We love hardware, and if you ask us how to make an old computer go faster, we’ll recommend a hardware upgrade. But 34 million people opt for a software tune-up in the US alone, estimates Iolo, a company that makes tune-up software. PC speed-up software Iolo's System Mechanic 9 does a good job of finding services you don’t use …
Reg discovers "Snake Oil Doesn't Work" Shocker
Hardly a groundbreaking conclusion you've reached here: Most (if not all) of this category of programs rely on the user's ignorance to make any sales at all and are all pretty much worthless, as your testing has shown quite clearly...
What we know...
is that just because a dialog box appears asking us to download and install software xxxxx, we do not have to say yes.
Most of the people reading the reg will think about what is about to be installed and make a sensible choice. Most people do not read the reg and they would not understand the articles anyway.
Most, if not all, Reg readers know that everything that gets installed will almost in variably slow the PC down.
I was asked to look at PC for my brother's in-law that was taking about an hour to boot. Yes I said AN HOUR. The owner clearly installed everything that had ever been offered. I am still cleaning it up. Fun, fun, fun, fun, fun!
I mean seriously, Windows has reached a level of stability where it can run for days without doing a new initial programm load. What should be done more often, however, is re-installing the system.
Disable System Restore:
Turn off all the crap with fonts and stuff:
Disable drive indexing:
Sort out the crap in the registry run keys:
Get XP ram to 1gb and watch your system come back to life. At least thats what it will feel like. Do you really need MSN messenger starting up? Do you really need your phone sync tools on startup?
Registry results incorrectly measured
I just had a look at the KB page for dureg.exe and it says:
"Dureg.exe measures data; it does not measure space. Note that because the space that data occupies varies with the storage method and the amount of free disk space that is available, the size of data and the amount of disk space that is used are not equal. Additionally, because Dureg.exe measures data, it does not account for fragmented-unused space in the registry."
You used this app to test several tools that defrag the registry but MS explicitly state it can't measure that. Did you even read the description of the app before you used it?
Tweaknow Regcleaner (free)
How about this - been around a long time but the latest version includes reg cleaner, startup manager, uninstall etc. To get the best effect in regcleaner you have to go options> extreme scan.
Also there is a MS program called 'autoruns' which is good for analysing startup bloat
Re Re: Memory upgrade
My impression is that 512Mb was fine for the original Windows XP. But after three Service Packs and loads of patches, it now needs at least 1Gb.
I don't wish to carp
but is this what your readers are clamouring for? Don't we already do this stuff anyhow? Add memory, defrag the HD and remove unnecessary processes and files in startup, don't load unnecessary services, yada yada, comparing half a dozen products I would never buy in a million years. I'm not saying it wasn't interesting, though....
what? no sysinternals references
All these comments and not one reference to the sysinternals tools - pagedefrag, autoruns
You can also see Mark Russinovich blog about why windows actually needs the pagefile even if you have enough ram.
That Windows Startup Inspector (www.windowsstartup.com) is quite handy.
Use it with spybot resident, turn off all the unrequired services, get a hardware firewall, switch off auto updates & block MS in the hosts. Job jobbed.
My XP PC is 2003 vintage with 512Mb of RAM & it boots in a tenth of the time the year old 4 core, multigig, Fista PC does at work & is more responsive :-)
PS I added an old 4Gb drive, which is the swap.
I re-compiled everything with -ffastmath and got an extra 6%.
Keep a sense of perspective...
In the free RAM plot (page 4) you're showing a range of improvement of up to 20MB in 300MB. It's going to be a rare edge-case for which this makes any real-world practical difference.
Worse, the variation in registry sizes (page 5) you show is 170kB in 47MB, barely over 1 part in 300 (0.36%). Which I can't believe will make a blind bit of difference.
