How the products workBy Frank Ohlhorst | 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.