was I favorably impressed with Slim Cleaner, but so was cNet's Download.com, whose editors gave Slim Cleaner its highest 5-star "Spectacular" rating. Now that I have had several weeks to perform additional testing of Slim Cleaner, including a newer version that was just released, I agree with cNet's rating.

While Slim Cleaner was the product that I originally downloaded and tested, the publisher, Slimware Utilities (slimwareutilities.com), has a suite of freeware utilities, each performing a specific PC task, filling a niche often skipped by many other PC maintenance products. Two other very interesting free products from this publisher include Slim Computer and Slim Drivers. According to the Slimware Utilities website, "SlimWare Utilities provides community-powered software and services that clean, repair, update and optimize personal computers." I found this "community-powered" concept interesting; it is described by Slimware as, " Community-Powered:

Using community-based input to improve our products - makes our software into living, breathing products that evolve, improve and become optimized into the fastest, most efficient applications on the planet. Think utility software meets cloud computing meets Web 2.0." One feature that I especially like about all of the Slimware Utilities is that once each component is downloaded, there is an option to create a portable version that can be installed on a USB flash drive such that it can be used on other computers without the need to install any additional programs.

My first impression of Slim Cleaner was that it was a strong competitor to one of the most widely used PC utilities, CCleaner. CCleaner has been downloaded over 950 million times, according to its website (piriform.com), securely cementing its position as the most widely used PC cleaning utility. I have CCleaner installed on all of my computers and have used it regularly. Now that I have experience with Slim Cleaner, I have found that it does all that CCleaner does and much more. When I first experimented with Slim Cleaner, I wrote that it was a comprehensive utility to clean and optimize the computer. In reality, Slim Cleaner does much more than just clean and optimize; it also includes a sophisticated uninstaller, a software updater, an intelligent disk defragmentation utility, an assortment of disk tools and utilities, a disk analyzer, a disk wiper, SSD (solid state disk) optimizer, duplicate file finder, an intelligent hijack log, a browser manager, and a large compendium of Windows tools. One interesting feature incorporated in all of the components of Slim Cleaner is that, " SlimCleaner uses a real-time stream from the cloud to compare against community feedback and make recommendations."

I thought that I was pretty good in keeping my installed software fairly up to date, but the Software Updater in Slim Cleaner proved me very wrong in my assumption. In Slim Cleaner I clicked on Software - Updates which initiated a search of the software on my computers, followed by inquiry to the cloud about my software versions. While I have always been meticulous in keeping my security software properly updated, I have apparently neglected updating many of the programs on my computer, with Slim Cleaner finding 46 programs on my computer that need updating, including several that I use regularly. Adjacent to the title of each program that needs updating is a "More Info" button and an "Update Now" button that immediately initiates the update process for the selected program. According to Slim Cleaner, " Software updates are downloaded from SlimWare Utilities’ cloud, and all updates are scanned for viruses using CloudScan technology, SlimWare Utilities’ proprietary system of scanning files with multiple antivirus engines."

One unusual feature in Slim Cleaner is the "Solid-State Drive Optimization" which allows users to intelligently optimize the placement of files in the solid state drive (SSD) to both speed up the loading of files while minimizing the wear on the SSD. These Solid state drives are becoming much more common, and their rate of installation in new computers will likely accelerate as more PCs are built with Windows 8 which is explicitly designed to take advantage of SSD equipped devices.

While there are several other utilities that incorporate some form of hijack log system, the Hijack Log in Slim Cleaner is more powerful than a simple log generating device. The Hijack Log in Slim Cleaner can, "Scan for startup items, toolbars, BHOs, ActiveX controls, browser plug-ins and other third-party or malicious items that can “hijack” or modify a system. Get direct access to SlimWare’s cloud of antivirus scanners, or alternatively, VirusTotal, using the VirusTotal public API."

Though Slim Cleaner is Slim Utilities flagship product, its other free products are also quite useful. One such utility is Slim Computer (slimwareutilities.com/slimcomputer.php). This utility is more comprehensive than its better known competitors, and is used to remove useless programs and settings from new computers; most computer manufacturers load new computers with trial ware and a variety of other mostly third party products generally intended to provide a continuing revenue stream to the maker by selling paid subscriptions to those products, or otherwise generating "referral" income. Using its community powered system, Slim Computer identifies this "bloat ware" on a new computer, provides the user with information on the products and services, and gives the owner the option of deleting unwanted content. It has been well documented that much of this unnecessary software loads when the new computer is booted, which degrades the performance of the new computer. Among the promotional or otherwise unneeded software detected by Slim Computer includes pre-installed software (often trial or limited versions intended to encourage the user to purchase full versions or subscriptions), browser toolbars which may degrade browser performance, unnecessary startup items that slow a computer's boot process and wastes system capacity and power, and removes useless shortcuts (often paid advertising links) on the desktop that link to the above unneeded and unnecessary items. Once Slim Computer removes (at the users' informed discretion) these unwanted items, Slim Computer optimizes the startup process and Windows services to improve performance.

The third free utility in this trilogy is Slim Drivers (slimwareutilities.com/slimdrivers.php). This helpful utility automatically scans all of the internal and external devices and peripherals connected to the computer and scans the cloud to find and install the latest drivers for those devices. Among the items' drivers scanned include, "printers, graphic and sound cards, motherboards, USB ports, game controllers and other devices and hardware." Slim Drivers determines the latest correct drivers for the detected components and peripherals, retrieves them from the cloud, and installs them. As can all other Slimware Utilities, Slim Drivers can create a portable version that can be used from a flash drive to detect and download new drivers to any internet connected PC.

All of the Slimware Utilities can run on any contemporary version of Windows, both 32 and 64 bit systems, including Windows 7, XP Home, XP Professional, XP Media Center, Vista Home, Vista Business, and Vista Ultimate. The mission statement of Slimware Utilities " ... is to provide software that solves the most common computer problems head-on with the cardinal points of Speed, Protection and Ease-of-Use." In my opinion, Slimware Utilities' suite of products fully complies with its mission statement. All three components of this family will serve PC users well.

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