Now, for comparison, show us the performance of the original system before you'd disabled anti-virus. Depending on your AV, I wouldn't be surprised if that used 100MB+ of RAM, increased boot-times by 30% or more, slowed Windows Explorer browsing of directories with 1000's of small files by a factor or 2 or 3... I'm not suggesting Joe average shouldn't use AV, but using a resource-light product makes a far bigger difference than any of the "tune-up" software you've looked at.
Disabling Window's Fast Find or whatever they call their disk-indexing service is normally one of the first things I do with a new system - which makes things more spritely and gives the poor hard disk a break.
Sorry, I thought this was a website for IT people
"So, where do all these results leave us? The biggest game-changer in system performance was how many services and applications were enabled at start-up."
This article read like something from the Evening Herald PC Corner, or gods help us, Ask Jack.
Does anyone think the resource hits are down to anything except services and applications running at startup? Does anyone ever look at Task Manager, check what's eating their machine and pare them back? Hasn't anybody heard of msconfig? I've got Vista running here on a 2 year old laptop at about 2% CPU and using about 300MB RAM of the 1GB installed.
I spit on your 'tune-up' software!
Yep this was my experience with the Iolo tools too. My system has never fully recovered.
Personally I've used a few of these Registry / Tune up tools (both free and commercial) and none have ever made a blind bit of difference.
Abuse of charts
The Counter-Strike FPS and registry size charts should start at 0, like all the others. This display dramatically overstates the difference between various tests. The registry size changes are miniscule, and Fix-it Utilities doesn't cut the frame rate by more than half.
Yes, we techies do this already. But it's good to have a quantifiable measure of how much difference each of them makes. The comparison of the effectiveness of some products is also useful.
In CCleaner's defence, it's a nice, free piece of software for clearing out temp files and trashing redundant registry entries without you having to fish around yourself. I wouldn't say it was for "speeding up" a system, simply to clear out some shite.
It is a fair comparison to leave these features/services turned off because the program's you reviewed were meant to do this. To alter how a program works during a benchmark of it is a farce. Especially when you conclude said programs don't live up to their claims!
To gain performance through you have to lighten the load on the system. Did you think they included a magic version of the windows kernel and linking libraries? How you conducted the review negated their chance at being effective.
I really expect better from supposed experts!
I agree with techmind - AV's a primary cause of "slowness"
So having tested changes to performance caused by 1) more ram, and 2) performance enhancing s/w, it would be godd if Emil could perform the same type of test but changing only the type of AV software each time.
I often read anecdotal evidence of which AV product's the most resource hungry (and most people, including myself, wouldn't miss a chance to bash symantec for their bloatware) but i cant remember seeing a line up of AV products running on a slightly dated PC reviewed for performance.
FWIW my favourite free AV (for performance) is Avira. And the worst I've ever seen (not free) was F Secure (I think that was what it was called - it was truely dire). But I couldn't say with any certainty if these are the best, or worst in their class. Nor could I say what falls in between and how they compare.
Footnote: IMO the type of AV software a user chooses is the main cause of a PC running slower and slower over time - especially as each new version takes more ram, more CPU, etc.
i power down my computer every day when i don't need it (go out, watch tv, go to sleep). i saved an average of 25% on my electricity bill. on my side i don't understand why the rest of the world leaves their machines on when they don't need them (like i used to cos i thought it was better for the os cos some nerd know-it-all told me).
stating the bleedin' obvious
Whilst in the employ of a rather good, and now sadly defunct PC manufacturer with a consumer line flogged through DSG, we were asked by DSG to test a raft of these applications back in the Windows 95/98 days. Without exception they were of dubious benefit, largely because without exception they all installed memory resident programs and insisted in firing stuff up at inappropriate times. This is commented on by Inachu and others.
Not one of these products have any advantage over a bit of manual dicking around and regulalry purging the accumulated crap from months of web browsing (assuming you don't prevent the crap accumulating in the first place)..... Unless of course you lack the tech skills to make the right decisions - and that's the market these products are aimed at. Unfortunately these are essentially doing the self same thing, so it's no surprise that now and again PC's become unbootable..... They really shouldn't be used by those who lack the knowlege to make sense of what the tools are telling the user, which kind of negates their reason for being.
