NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, May 2007
“TUT” – The Ultimate Troubleshooter
By Ira Wilsker, APCUG Director;
Columnist, The Examiner, Beaumont, TX; Radio & TV Show Host

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According to a British website, “Answers That Work” (www.answersthatwork.com), 65% of problems on PCs, such as lockups, crashes, blue screens of death, and poor performance are due to causes other than the commonly suspected culprits. Many people erroneously blame malware such as viruses or spyware for the problems on their computers, and some go to extreme measures to attempt to resolve these problems. Unbeknownst to the users of computers with the symptoms above, the problems they are experiencing are not due to the possible presence of malware, but to background tasks that are loaded and running mostly from the software the users have installed on their computers. A solution to improve performance by giving the user easy and informed control over the tasks running on the computer is a $29 program called “The Ultimate Troubleshooter”, commonly known in industry circles by its acronym, “TUT”. TUT is a compilation of solutions learned based on over 20 years experience trouble shooting computers.

For the past four years I have diagnosed my computers using TUT, and have been able to tweak them and maximize performance based on the recommendations made possible by the software. One of the functions integral in TUT is its “PC Tuning” service which uses its extensive database of tasks that may be running on a PC, and the degree of necessity of that task. As I type this, I have 45 tasks running on my computer, and TUT displays each of the tasks running and explains the functionality in understandable terms. Each task can be managed by the user such that only necessary tasks are running, which will free up system resources resulting in improved performance. Each of the running tasks is labeled by status (unknown, user’s choice, multiple possibilities, OK, and Not OK), task name, CPU usage of each task, memory being used, manufacturers’ description, and other technical information is displayed. Right clicking on a task will allow the user to terminate the task, suspend the task, or get additional information about the task.

Many users are plagued with slow booting of their machines when turned on and subsequent impaired performance. The primary cause of this malady is too many or unnecessary programs loaded when the computer is booted. The startup sequence becomes bloated as software is installed, as many programs want to be automatically loaded every time the computer is started, and this can degrade performance. TUT contains one of the most comprehensive startup managers available. The “Startups” function of TUT displays each program that is loaded when booted, regardless of whether the program is loaded from the startup file, registry or other source. Each program is labeled by status, startup name, launch command, manufacturer, description, and startup source. The status indicator shows if the programs are necessary and OK (green), user’s choice (yellow), dangerous or otherwise unnecessary (red), or unknown (no color tag). By removing any red tagged startup items (which may also be viruses or spyware) dangerous and otherwise useless items will not be loaded at the next boot. The user’s choice (yellow) items can be reviewed and selected or deselected by the user by simply utilizing a checkbox.

Unchecking an item will prevent it from loading at next boot. Stopping unnecessary items from loading at boot will improve performance and speed the boot performance.

The “Services” tab shows the internal workings of the operating system and other programs that are running at the moment. Right clicking on a running service allows the user to control the service by stopping it, and control the loading and execution of the service item at startup. The traditional red – yellow – green indicator on each service clearly indicates the degree of functionality, necessity, and safety of each running service.

The “Housekeeping” function of TUT allows the user to selectively clean junk files from the hard drive, freeing up disk space. Housekeeping also runs a PC health check to determine the operating condition of the computer. Freeing up drive space and ceasing unnecessary tasks contributes to stability, another key ingredient of overall system performance.

For both informational and maintenance purposes, it is often useful to know precisely what hardware and software is in and on the computer. “System Info” displays comprehensive information about the machine and its software. The “System Summary” displays detailed information about the motherboard, BIOS, CPU, graphics card, operating system, memory, disc drives, and other information. Detailed information about components is often necessary for maintenance and update purposes, and TUT provides that information. Details are also provided about the cache memory, comm ports, drives, environmental variables, graphics card and settings, and many other computer components. Installed software is also listed in detail, along with a very helpful adjunct; TUT also displays an internet “Help Link” for more information from the software publisher, and as a resource for updates and upgrades. Other hardware and software information is listed as well. One helpful feature is a complete listing of Windows updates that shows the date of the update, a simple description of the update, and the Microsoft Knowledge Base (“KB”) number for additional information from the original source.

For those who want to know about websites and other internet information, TUT offers several utilities, including the identification and display of the computers IP address (TCP/IP configuration, MAC address, etc.), name server lookup, ping, trace route (shows the path that internet connections follow over the internet) and “whois” (displays the registered owner of a website).

One nice service provided by TUT is the frequent updates of its database, as well as periodic updates of the software itself. As I type this, I am using TUT version 4.21, which is an update from the recently released version 4.0.

TUT version 4 works on Windows 2000, XP, Win2003, and 32 bit versions of Vista. For the bargain price of $29, I found that TUT is an indispensable utility for diagnosing computer problems and improving PC performance. Its full name, “The Ultimate Troubleshooter” is a well earned moniker, and I strongly recommend it. A free demo version is available to download from http://www.answersthatwork.com so users can examine the product prior to purchase.

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