How the products work

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.

After the initial installation, both products offer to perform a system scan, and that is where the magic begins. System scans check for registry errors, orphaned files, disk fragmentation, startup program status and so on. From that scan, the applications create a list of recommended actions. While both programs perform very similar scans, how the information is presented to the user is very different. TuneUp Utilities 2009 takes a dumbed-down approach, erring on the side of simplicity. The program uses simple-to-understand terms, such as "Increase Performance" or "Clean up Windows" and that makes it quite easy to use. The program delivers its analysis as recommendations, here a user can click on a recommendation and find out the details about it and then have TuneUp Utilities 2009 perform the recommended changes.

System Mechanic takes a different approach and presents the user with a dashboard, which indicates the status of the system – simply as "good, fair or poor." The program can do either a quick analysis of the system or a deep analysis (which takes several minutes) to determine the status. System Mechanic’s interface is more technically orientated, yet is just as simple to use as TuneUp Utilities 2009.

On our test systems, both applications uncovered similar problems – neither seemed to do the analysis better than the other and both reported registry problems, disk fragmentation, unneeded startup entries and so on. Ultimately the difference came down to how the repairs were performed and the information represented to the end user. System Mechanic proved to be more orientated to the technician and offered excellent information about the repairs needed. On the other hand TuneUp Utilities 2009 did more of the heavy lifting, making it a good choice for the neophyte.

Both programs seemed to fix our test systems without any issues and both were able to uncover problems we created intentionally to impact performance. For example, we manually deleted "pre-fetch" data on our test systems, which impacts startup performance – both programs found that problem. We also purposely broke some file associations – the applications took care of that also. Both programs proved excellent for tuning the registry and identifying unneeded startup applications.

Honestly, both programs performed so well, it makes it difficult to pick one over the other. But, when push comes to shove, System Mechanic feels like a better utility with menus orientated more toward a technical user and offering more complete information on each problem. That said, there are many who will prefer the elegant simplicity of TuneUp Utilities 2009.

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

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