NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, November 2012
"All in One" Free Windows Performance Utilities Updated
By Ira Wilsker, Radio Show Host,
Columnist, College Professor and deputy sheriff
(click to email author)


There are several excellent "all in one" Windows system cleaners available. These system cleaners may be able to improve system performance by cleaning the hard drive, managing the startup, tweaking internal Windows settings, cleaning and optimizing the registry (NOTE: cleaning the registry is controversial) improving internet speeds, and performing a host of other system maintenance functions.

What may be the most widely used free comprehensive system cleaner is IObit's Advanced System Care Free (http://www.iobit.com/advancedsystemcareper.html), whose website claims that 130 million copies have been downloaded. IObit recently (October 10th) announced the release of a new Version 6 of its very popular Advanced System Care line. While the free version of Advanced System Care is very adequate for most users, some users will appreciate the increased functionality and features of the commercial version. The new version 6 is an 18.2 mb download, and will uninstall any previous versions of the program that may have been on the computer. After downloading and installing the new version 6, the opening window displays the current health of the machine, an option to select "Quick Settings", "Smart Scan", and "Expert Mode." The "Quick Settings" mode offers a wide selection of security, performance, and cleaning options, as well as a selection of automatic options. The "Security - Full Detection" setting allows the user to perform a security scan and remove malware from the computer, as well as provides some protection from future infections. Also under "Security" is an option that will provide substantial security while surfing the web, a major vector for malware infections. The "Performance" group provides system performance monitoring, active optimization, intelligent drive optimization (defragmentation) , and an "Ultimate TuneUp" which optimizes Windows performance and maximizes internet speed by implementing revised browser settings. The cleaning choices include "Deep Cleaning" of the registry (some users do not recommend cleaning the registry), and secure file deletion. The "Automatic" settings will provide the selected services anytime that the computer is idle, remove privacy threats, and keep Advanced System Care updated.

In the center of the opening Advances System Care screen is a large "Smart Scan" button, which will invoke a series of scans, including malware detection and removal, registry repair and cleaning, a privacy sweep (removes tracking cookies and other privacy threats), deletes junk files from the hard drive freeing up space, boosts the internet speed, and repairs any broken shortcuts. My personal choice is to implement the "Expert Mode" which includes all of the basic cleaning functions already listed, as well as a "Toolbox" with over two dozen helpful utilities, and a "Turbo Boost" function which will optimize and speed up the computer. On the expert window is also the option of changing the "skin" or appearance of Advanced System Care between the classic view, and a black or white background.

Slim Cleaner (http://slimcleaner.com) is a well regarded system cleaner, with a 5-Star "Spectacular" rating from the CNET editors, and a 4-Star average users' rating. Slim Cleaner, updated October 4th, and rated #4 in downloads from the CNET Maintenance and Optimization category with nearly a million downloads, is a very strong contender. In order to install Slim Cleaner, a small 700k installer is downloaded, which in turn downloads the complete program (6.5 mb). Slim Cleaner is a very comprehensive cleaning and optimization utility that offers features in one program that are competitive with the combined features of several other programs. One of the several Slim Cleaner features includes virtually all of the cleaning capabilities of CCleaner, the world's most widely used hard drive cleaner. Under the "Optimize" menu is an excellent startup manager that uses cloud computing and community ratings to indicate which programs are necessary in startup, which are optional, and which should be removed from the startup in order to speed the boot process and improve overall performance. If a suspicious program is found in the startup (or other optimize functions), clicking on the "View Results" will display the risk factors using Cloud AV (anti-virus); if a program in startup is not determined as malware by Cloud AV, it will be marked with a green check. The Optimize - Services displays the services (programs and Windows components) that are currently running, their risk as determined by Cloud AV, and includes the ability to control which systems are running, another performance and security benefit.

Other menu selections in Slim Cleaner include "Software" which displays the community rating of all programs installed on the computer, publisher information, and an uninstall link for each program. The "Browsers" menu displays information on the internet browsers installed on the computer including Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Opera, and Safari browsers. Clicking on the browser displays information on the startup page, extensions, and plugins, as well as the community ratings for each item displayed. The "Disk Tools" menu includes several hard drive utilities including a smart defragmentation utility, disk analyzer, disk wiper, file shredder (securely deletes files), and a duplicate file finder to free up hard drive space. The "Windows Tools" offers 15 system utilities, as well as a speedometer type display that shows CPU usage and RAM utilization. The "Hijack Log" is a strong competitor to the industry leading "Hijack This" from EmsiSoft, which is used to determine if any running programs or other items are malware. The Hijack Log displays all of the items in the startup, browser toolbars, browser helpers (BHO), and Active X, along with the community ratings for each, the Cloud AV results (displays if malware), the path, and the publisher of the item. In summary, Slim Cleaner is well deserved of its "Spectacular" rating from CNET.

Clean Genius (http://www.easeus.com/cleangenius) is somewhat of a newcomer to the all in one cleaning and optimization category, even though it listed as a version 3, dated October 2nd. Its publisher, the well regarded EaseUS, is known for its excellent utilities, and Clean Genius is one of the newest utilities in its large stable of software utilities. As with most other cleaning utilities, there are both free and commercial versions available. According to the EaseUS website, the free version of Clean Genius offers optimized computer speed and performance, a quick scan and deep scan for computer issues and problems, and a comprehensive hard disk cleaner. The Quick Scan includes a junk files cleaner, registry cleaner (some users recommend against cleaning the registry), shortcut repair, system optimizer, and a privacy sweeper. The Deep Scan does all of the above, plus includes a system optimizer, network optimizer, and disk defragmenting utility. In addition to the automated functions, there are an even 20 individually selectable utilities available from a scrolling menu at the bottom of the program window; some of these utilities are a RAM manager, a hard drive checker, a file splitter, and uninstall manager, driver backup function, file encryption, and several other useful functions.

While there are countless other free and commercial all in one optimizers and cleaners, any one (or more) of these three comprehensive free utilities would serve PC users well.

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