NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, August 2008
My Favorite FREE PC Utilities Part 3 Utilities
By Ira Wilsker, APCUG Director;
Columnist, The Examiner, Beaumont, TX; Radio & TV Show Host

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In my continuing efforts to try and assist my readers in these trying economic times, I am continuing to provide you with information on quality software available at no cost. While many of us routinely use our computers for a variety of tasks, there is often no need to purchase expensive commercial software when totally viable and free alternatives are available. Some of the free software is competitive in key features to its expensive competitors, and can often perform similar tasks. In many circumstances, free software alternatives should be considered, freeing up our fiscal resources for other more important daily needs.

With normal use, the performance of our computers tends to degrade as our hard drives become cluttered, our registry grows with often obsolete and erroneous entries that can adversely impact PC performance, and booting and shutting down our computers becomes a time consuming activity. On my weekly radio show (KLVI 560AM, 6-7pm Mondays), I am frequently asked by callers about how to resolve the aforementioned predicaments; one freeware utility that I often recommend is IObits Advanced WindowsCare Personal Edition, available for download from http://www.iobit.com. For those who desire more features and enhancements, IObit offers a commercial Professional Edition.

Advanced WindowsCare Personal Edition is a comprehensive free utility that can be used to help improve the performance of a sluggish computer by performing a variety of tasks. For those who desire simplicity without technical drudgery, this software offers the user the option to scan and repair his computer with two mouse clicks from the opened program. The first click should be on the SCAN selection which will scan the system for errors and problems, and present a detailed report of problems found on the screen. After reviewing what the program found, a REPAIR button will be a logical next step. The second mouse click will safely repair critical operating system and software components, without any additional participation from the user, optimizing much of the system. Many users actually perform this two-click procedure on a daily basis to help ensure optimal performance. According to IObit, this automated periodic scan and repair will help end slow downs, freezes and crashes, and will also help identify many security threats. This Personal Edition also includes a periodically updated database of spyware and adware signatures, and scans the system for spyware, adware, and other malware, and can help remove it, a necessary key to personal cyber security. Personal Edition can also be used to protect the users privacy by erasing the users history files and tracks. This software can be used to detect and remove obsolete files, junk files, and corrupted registry entries.

One major cause of deteriorated PC performance, slow boots, slow shutdowns, insufficient virtual memory warnings, and other plagues of good performance is having too many useless or even dangerous programs in the system startup. Many programs set themselves up to run at each boot when originally installed, supposedly as a convenience to the user. In reality, many of these auto-starting programs can be resource hogs, interfere with each other, and severely degrade performance. Removing unnecessary programs from the startup may significantly improve system performance. While this list of startup programs can be manually modified by using a cryptic but integral Windows utility called MSConfig, the typical user would not likely know what all of the entries mean. Personal Edition includes a competent startup manager that can either be run as part of the automated scan, or can be run selectively (my personal choice).

The Personal Edition startup manager displays a list of those programs that load at boot, and a description of many of them from a database of known startup entries. Known entries are labeled on the right side of the screen as trusted and safe (probably leave them alone), or an indication of their usefulness or dangers. Unchecking the box to the left of each entry, and applying the results will prevent those items from loading at next boot, resulting in improved performance. Dangerous startup entries can be deleted. Clicking on the line of a known item will display a description of the item in the left side of the display. Unknown startup items are displayed, and an option is presented to perform a web search to identify them, allowing the user to decide which item will continue to load at boot. It should be noted that if an item is unchecked by the user (and not deleted), it can always be re-checked at a later time to re-enable it to load at boot.

Advanced WindowsCare Personal Edition is a popular and well regarded free software product. It runs on Windows 2000, XP, and Vista, and has logged over ten million downloads in the three years since its introduction. Cnets Download.com lists this program as its #1 most popular system utility, based on the number of downloads. Cnets editors rated this program highly, and said, "Advanced WindowsCare Personal provides a convenient way for non-technical users to perform routine maintenance and apply system optimization tweaks without the need to become a computer geek." Along with this statement, Cnet awarded Advanced WindowsCare Personal Edition its highest five-star rating. Cnet is not alone in its kudos for this program; the popular download service Tucows gave it its highest five cow rating. Other websites and publications have acknowledged the quality of this software, including MajorGeeks Editors Pick, and many others.

In terms of features, Advanced WindowsCare Personal Edition is very competitive in terms of features with its commercial counterparts, surpassing many of them in terms of features, ease of use, and overall performance improvement. Personally, I put Advanced WindowsCare Personal Edition on almost every privately owned computer that I have, and have recommended it to many people, including my radio show listeners. It would be a worthy addition to any PC users collection of software. Users may also find that it may become one of their most useful software utilities, at a price that can not be beat.

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