If what your seeing as a user doesn't make sense, you shouldn't even be thinking about fiddling with it and should think twice about letting third party apps do likewise.
Norton ? My wifes last two laptops came with free time limited Norton subs - the real price was abject lack of performance on the config shipped by the manufacturer (yeah even with 2 gigs of RAM). To be fair, the insane software preinstalls shipped by manufacturers caused me more grief supporting a local charity, family and friends than I would have ever considered credible and Norton was a major contributor to the problems they had with new kit.
A word to manufacturers - I know commercial pressures and the marketing department all have input, but please.... please no more crippled pre installs on low spec lappies especially where you have half a dozen messaging apps, three or four "critical update" apps for drivers and preinstalled third party guff (critical my arse, just switch on Windows update and leave it, for the love of god) plus Windows/MS update on as default, Norton in the background, two third party LAN/WLAN management apps and god knows whatever else crapware running in the background. I've dealt with kit supplied by one big name that took twenty fsck*ing minutes to boot with software configured as supplied thanks to all the crap layered onto the preinstall.
Finally......Getting rid of the pagefile ? errrr...... you're surely not serious. Fail.
Agree with clean-installing...
I've also dispensed with some "protection" - I stopped using Spybot S&D, particularly because it's "TeaTimer" component was getting so sluggish to load into the system tray (slow on my dual core/2GB machine, unbearable on my old lappy). I've also dropped AVG, in favor of MS's new Security Essentials. Will see how that goes, but truth be told no security app has warned me of anything useful in 5 years. Malware inflicted on my system (by family members) always required more "specialist" tools to get rid of. Family members have now also been gotton rid of (to their own machines, of course). :-)
So now I'm just using Windows Defender & MSSE. I'd also like to give a nod to "Macrium Reflect Free Edition". I used it recently to move my OS to a new drive - I didn't want to re-install due to time and because the current install was only a month old, so XP Activation would have given me grief. Worked a treat. I actually look forward to finding the time to make a clean install, just so I can image it.
Memory all the way
Back when Windows 95 was first released most computers came with 4mb ram. I built myself a Pentium (120 Mhz) and kitted it with 64mb ram. It ran (at the time) like a dream.
I kept it until 2000 and gave it to my parents who continued using it until 2003 when they bought a digital camera and it didn't have a USB port to connec to.
The number of times people have said to me "oh my computer is running like a dog and the guy at <insert rip-off computer store name of you choice here> says I need to spend £'000s on a new one". I've usually made the computer last another 2-3 years by spending little more (and sometimes less) than £50
My first PC was an IBM XT ; and it wasn't even my first computer. Since forever, I've seen snake oil sellers come and go, and some even making a profitable business (McAffee, Norton, etc.). Truth has always been Microsoft OS of the moment requires to operate normally (ie, not just running the system but working with it) at least twice the ram usually sold with the computer (and half the CPU speed, but you don't look a given horse's teeth). This rule of thumb applies to linux too, but you can get away with less by tweaking around.
The main difference is a linux box won't degrade over time as much as a windows box will. Being conservative, I ran the same box from 2001 to this year, 900 MHz cpu - 512 Mb ram. This was a bit of a stretch, if you ask me, but it cope nicely with linux improvements nonetheless, until the video requirements for newer aero-like effects couldn't be met by upgrading my video card any more (they don't make fancy GPUs in AGP...). So I changed, loaded up the new box with 4 Gb ram, and chose an AMD 64x2 3800+ for CPU (this is a 2007 typical config, I erred on the cheap side). Runs great, but what's better, won't degrade in the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile, windows users are still stuck back in time, standing where I was in the mid-90's, hoping a miraculous software will help them curing a defective OS running on a badly balanced computer. I don't even feel amused. I'm just sorry so much people keep on losing their valuable time and being ripped of their cash, waiting endlessly for a never ready computer. Pretty much a picture of Sisyphus rolling his boulder forever.
