Lengthy PC boot times and molasses-slow performance aren't just annoying aspects of modern computing, they're time wasters. Large Software aims to alleviate the pains associated with fragmented hard drives and clogged registries with the latest version of PC Tune-Up. It offers a simple, intuitive interface, but the $29.99 maintenance utility doesn't enhance performance as well as competing products.
After we installed the software onto a four-year-old Dell Inspiron 1150 (2.6-GHz Intel Celeron CPU, 256MB of RAM, Windows XP), PC Tune-Up greeted us with an easy-to-read screen that presented four steps arranged in a circle: Backup, Scan, Repair, and Defrag. Each step has arrows that flow from one to the next, showing the circle of PC health, if you will. All of these tools can be activated individually or automatically (on a daily, weekly, or monthly schedule) with the Magic Button, a one-click repair solution that lives in the left portion of the UI along with the Backup, Scan, Repair, Defrag, Optimize, and Protect buttons.
The Protect button enables the PC Tune-Up to protect your system from ActiveX programs, which can be used to gather personal data. When we clicked Protect, it created a list of 1,427 ActiveX applications found on our PC and allowed us to cherry-pick which programs to safeguard the notebook against. The Optimize buttons contains two components that help reduce your PC's boot time: Memory Optimizer and Startup Wizard. The former frees up memory that is traditionally used to help applications run smoother, while the latter lets you select which applications launch when you fire up the PC.
We started the cleansing process by connecting an external hard drive to our Inspiron 1150 and using the Backup button in PC Tune-Up to make a copy of our data so we could have a restore point should any mishaps occur. We selected the My Documents directory (which contained My Music and My Pictures folders) and PC Tune-Up backed up the files in under a minute. From there we ran a Scan, which revealed more than 60 system errors, and followed that with Repair, which cleaned up the mess. Defrag removed unnecessary files that filled our registry and reduced its size by 4 percent. Each process took about 3 minutes; even while the PC Tune-Up was working its magic, we were able to Web surf and check e-mail with no noticeable lag.
Prior to using PC Tune-Up, we ran Cinebench 10 (a CPU and RAM benchmark) and Geekbench 2 (a CPU and GPU benchmark) on the four-year-old Inspiron 1150 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 705 mark. After running PC Tune-Up, the system showed little to no improvement; Cinebench scores went to 184 and 620, and Geekbench dropped to 692.
PC Tune-Up also did not fare well on our real-world tests. The system boot time decreased a decent 12 seconds, to 1 minute and 18 seconds, but that improvement is still 5 seconds slower than what was achieved when testing competitor TuneUp Utilities 2009 . Transcoding a 114MB video file, which originally took 13 minutes and 28 seconds, was reduced to 5 minutes and 45 seconds--but still 18 seconds slower than roundup leader TuneUp Utilities 2009 managed. Likewise, ripping the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' 11-track Show Your Bones CD took 7 minutes and 59 seconds before PC Tune-Up, and 7 minutes and 30 seconds after. By comparison,Macecraft jv16 PowerTools 2009completed the same task 29 seconds faster.
Still, you won't suffer poor notebook performance with PC Tune-Up running in the background; while it was working behind the scenes, we were able to go about our day-to-day activities without an obvious hit, unless we had several actions occurring simultaneously (such as multiple browsers, and streaming music).
Large Software PC Tune-Up helps somewhat, but we prefer the performance-boosting potency ofiolo System Mechanic 8.5andTuneUp Utilities 2009. Moreover, Large Software's pricing schemes are somewhat disappointing: While PC Tune-Up, at $29.99, may seem like a better bargain than System Mechanic 8.5 ($34.97) and TuneUp Utilities 2009 ($49.95), those two programs can be installed on up to three machines, as opposed to just one for PC Tune-Up.
Moreover, Large Software's trial version is largely crippled compared with other utilities. For example, running a Scan and Repair using a trial version of the software, we were alerted that some problems remained unfixed and required purchasing the full version of the software to remedy the remaining problems. If you want to sample before purchasing, we suggest jv16 PowerTools 2009 or Tune Up Utilities 2009, both of which are superior products.