Every PC, whether desktop or laptop, needs a tune-up every now and then. What this consists of will mean different things to different people, but some functions are expected as standard. Among these are disk cleaning, file wiping, registry optimization, startup tuning, encryption/decryption, defragmenter, and system tweaking.
Ideally, the perfect tune-up program does these things with one-click ease, does each of these tasks perfectly, does not endanger the stability of the underlying operating system, and also does not endanger the normal operation of the programs on the computer. We have not yet found the prefect tune-up utility suite, at least not among the free offerings. One can, however, assemble a collection of utilities that comes very close to doing all that needs to be done.
We need to warn you, and ourselves for good measure, that tuning up a PC subsumes a certain amount of risk, however large or small that amount may be. Cleaning a system of orphaned, duplicate or fragmented files, broken shortcuts, or pointless, fragmented or corrupted registry keys can produce unforeseen consequences if not programmed precisely or if dependent on your expertise to make exacting decisons. For this reason, before you use any tune-up utility you should backup your data, set a new restore point and read what you can about the software so you know what to expect when it opens. It might also be a good idea to download and prepare for use a stand-alone rescue CD or USB device.
CCleaner, aka "Crap Cleaner," is a system optimizer, privacy and cleaning tool that removes unused files from your system. If not the best utility of its type, it certainly is giving the leader a run for its money (and of course it is free). It cleans files, fragments, temporary files, history files, cookies, download history, forms-fill history, recycle bin, recent documents, and log files from Windows, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Chrome, and Opera. Additionally it contains a fully featured registry cleaner that can remove unused and old entries, including File Extensions, ActiveX Controls, ClassIDs, ProgIDs, Uninstallers, Shared DLLs, Fonts, Help Files, Application Paths, Icons, Invalid Shortcuts and more. It comes with a comprehensive backup feature, takes a second or two to run, and is spyware and adware free. It can also remove temporary and most recently used (MRU) file lists from many applications, including Media Player, eMule, Google Toolbar, Netscape, Microsoft Office, Nero, Adobe Acrobat, WinRAR, WinAce, WinZip and many more.
Systems: Windows 98, 2000, ME, XP, Vista, 7, and Server 2000, 2003, 2008, and 2008 R2
Clean My Registry
Clean My Registry is a [Duh!] registry cleaner. All registry cleaners are best used by advanced users, as it is easy to get in over your head with registry keys and settings. This particular cleaner allows the user to make periodic (or even daily) registry snapshots for comparison and analysis.
Systems: Windows 95, 98, ME, NT, 2000, XP, 2003, Vista
Defraggler is a light, safe, capable, and flexible defragmenter. It allows file, folder and drive defragging, as well as scheduled operations. It can even defrag empty disk space to prevent future immediate defragmentation of saved files. And, like any good defragmenter, it comes with and interactive drive map showing you what shape your system is in.
Systems: All Windows systems
Glary Utilities provides extensive system tools to improve your system's performance, protect your privacy and provide basic spyware protection. With one click, it can clean out unwanted junk files, remove invalid and broken shortcuts, scan your registry and remove faulty entries, optimize your system's memory, manage startup routines, and perform several other functions that free up valuable disk space and release memory.
Like many software programs, it comes in a free version and a commercial version. The latter, of course, offers more enhancements than the free version, but the free version is still pretty darn good. But free versions can come with a potential price, and in this case it is either paid or not during installation. The program will, by default, install the Ask toolbar and set Ask as your default search engine, but since you now know this you can simply deselect these options if you don't want them and just install the Glary Utilities.
The one-click maintenance is very convenient, but you can click on any one of five modules to perform both the one-click and additional tasks. The modules include utilities for Clean Up and Repair, Optimize and Improve, Privacy and Security, File and Folders, and System Tools.
We think Glary Utilities is a well thought-out suite of tools with some bonus features you wouldn't expect. For example, the Process Manager not only identifies the processes running, but allows you to leave it alone, block it from starting at start-up or end the process right now. If you are not familiar with what it does or what program it supports, there are buttons to show details, properties or Google it for more information. Elsewhere, a Disk Analysis utility displays the contents of a drive and the percentage of the drive occupied by each program or file type. There is also a Duplicate Files Finder, which we guarantee you will open your eyes.
We found the Registry Cleaner utility to be more useful than some we have tried. Each entry specifies why it is listed; in our case most entries pointed to missing files or folders, which makes perfect sense because we download, try out and then uninstall a lot of programs, each of which tends to leave some to many footprints in the registry. But, because we are human and sometimes act before knowing what we are doing, Glary Utilities creates a backup before it deletes anything. Further, it has a Restore Center where you will find a restore point for every one-click cleanup session, where you can set restore options for various module activities or you can create a new one just to be able to undo that one registry key deletion. The program is quite forgiving.
Systems: Windows XP, Vista and 7
Before you think about tuning up your system, it is best to know everything about your system. You can right-click My Computer and then Properties and let Windows tell you what it wants you to know about your system. The General tab lists some statistics, and the Device Manager on the Hardware tab lists all of the hardware you've got installed. But Windows misses out lots of information you might need or simply want. Speccy is a System Information tool that will give you detailed statistics on every piece of hardware in your computer, including the CPU, motherboard, RAM, graphics card, hard drives, optical drives, audio support, and more. Speccy even reports the temperatures of your different components, so you can easily see if there is a heating problem!
Systems: All Windows systems
After downloading WinOptimizer, you will need to register for a license key. The program has a very sleek interface and is largely intuitive. It is still useful to remember that the F1 key opens Help, something worth consulting before clicking.
WinOptimizer has one-click functions for disk cleaning, privacy and registry tasks. It also performs a full scan, which produces recommendations for tweaking system settings and disabling unnecessary services. It has a "Did you know?" tips feature that can be quite useful. It is an excellent, simple to use optimizer without annoying ads.
WinOptimizer has six modules, each with multiple functions. For example, the Clean Up System module contains a drive cleaner, registry optimizer, internet use cleaner and one-step optimizer. The Optimize performance module includes a very fast defrag utility, startup tuner, process manager and internet tuner. The privacy and security module contains a file wiper and file encrypter/decrypter. The tune system settings module includes a tweaking suite with over 450 tweaks and an icon saver. A diagnosis and information module contains a disk space explorer, system information (hardware, software, hard drives) and system benchmark performance. Finally, the file tools module includes a file splitter and joiner and standard Windows tools. You simply feel you are in control.
Systems: Windows XP, Vista and 7
WinUtilities Free Edition
WinUtilities Free Edition is a multifunctional suite of utilities for system performance and optimization for Windows. In addition to tuning-up your system's performance, it can enhance security, tweak settings, personalize your screens, and fix certain application errors. It can both clean and defragment your Registry. It can also clean and optimize your hard drive, removing clutter, defragmenting files and improving efficiency. Its Windows Optimizer keeps your OS running smoothly and fast, while a memory optimizer makes sure memory is released when it should be.
Security and privacy tools protect your computer, your files and your identity. Like all good security programs, it erases your internet surfing history and your MRU (most recently used) file history. It has an undelete function and a file shredder. You can password protect sensitive applications and data. A simple yet layered interface gives you complete control while still being user friendly.
Finally, should you decide you only want two or three of the several modules, you can download as stand-alones any of the components, such as Registry Defrag, Memory Optimizer and History Cleaner.
Systems: Windows 2000, XP, Server 2003, Vista, 7