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System Mechanic ($50, 30-day free trial) is a suite of utilities designed to root out problems slowing your computer down. In general, its optimization routines are geared toward a faster computer and one that runs better and more error-free. This new version, 9.5.1, introduces some features to take advantage of Windows 7's capabilities. Sounds useful, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating--and some of System Mechanic's quirks are hard to swallow.
After scanning my computer, System Mechanic listed several problems, some of them strange for a Win7 install that's only about a month old: "Your computer has 7.42GB system clutter"; "Your computer has 1 unnecessary startup item"; "Your Internet configuration is not optimized for maximum speed"; "Your registry has never been backed up." It then showed a paragraph describing what each of these terms mean. Notice what's missing? Detail about what those none-too-specific problem items actually are on my PC. System Mechanic's "more detail" function is hidden in an arrow next to the "Remove" or "Optimize" button. You have to select the wizard for each problem area in order to view more details. And there's no wizard for optimizing one's Internet connection for speed; you simply have to trust that it's tweaking your Net connection correctly.
This lack of detail isn't very user-friendly at all. Before I trust a new app to fix problems, I want to know what that system clutter is, what that unnecessary startup item is, what exactly about my Internet configuration is slowing me down. No way am I going to push a button to fix it unless I know what the app is fixing, and as it is, getting those details from System Mechanic can only be done in a roundabout way--and only for certain items. I found that the majority of what System Mechanic called "system clutter" was in my Recycle Bin, which I hadn't emptied in a while.
System Mechanic determined that the one unnecessary startup file was QuickTime Player in the Quick Launch taskbar. I spoke to a representative at iolo technologies, and she explained that this Quick Launch icon deals only with updating QuickTime, and Apple checks for updates using other methods--so this icon isn't really necessary. Still, I don't think it's worth removing unless your taskbar is filled with clutter.
As for the recommended registry backup--Windows backs up the registry itself when you set a System Restore point, but it is nice to have the option of backing up the registry individually. That's not a bad suggestion.
I found one very misleading thing in System Mechanic's reports. System Mechanic indicated with a big green checkmark that my virus scanner was successfully protecting my computer against all "malware". This isn't the case: Avira Antivir is strictly a virus scanner, and since it was the only process I had running, my PC wasn't protected against other forms of malware such as spyware and adware. I run Lavasoft Ad-Aware Free periodically for that. System Mechanic should report that I don't have a system-resident spyware/adware guard running--even though one isn't as necessary as a virus guard would be. On a positive note, System Mechanic did correctly detect that I had Windows Firewall turned on.
In our review of the previous version of System Mechanic, we noted that a duplicate file search that is supposed to take 1-3 minutes actually takes far longer. After testing, I determined that the problem still exists: Several minutes after the expected time, System Mechanic wasn't anywhere close to finishing.
On the plus side, this newest version of System Mechanic, supports a nifty Windows 7 feature called Jump Lists. When you go to the start menu and select System Mechanic, you can now get a dropdown menu of many useful functions within that program. Instead of just launching System Mechanic, it'll start that function immediately upon launch, which saves time.
Overall, System Mechanic promises a lot of fixes to improve stability and speed, but asks for a lot of trust in return. Someone who lets System Mechanic run its automated processes has no assurance but the vendor's that the program won't remove a necessary startup application, for example. System Mechanic needs to give a whole lot more detail about what exactly it's fixing to make it worthwhile.
Note: The System Mechanic trial is full-featured, but lasts for 30 days. The full version costs $50.
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