TuneUp Utilities tool


An essential tool for teleworkers

TuneUp Utilities can substitute for IT support, keeping PCs up to speed

Even though the name is getting a little dated (netcommuting or just netting might be more current) the benefits of telecommuting from your home can’t be overstated. Government has been pushing telecommuting for years, as it can lower costs, reduce commuter traffic congestion and pollution, and boost the productivity of many employees.

Of course, there are some disadvantages when plying your trade outside the office. One of the biggest is not having access to an immediate support staff. If the personal computer you use for work starts acting funny, help is a lot further away than a quick e-mail or phone call. Unless you happen to be the director of your agency, it’s unlikely that a technician will make a house call when your computer starts running a little more slowly than normal.

Not to worry, because there are many great programs out there that can help netters roll up their sleeves and keep their systems in top shape. We tested out the 2011 version of TuneUp Utilities with an eye to keeping a work machine running at top efficiency from your home.

GCN Lab Reviewers Choice Award 2011TuneUp Utilities 2011

Pros: Shows what its doing at all times; great user interface; eliminates speed problems.
Cons: Makes a few odd optimization decisions; occasionally says it will reboot but doesn’t.
Performance: A
Ease of Use: A
Features: A+
Value: A
Price: $39.95

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Step 1 was to find a system that had been used and abused over time, or at least one that has never really had any type of utility program run on it. Thankfully, we have lots of computers that fit that bill in the GCN Lab. The one we chose was a fairly high-performing desktop PC. We ran the PassMark Performance Test Benchmark from PassMark Systems on it and found it achieved a score of 1,337, which is extremely good. But we wondered if a year without maintenance meant it could perform even better if fixed up. Keep that number in mind as we move forward with the tests.

The software installs perfectly from a disk or as a download from the company Web page. Once installed, it will go through the process of examining the system and also checking to make sure its profiles are up-to-date with the latest information about your PC and its components.

The interface is very clean and walks you through everything that it wants to accomplish. In fact, even individual programs that TuneUp wants to modify in some way are explained in detail. For example, it told us that it wanted the Microsoft “Collection of Usage Data” process to be removed from the startup processes. It went on to explain that at some point, we were asked if we wanted to participate in a friendliness survey by Microsoft. Although we apparently said “no,” the program was still running each time the system booted. It was collecting data about us but wasn’t sending it to Microsoft since we opted out of the program. But the process still ran every boot, taking up system resources. TuneUp could have just eliminated this annoyance, but it's nice that it took the time to explain what it wanted to do and then let us decide if that was a good thing or not.

The program was also careful not to do anything that might be more or less helpful based on our use patterns without asking. Take indexing for example. TuneUp smartly asked us how many times in a given week we performed the search function on our computer. If we said daily, it would have recommended leaving the Indexing process in place. Because we didn’t do searches very often, it recommended that we turn that process off to conserve system resources. The consequences were that future searches would take longer to complete, but TuneUp gave us the pros and cons and let us decide on the right course of action.

Some of the other things it did were more or less standard for utility programs. It cleaned and defragmented the system registry, removed broken shortcuts and defragmented the hard drive. Notably, it also eliminated the nearly worthless Windows temporary files. These are mostly caches of Internet pictures and things like that which are kept handy to reduce load times should you return to a page with that file sometime later. Normally these just end up taking up space. On our test system, almost 2G of temporary files were eliminated before the defrag, which is quite a space savings even on systems with larger hard drives.

However, TuneUp 2011 has a few minor negatives. First, the software didn’t seem to have the power to reboot a system running Microsoft Vista, even though it said it did. We were told several times to click a button to reboot the system, only it never actually happened. The window went away, but nothing would happen. Manually triggering a reboot started whatever process was needed, but the program couldn't do it alone.

Also, the fact that it reports what it is doing can trigger a few head-scratching moments. For example, when optimizing our daily usage on the test system, one of the first things it did was to raise the priority of the Steam Internet service. Steam is a gaming download service we sometimes use to really push various components on test systems. At the same time, it lowered the priority of avgupd.exe, which is the update file for our virus protection. So TuneUp apparently thinks that games are more important than virus protection. This didn’t seem to have any adverse affects on the system but was worth noting.

After everything was said and done, we reran the PassMark Performance Benchmarks and were surprised to find that the system’s score had jumped to 1,443. That's more than a 100-point jump, a performance gain that will be felt even on a blazing fast system. Slower performing systems would probably experience even more of an uptick.

With its low $39.95 price tag, TuneUp Utilities 2011 is quite a helpful program for keeping systems running at peak efficiency, and is an absolutely essential tool for teleworkers who need to rely on their own skills to keep their machines clean. It earns GCN's Reviewers Choice designation.

TuneUp Corp., www.tune-up.com


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