NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, January 2013
System Mechanic 11.5 - Comprehensive PC Maintenance
By Ira Wilsker, Radio Show Host,
Columnist, College Professor and deputy sheriff
(click to email author)


Windows PC users have almost universally noticed an apparent slowdown of their computers after a few months of use, and this apparent performance degradation seems to get worse as the computer ages. With the same operating system, same processor, memory and hard drive, we often wonder why our computer is slower than before. There are many reasons for this decline in performance, but with judicious application of appropriate cleaning techniques, many of these problems can be easily resolved by any one of the many decent utilities available explicitly for that purpose.

In the past, I have reviewed and written about several of the free performance enhancement utilities that have large and loyal followings of users, including the free versions of Glary Utilities, IObit's Advanced System Care, Wise Utilities, and several other popular performance products. While not available as a free utility (but a free fully functional trial version is available), Iolo's System Mechanic (http://www.iolo.com/system-mechanic/standard/) is possibly the most popular commercial (paid) performance utility available, with millions of registered users.

A valid question that may be asked is why a commercial product when there are so many good free products available? System Mechanic offers what may be the most comprehensive and powerful toolbox of performance improvement utilities available, along with free 24x7 live technical support (via 800 number) from a knowledgeable and expert staff. Readily available online and from the local big box stores, System Mechanic retails for $49.95 for a 1-year license (online and street prices are often much lower), but with its included "Whole Home License" a single license is valid for every PC in the household, which dramatically lowers the unit cost per PC if there are multiple PCs in the household.

The primary reason why most users use a product such as System Mechanic is to improve system performance, and System Mechanic has been given the highest evaluations and ratings by many of the major computer magazines and blogs as well as from the mass media (iolo.com/system-mechanic/standard/#awards). System Mechanic improves the speed of the PC by cleaning and optimizing the programs loaded at boot (startup), modifies the PC's internet settings for the best online throughput available from the internet connection, and improves system performance for routine computing activities and gaming.

With use, downloads, modifications made by other programs, and user error, countless problems can arise from altered settings, missing or corrupted files, and many other sources. System Mechanic claims that it can detect and repair over 30,000 known PC problems, " ... using intelligent live updates from Iolo Labs." These frequent live updates, along with Iolo's "Guided Recommendations harnesses the collective intelligence of the entire System Mechanic community base so you can safely and easily bring your PC to even greater heights of performance."

There can be no doubt that our hard drives become cluttered with huge numbers of obsolete "junk" files that waste large amounts of hard drive space, increasing the time it takes for the hard drive to locate and load data from the hard drive. System Mechanic can remove over 50 types of these obsolete files, freeing up large amounts of hard drive space; this provides more space for necessary files, and reduces the load on the hard drive. Some users have privacy concerns about internet histories, chat logs, and other sensitive information that may be included in internet transactions; System Mechanic can securely delete these items from the hard drive both freeing up valuable space while protecting personal privacy.

While all of the major performance utilities, including System Mechanic offer some form of single-click, automated cleanup and performance improvement, and most of these utilities offer some form of toolbox with multiple individual and specialized utilities, System Mechanic has one of the most powerful and comprehensive assortment of utilities in its toolbox. The user can select "All in one Tools" that include the single-click "PC TotalCare - All-in-one Solution - Run all diagnostic, repair, cleanup and security tools with one click", as well as more specialized single-click comprehensive tools that include PC Accelerator (performance improvements), PC Repair (repairs frustrating and mysterious errors), PC Cleanup (delete system clutter), and PC Security (corrects security flaws and improves PC safety).

One highly specialized all-in-one tool is "Total Registry Revitalizer" which cleans and organizes the computer's registry. Registry cleaning has been a controversial topic in cyber circles, with strong opinions on both sides of the issue. Many experts claim that cleaning the registry is dangerous, unnecessary, and can actually slow the computer rather than improve performance. Others, including the purveyors of the myriad of registry cleaning utilities, allege that cleaning the registry is a vital task in maintaining PC health and smooth operations. In fact, there is a degree of truth in both arguments, with System Mechanic offering a patented solution to the registry cleaning debate. The "Total Registry Revitalizer" (iolo.com/resources/articles/?id=30#Total-Registry-Revitalizer) implements a coordinated four step process that not just locates and removes registry problems (the same as the other major registry repair utilities), but then compacts, defragments, and reorganizes the registry removing the "bloat" (holes in the registry data where obsolete data and errors were removed) left in the registry. A backup of the improved registry is created that can be used to restore any changes that were made, or otherwise restore the registry in the event of a disaster or other catastrophic problems.

System Mechanic offers dozens of individual tools sorted into eight distinct categories including Maximize Performance, Enhance Protection, Clean Up System Clutter, Repair Problems, Ensure Personal Privacy, Manage System Configuration, Perform Diagnostics, and Manage Add-ons. While many of the individual tools in each of these eight categories are substantially the same as those in competing products, there are several that are especially noteworthy. The "Program Accelerator" claims to re-align the programs and their related data on the hard drive to speed up program launch times; this is not quite the same thing as drive defragmentation, which is also available. There is also a "CRUDD Remover" which can detect and remove software redundancies, which can improve system performance and stability.

This new version of System Mechanic includes specific enhancements for the newly released Windows 8, which is also plagued with performance degradation similar to the problems encountered in earlier versions of Windows. Officially, this build of System Mechanic will run on Windows 8, 7, Vista, and XP. On my Windows 7-64 machine, System Mechanic found and resolved many issues and problems that were not detected using the other competing products. While I have no strong empirical evidence to support my opinion, my computer seems to boot faster, load and execute programs faster, load web pages and email faster, and shutdown more quickly than before. Since a single System mechanic license will cover the many computers in my house, it appears to be a very cost effective way of improving and maintaining PC performance.

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