PC maintenance tool does the job'at a high price

PC maintenance tool does the job'at a high price

Comprehensive app works from a list of common junk files, but $59.95 single-user fee is a bit costly

By William M. Frazier

Special to GCN

System Mechanic 3.2 from Iolo Technologies lives up to its name as a general-purpose maintenance tool for PCs running Microsoft Windows 9x or Windows NT. You can download it from www.iolo.com or order a CD-ROM version. But which version should you order?

The $19.95 Standard Edition removes junk files from hard drives and has a privacy tool that takes away history entries from the Start menu and Internet browser.


The user interface combines a simple navigational scheme with an industrial look.


The $39.95 Professional Edition does that and more. It has tools to find and fix broken shortcuts, remove invalid uninstaller information and delete file duplicates.

The gorilla of the trio, the $59.95 Industrial Edition, has several more tools. NetBooster is supposed to maximize the efficiency of an Internet connection. Incinerator obliterates deleted files. Other tools clean the registry, manage Windows start-ups, install programs, and schedule and log actions.

Such preventive maintenance can save megabytes of storage. Most temp files should be removed when you close their associated programs, but an error or system crash often leaves them to build up on the hard drive.

A common list







Box Score '''''''''''''

System Mechanic 3.2

Comprehensive PC maintenance app


Iolo Technologies LLC; Pasadena, Calif; tel. 877-239-4656

www.iolo.com

Price: $19.95 Standard, $39.95 Professional and $59.95 Industrial

+ Simple, intuitive user interface

+ NetBooster really works

' Single-user price rather high

Real-life requirements:

Windows 9x or NT, at least 16M of RAM, 2M of free storage



System Mechanic works from a list of common junk files. You can add and delete file types as necessary, as well as specify actions such as finding files unused for a certain time, finding zero-length files, and skipping read-only and system files.

The removed files can go to the Recycle Bin, be deleted permanently, or be moved to a specified directory or removable disk.

Many nooks and crannies show where a Windows user has been. The privacy tool removes items such as the Find: Files or Folders history, the Start: Run history and the Start: Documents history. You can remove browsing tracks created by Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator and the America Online browser. The tool erases Internet cache information, recently typed uniform resource locators and visiting history. There's even an option to delete Internet cookie files, which store information you might not wish to share with others but are useful for logging on to often-visited sites.

When you use the tool to remove duplicate files, you can specify whether they must have the same time and date, same name or same size. Any option can be applied alone or in combination with others. You can also exclude certain folders from all scans.

System Mechanic warns, correctly, that just because a file is a duplicate doesn't mean it should be deleted'it might be a vital system file. Are there four or five entries for Navigator on your Add/Remove Programs list? The Remove Invalid Uninstaller Information tool will scan for entries that no longer refer to valid uninstall programs.

Shortcuts create system clutter when their targets are moved or deleted. The Find and Fix Broken Shortcuts tool lets you remove or fix orphans.

The NetBooster tool optimizes system configuration settings to maximize network and Internet connection speeds. Iolo Technologies says NetBooster improves modem, digital subscriber line, cable modem, Integrated Services Digital Network and other LAN connections. It can apply built-in optimum settings based on your system configuration, or you can make the changes manually.

The Windows StartUp Manager determines which applications, drivers and other files automatically load and run at bootup. Such commands come from many places in a computer and are hard to track down. System Mechanic's Windows StartUp Manager lets you control all programs from a single interface, which helps when a system gets in trouble during start-up. You can enable or disable any program from the list.

The Clean System Registry tool gets rid of invalid data caused by adding and removing programs. Such clutter eventually slows down Windows and can cause a crash. Because the Windows registry is a vital system component, the tool has an easy Registry Backup and Restore utility.

Safe Installer takes a snapshot of all system files and folders before and after new software installation. It then compares the two and reports on files, folders, and registry keys and values that have been added, deleted or changed. You can print a report with the name of the program installed, the date of the report and what items were tracked.

The Incinerator tool acts like a secondary Recycle Bin but its effect is permanent.

The Schedule Maintenance utility automatically runs the three System Mechanic tools that remove junk files, erase histories and clean the registry. They are automatic because they can safely run unattended on a schedule or whenever Windows starts or stops.

System Mechanic logs the actions taken by each tool, including any file deletions, registry changes and amount of space recovered.

In my tests, System Mechanic cleaned out more than 20M of junk and duplicate files and 184 invalid registry references.

None of the operations caused any problems, and NetBooster gave a big boost to my Internet download performance. Before optimization, a 500K file downloaded at 24.2 kilobytes per second. After I turned NetBooster loose on my cable modem, the average speed for the same file rose to 57.8 kilobytes per second.

My criticism with System Mechanic is about the price. A single-user price of $59.95 is high. For a license for 100 or more computers, the price is $22 each.

William M. Frazier, a PC hobbyist, is postmaster of Taholah, Wash.

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