Pros: Outstanding performance; One-click cleanup; Intuitive interface; Ability to add more Speed Dial slots to Opera 9.6
Cons: Pricier than comparable maintenance suites
Verdict: Whip your PC back into shape with this excellent, user-friendly maintenance utility.
The average PC user probably doesn't know the ins and outs of their notebooks, much less how to tweak the various settings and features to make the system run as new. Thankfully, the $49.95 TuneUp Utilities 2009 (which comes with a license for up to three PCs) makes the entire process a painless, streamlined affair.
A product designed to clean up and tweak the inner workings of a PC may by its very nature intimidate the uninitiated, but TuneUp Utilities 2009's clean, easy-to-read interface will eliminate such fears. At its core are three repair categories: Maintenance, Speed, and Health, which can be activated manually or via an one-click scan and fix button.
Maintenance corrects registry problems, removes unneeded shortcuts, optimizes hard drive performance, and can be scheduled to run automatically, at any time. By clicking the Details link underneath the heading (which identified 792 problems), we entered Maintenance Settings, and selected which repairs we wanted to run (and when). Run Maintenance Now allowed us to clean up the PC with just a click, and displayed which problems had been repaired.
To the left of the main section are links to individual tools that let users focus on specific areas of improvement. These include Increase Performance, Free Up Disk Space, Clean Up Windows, Solve Problems, Customize Windows, and Additional Tools. While they may seem geared more toward tinkerers, the task-oriented structure makes these tools comprehensible for novices.
Speed Optimizer offered 26 recommendations for making our notebook, a four-year-old Dell Inspiron 1150 (2.6-GHz Intel Celeron CPU, 256MB of RAM, Windows XP) run faster, which included deleting unused programs (which can be set to do so automatically for programs untouched for a customizable period of time), turning off some visual effects, allowing us to specify the maximum number of simultaneous connections to a Web server when browsing the Internet, and a number of other activities. After running the optimization, Windows XP's visual effects were stripped away (it'll do the same for Vista machines) and we noticed that our Dell opened and closed Windows at a seriously swift pace; it was far snappier than fresh-out-the-box PCs.
Health identified four areas that could negatively impact the system's health: a lack of antivirus protection, administrative shares were enabled (which allows network access to all drives on the PC), network access to the registry (which lets networked PCs get to the registry), and that the drive had never been checked for errors. Each problem, fortunately, was met with solutions that let us address these issues in less than 5 minutes.
Before we allowed TuneUp Utilities 2009 to diagnosis and repair the problems on our Dell 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 705 mark. After running TuneUp Utilities 2009, the scores improved to 205 and 648 for Cinebench; Geekbench's score increased to 723.
While these benchmark scores weren't the highest among the suites we've recently reviewed (iolo System Mechanic 8.5 notching 724 in Geekbench and 661 in Cinebench's CPU test), they were still quite impressive, and TuneUp Utilities 2009 provided the most obvious performance leap in day-to-day tasks. After running the utility, applications and folders opened far more quickly, and the Inspiron 1150 booted up in a record 1 minute and 13 seconds, 17 seconds faster than it had before.
We then tested the system's cleaned-up multimedia capabilities by transcoding and ripping files. Transcoding a 114MB video file originally took 13 minutes and 28 seconds and was reduced to just 5:27--best among the suites we reviewed. Ripping the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' 11-track Show Your Bones CD took 7 minutes and 59 seconds before TuneUp Utilities 2009, and 7 minutes and 6 seconds after; that just missed Macecraft's roundup-best time by 5 seconds.
In addition, you won't suffer poor notebook performance with TuneUp Utilities running in the background; while it was scanning and repairing our notebook, we were able to check e-mail and surf the Web without noticing any additional lag, unless we had several applications running at once.
If you're a bit weary of the Microsoft logo being burned into your retinas when you boot your PC, TuneUp Utilities 2009 allows you to upload your own art (BMP, JPEG, PNG) to be used in its place. Tweakers will also like the ability to add expanded functionality to the Opera 9.6 Web browser by adding extra Speed Dial (Web page shortcut) boxes.
Priced at $49.95 (which includes a license for up to three PCs), the novice-friendly TuneUp Utilities 2009 can snap a sluggish or underperforming PC into shape with a minimal amount of effort. It's certainly more expensive than other PC maintenance software--such asiolo System Mechanic 8.5, which offers nearly comparable performance for $15 less--but with the price comes best-in-class performance and special features that its competitors are lacking.
|Software Required OS:||Windows|