Review: For a tune-up suite, System Mechanic is a good choice

At a Glance
  • Iolo System Mechanic 11.5

    PCWorld Rating

    If your mind is set on buying a tune-up utility, System Mechanic is a solid buy.

Iolo's System Mechanic is a $40 tune-up utility designed to fix, speed up, de-clutter and protect your PC.

When the scan is complete, System Mechanic 11.5 presents a full list of problems and offers fixes.

When put against popular free options such as CCleaner, System Mechanic is definitely heavier on resources, but is also richer on options. I pitted them against one another in a standard registry scan, and System Mechanic found just over 800 problems that CCleaner didn't detect.

System Mechanic is sold as an all-around PC care solution, and as such, includes no fewer than 36 different clean-up, management, performance, protection, and diagnostic tools. You can find each of these individual tools in the Toolbox, and you can use each one separately to target specific PC issues. Alternatively—and this is the recommended option—you can run a complete PC scan to detect problems such as misaligned and fragmented files, security vulnerabilities, errors in system drive, registry problems, system clutter, etc. You can opt for the quick scan, estimated at one to two minutes, or the deep scan, estimated at five to seven minutes.

When tested on my system, the deep scan lasted almost 25 minutes, including a hard-disk errors scan that you skip if you catch the prompt on time. Upon completion, System Mechanic called my system status "Critical," complete with a scary dial pointing at the very bottom of the scale. At this point, you can either choose to blindly repair all problems, or start digging into the individual findings.

System Mechanic includes many built-in tools, including a full hard drive optimizer.

The nice thing about System Mechanic is the way it makes itself relevant to many types of users. Don't know anything about these things? Click the big shiny "Repair All" button and be done with it, although this comes with the risk of deleting something important. Even if you choose to click "View Problems," there are still several ways to go about repairing your issues. For each problem found, you can either let System Mechanic make repairs in its own way, or open a specific wizard where you can see exactly where the problems are, find out more about them, and choose exactly which ones you want to repair. Each type of problem comes with a completely different wizard, made specifically for it, and in some of these, you can even toggle between Standard and Expert mode to access even more options. All in all, version 11.5 makes it fairly easy to understand the specifics of each detected problem, although some problems such as Internet configuration still lack specific details.

Reviewing scan results and repairing problems is part of the System Mechanic's Dashboard tab. From there, you can also toggle AcceleWrite, which supposedly ensures files are written with maximum efficiency on your hard-drive. Under the ActiveCare tab, you can enable various automated tasks which are supposed to keep your PC optimized after repairs are complete. For example, you can set the program to automatically optimize your startup configuration, automatically recover unused memory, automatically backup your registry, and more. The Internet Security tab keeps track of your malware, anti-virus, and firewall protection, and the Reports tab includes the IntelliStatus board where you can see your entire system status at a glance, and optimize things quickly.

System Mechanic 11.5 also brings a social twist to the tune-up business with the Soluto-like community results that can help you decide what to do about your PC's issues. Can't decide if a program should be in your startup? Get some inspirations from what other users decided to do.

When pondering a solution, you can sometimes see what other users have chosen to do.

It also comes with the usual SafetyNet,  an undo feature to use if you've gone and erased something really important. Done playing with it for now? Closing the System Mechanic window actually eliminates the process and closes the program, but a small agent stays on your desktop at all times, making sure you know the status of your system, and that you can get instant access to repair options.

In the sometimes seedy tune-up community, System Mechanic gives off a professional air, and feels like a pretty powerful tool. System Mechanic doesn't promise anything it doesn't deliver, and can provide total PC control even for beginner users. But if truth be told, a combination of free tools, common sense, and some patience can probably yield the same results. If you're already looking to buy a tune-up suite, iolo System Mechanic is a solid option, and one $40 license is valid for all the computers in your household.

Note: The Download button on the Product Information page takes you to the vendor's site, where you can download the latest version of the software.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    If your mind is set on buying a tune-up utility, System Mechanic is a solid buy.

    Pros

    • Comprehensive in features and scanning
    • Fits beginner and more advanced users
    • One license for all household computers

    Cons

    • Hogs RAM
    • License is good for only one year
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