GCN LAB REVIEWS
System Mechanic 9.5 keeps PCs up-to-speed and secure
New features include a gadget that gives you a real-time view of system health
- By John Breeden II
- Aug 10, 2010
System Mechanic has become the default toolset for keeping PCs up-to-speed. But it can also be used to help keep PCs secure. The biggest advancements with Version 9.5 over the last one we reviewed, Version 8.5, is a tighter integration of helpful features, compatibility with Windows 7 and a few new elements to help PCs run a bit faster.
One of the interesting things about System Mechanic is that it’s backed by the iolo Labs. The staff at the lab are constantly looking at PCs and learning how to make them more efficient. According to the company, it is examining more than 10,000 PCs. New tricks and speed enhancements are thoroughly tested and then sent via automatic updates to PCs running the System Mechanic software.
We'll start with System Mechanic’s new features. The most helpful is the Total Registry Revitalizer, which puts all the tasks associated with the registry in one place. PCs often slow down because of too many programs in their registry, many of which might be outdated or not even on a system anymore. These can slow boot-up and shut-down times and leech memory for phantom programs.
System Mechanic 9.5
Pros: Gets to the heart of PC problems; great with securely deleting files.
Cons: Can be a bit too automatic in its tasks.
Ease of use: A
Government price: $49.95 for as many as 3 PCs; $79.95 for 5 licenses
The Total Registry Revitalizer performs four main tasks when you run it. First, it backs up the registry just in case the old profile is needed. Second, it finds and fixes registry problems by eliminating old entries or ones that generate error messages. Then it takes the good part of the registry and compacts it to eliminate bloat in terms of drive space and processor cycles. Finally, it defragments the registry, which is kind of like compacting it but is actually slightly different because it puts components of the registry in the same place.
Another feature that seems new in 9.5 but is actually an enhancement is the addition of Incinerator to the recycle bin. Incinerator is a way to destroy files according to Defense Department standards so that they can never be recovered. In the past, this could be done by activating the Incinerator program. Now, Incinerator integrates into the standard Windows recycle bin. When you go to remove a file from your computer after it’s in the bin, you can choose a standard or Incinerator type of delete. There seems to be no difference in terms of the time it takes to delete a file, at least from a user’s perspective. There’s almost no reason not to use the more secure delete method, even if you don’t really care too much about the security of the soon-to-be departed file.
Besides the new or enhanced features, the biggest change in Version 9.5 is that it works with Windows 7 and Vista, two operating systems that could use a little help with tasks such as memory management. And Version 9.5 really embraces the niceties of those interfaces. For example, the program now has Jump Lists, which was a big feature for Windows 7. Using them lets you jump to common tasks within the program, so if you need to fix your registry, you can do so with ease. It’s a bit more advanced than a simple shortcut because you are going to a specific place within a program and not just to the program itself, but it’s no more complicated to use.
The best feature is the addition of a gadget that sits on the side of your main screen and shows at a glance the health of your system in real time. So if you see the meter suddenly creep up into the yellow or — heaven forbid — red area, you can jump right in and see what’s going on. From within the gadget, there are links to common tasks in System Mechanic. So you have a simple desktop-based interface that launches you into a simple tool interface. It’s all so, well, simple.
In fact, that simplicity is one of the few things that might bug hardcore techies about Version 9.5 and System Mechanic in general. Make no mistake, these are incredibly powerful tools, akin to DOS commands in older operating systems. They can do a lot, for good or ill.
You can press one button and fix all the problems on a system quickly and quietly, but without the program telling the user what just happened. For most people this is fine, but techies might wonder what happened. You can go into the menus and look at each category of fixes and decide whether to make each one, and you can also undo a fix if it somehow makes your system worse. But there is just no easy way to go back and view individual fixes after they have been made by the program. Nevertheless, there’s no danger of hitting that big Fix All button.
We tested this on 10 different machines in various states of disorganization, and it helped in every case. It’s just a bit of a leap of faith for the technically minded, though probably a holy grail for those who aren’t.
In terms of performance, your mileage will vary. We used Version 9.5 on various systems in the lab running Windows XP, 7 and Vista. Some of these systems were nearly new, while others had been frontline systems in the lab test bed for quite a while. In every single case, performance was measured using the PassMark Performance Software — either version 6 or 7 depending on the operating system being tested — and we recorded at least a slight bump in performance after using System Mechanic. The minimum performance gain, as you might suspect, came with brand-new systems and fell between 1 and 2 percent. The largest gain was with an older system that had not even been defragmented in years. It was 7 percent faster after System Mechanic. The average was 4 percent.
With a government price of $49.95 for as many as 3 PCs or $79.95 for five licenses and scaling up to $1,339 for 100 licenses, it’s more than worth it to protect computers with System Mechanic. Nothing is more irritating than thinking about the good old days when your computer ran at peak performance. With System Mechanic 9.5, it’s kind of like Billy Joel said, “The good old days weren't always good, and tomorrow ain't as bad it seems.”
System Mechanic 9.5 follows up on Version 8 and earns our Reviewer’s Choice designation.
iolo Technologies, www.iolo.com
John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.