An underperforming PC is the bane of every computer user’s existence. Slow start-up times and sluggish application loads are enough to make you want to pull your hair out, but maintenance utility iolo System Mechanic 8.5 ($34.97 for three licenses) can scrub the cobwebs out of a notebook’s guts to get it working as good as new—if not better. It builds upon the easy-to-use foundation laid by System Mechanic 8.0, but removes some of compatibility problems and Blue Screens of Death we experienced in that version.
Simple, Clean Interface
System Mechanic 8.5’s interface is simple enough not to intimidate novices, but it adds plenty of customizable features that will intrigue tweakers. The main area is dominated by the left-hand pane, which includes four headings: Dashboard, ActiveCare, Tools, and Reports. Dashboard enables one-click system analysis and displays known problems; ActiveCare contains automated settings for all of the different processes; and Tools allows users to run specific scans and repairs. Under the Automated Tasks tab, you can customize the repairs via disable/enable toggles.
Through the ActiveCare tab, we were able to automate individual tasks, which ranged from checking for low memory to shortcut repairs and drive fragmentation. Intermediate users will appreciate the Power Tools section, which divides tasks not into individual processes, but into four major categories: PC Accelerator, PC Repair, PC Cleanup, and PC Security. The Individual Tools tab is more advanced, allowing users to focus on the improvements they want to see in their computer’s performance.
In the Tools menu, users can choose increase Performance, Enhance Performance, Free Up Disk Space, Repair Problems, Ensure Personal Privacy, Manage System Configuration, and Perform Diagnostics. DriveSense allowed us to monitor our hard drive’s activity as well as its temperature. Included for each process are a description (so you will always know what you’re doing) and a Start button to run it. Early adopters will be happy to learn that System Mechanic 8.5 is compatible with 64-bit Windows operating systems as well as Windows 7.
When System Mechanic 8.5 scanned and displayed a list of six problems found on our four-year-old Dell Inspiron 1150 (2.6-GHz Intel Celeron CPU, 256MB of RAM, Windows XP), we hit Repair All to clean up the mess. Afterward, the PC was given a rating of Fair, from an initial rating of Poor.
Before running System Mechanic 8.5 on our Inspiron 1150, we ran Cinebench 10 (a CPU and RAM benchmark) and Geekbench 2 (a CPU and GPU benchmark) to test the system’s performance. The notebook scored 178 and 633 on Cinebench (tests of OpenGL and single CPU muscle, respectively), while Geekbench achieved a mark of 705. After running System Mechanic 8.5, the scores increased to 203, 661, and 724—some of the greatest improvements among the four suites we reviewed. Overall system performance felt snappier, but the performance enhancement wasn’t as significant as with TuneUp Utilities 2009.
We decided to test the system’s multimedia muscle by ripping and converting files. Ripping the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Show Your Bones CD using iTunes 8 took 7 minutes and 59 seconds before running System Mechanic 8.5, and 7:14 after. Transcoding a 114MB MPEG-4 video clip to WMV took 13 minutes and 28 seconds before System Mechanic 8.5, and dropped dramatically to just 5:32 after we eliminated the clutter. Both the ripping and the transcoding times were third best when compared to the other suites we’ve recently reviewed.
System Mechanic 8.5 caused the biggest improvement in the area of boot time: the time to load Windows XP and applications was slashed from 1:30 to 1:16. Competitor TuneUp Utilities 2009 made for the fastest boot time with its cleanup, at 1 minute and 13 seconds.
If you’re worried about sluggish performance while iolo System Mechanic 8.5 is running, don’t be; the system ran smoothly until we performed several activities at once (such as running multiple Web browsers and streaming music).
Iolo System Mechanic 8.5 is as thorough as previous incarnations, while eliminating the flaws found in System Mechanics 8.0 (and adding Windows 7 and 64-bit OS support). It may not provide the same performance-enhancing boost as TuneUp Utilities 2009 (or its unique features), but it has a far greater immediate impact than Large Software PC Tune-Up and Macecraft jv16 PowerTools 2009.