How to Fix PC Performance Issues with Software Utilities

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Print this article Print

Need to tune up some PCs and make them last longer? We pitted Software Utilities System Mechanic and TuneUp Utilities 2009 against each other to improve a PC's performance by optimizing software settings and fixing common problems. Learn which did the job better and offers the most bang for the buck.

Squeezing more performance out of older PCs is becoming a necessary alternative to purchasing new computers as upgrade budgets shrink. While that may be bad news for those selling new PCs, it may be good news for those in the PC service industry.

Pretty much any technician knows that a PC tune-up can net real world performance increases for end users. But tune-ups are usually time intensive, tedious processes that require significant operating system and hardware knowledge.

That situation has created an industry of software utilities, which are becoming the tool of choice to perform those tune-ups, while proving to be much faster than the tried-and-true manual steps. What’s more, software utilities are usually more thorough when it comes to fixing PC software problems.

With so many players in the field – the question is no longer "should I use a tune-up utility?" but "which utilities do the most good with the least effort and at an affordable price?"

To answer that question, Channel Insider took a look at two notable utilities, System Mechanic from iolo Technologies and TuneUp Utilities 2009 from TuneUp Software. Both products are very similar in what they do and how they work. Both products also need to be installed on a system to function. In other words, they cannot be run from a flash drive or a CD. For a technician looking to tune up a few dozen machines, that can be a real nuisance, and for a site that needs hundreds of systems tuned, that can be a deal breaker.

It’s obvious why a full installation is needed – both vendors are looking to preserve revenue from licensing and prevent a single licensed copy from being run on multiple PCs. While that is a fair way to protect their intellectual property – both companies could offer a run-count version, which would use an online license. That way, a solution provider could purchase 50 tune-ups and then run the application from a flash drive – each time the product is run, a license is consumed and the solution provider is then able to bill by the run and not force the customer to purchase the complete software package.

However, there is one advantage to the installed versions of those programs – both can be set up to automatically monitor and tune a system after the initial installation. Tune-ups and repairs can be scheduled to occur automatically and that can prevent problems from occurring in the future and reduce help desk calls.

Both products perform a specific series of tasks to tune up a PC, and the order and way that the products accomplish it are very similar. We ran both products on several XP and Vista systems for testing and while both performed as expected – there are some minor differences that will sway a buyer one way or the other.

TuneUp Utilities 2009 retails for $49.95 for three PCs while System Mechanic costs $49.97 for three PCs and one year of updates.

Frank Ohlhorst Frank J. Ohlhorst is the Executive Technology Editor for eWeek Channel Insider and brings with him over 20 years of experience in the Information Technology field.He began his career as a network administrator and applications program in the private sector for two years before joining a computer consulting firm as a programmer analyst. In 1988 Frank founded a computer consulting company, which specialized in network design, implementation, and support, along with custom accounting applications developed in a variety of programming languages.In 1991, Frank took a position with the United States Department of Energy as a Network Manager for multiple DOE Area Offices with locations at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), FermiLAB and the Ames Area Office (AMESAO). Frank's duties included managing the site networks, associated staff and the inter-network links between the area offices. He also served at the Computer Security Officer (CSO) for multiple DOE sites. Frank joined CMP Technology's Channel group in 1999 as a Technical Editor assigned to the CRN Test Center, within a year, Frank became the Senior Technical Editor, and was responsible for designing product testing methodologies, assigning product reviews, roundups and bakeoffs to the CRN Test Center staff.In 2003, Frank was named Technology Editor of CRN. In that capacity, he ensured that CRN maintained a clearer focus on technology and increased the integration of the Test Center's review content into both CRN's print and web properties. He also contributed to Netseminar's, hosted sessions at CMP's Xchange Channel trade shows and helped to develop new methods of content delivery, Such as CRN-TV.In September of 2004, Frank became the Director of the CRN Test Center and was charged with increasing the Test Center's contributions to CMP's Channel Web online presence and CMP's latest monthly publication, Digital Connect, a magazine geared towards the home integrator. He also continued to contribute to CMP's Netseminar series, Xchange events, industry conferences and CRN-TV.In January of 2007, CMP Launched CRNtech, a monthly publication focused on technology for the channel, with a mailed audience of 70,000 qualified readers. Frank was instrumental in the development and design of CRNTech and was the editorial director of the publication as well as its primary contributor. He also maintained the edit calendar, and hosted quarterly CRNTech Live events.In June 2007, Frank was named Senior Technology Analyst and became responsible for the technical focus and edit calendars of all the Channel Group's publications, including CRN, CRNTech, and VARBusiness, along with the Channel Group's specialized publications Solutions Inc., Government VAR, TechBuilder and various custom publications. Frank joined Ziff Davis Enterprise in September of 2007 and focuses on creating editorial content geared towards the purveyors of Information Technology products and services. Frank writes comparative reviews, channel analysis pieces and participates in many of Ziff Davis Enterprise's tradeshows and webinars. He has received several awards for his writing and editing, including back to back best review of the year awards, and a president's award for CRN-TV. Frank speaks at many industry conferences, is a contributor to several IT Books, holds several records for online hits and has several industry certifications, including Novell's CNE, Microsoft's MCP.Frank can be reached at frank.ohlhorst@ziffdavisenterprise.com