Cruicially It's a bit wrong
Sorry but I have to inject at the comment regarding the crucial post by Annihilator. You, sir assume that their scan software works correctly 100% of the time. I can assure you it does not.
I used the scanner to see if I would be able to upgrade my RAM. I currently have 2 x 1Gb installed).
Crucial's scanner informed me that I currently have 16Gb installed and would be able to increase that to 2048Gb. Yes folks I could have 2 TB of RAM!
Always do the RAM first
We finally got around to upping the RAM in a small suite of 8 public-access XP P4s dating from 2004, which shipped with a single chunk of 256MB DDR2 each. We took all the single sticks from the eight and amalgamated these into two, then invested £200 in 12*512MB and put these in pairs in the other 6. Result: 8 PCs with 1GB, hugely better performance (the extra capacity PLUS proper DDR pairing), boot times a small fraction of what they were before, actual multi-tasking and happy punters, all at less cost than a single replacement base unit. Our usual hardware supplier had, of course, suggested the best solution was 8 new PCs for a mere £2500 and relegating the old ones to landfill...
The grubby Esc key, because we haven't replaced the keyboards yet ; )
Most of you sound like amateur technicians. Here's a better idea:
Do all this and you wont need any kind of "tune-up", you wont need AV software slowing your machine down. Even if you're mentally incapable of trusting yourself not to run dodgy executable binaries you can at least install AV but no real time protection and make it run a weekly scan or similar, but a competent technician would know as soon as an executable has done something dodgy to their system and could manually mangle it out of the registry with no ill effect anyway.
If your friends and family are the problem let them have their own system(s) isolated from your network by a VLAN if necessary with heavily firewalled outgoing access and no incoming access. If they get malware slowing down their system leave it on, the slower their system the less harm they can cause everyone else with their idiocy, if you speed their PC up it'll only mean they'll be able to hand their life savings over to Prince Imascammer in Nigeria faster anyway.
It's just natural selection, those who are weak get ill with malware and are slowed down and eventually die off of the internet when something whipes their PC, whilst those who are strong don't get sick with malware and can continue to do what they do at full speed, spreading their knowledge to eager to listen intelligent people amongst the younger generation. A good firewall config will prevent their infected PC making any dangerous outbound connections.
May this post of advice allow some of you amateurs to grow and become the strong, those unencumbered with pointless things like AV software. The rest of you can simply continue on your path to become victims of Mr Imascammer and co.
@Kanhef Re: Abuse of charts
Hear hear! Truncation of graphs is a statistical evil we can live without.
There's the FPS graph, where a 2% difference winds up looking like a 50% difference, and the registry size, where 150 bytes out of 49000 or so (0.3% change!) *also* looks like a 50% difference. A 2% change in framerate is statistically significant, but I challenge anyone to notice it by eye. The changes are displayed entirely disproportionately.
@AC 12:18 GMT: Some of us deal with systems used by people who, y'know, actually WORK for a living, and pay our princely salaries in part to keep them working efficiently. Some of those people are stunningly ignorant outside of their areas of expertise and can be relied upon to open every piece of junk that hits their mailbox.
As such, antivirus and other protection measures have their place, and system cleanup is an ocasional necessity, although we find the best way to do this is to keep work files on a network drive and reimage each PC from a fresh image when it gets screwed up.
I was interested to see that the system tuners pretty much matched my expectations, i.e. they were all fundamentally useless. Defrag regularly and keep your startup clean (HijackThis! does a decent job and is free, but requires a clue to use) and you'll do as well as most of the packages reviewed here.
Odd that nobody else has mentioned browser objects here, which HijackThis! can also clean up.
I have heard that as AV scanners go NOD32 is superior; effective with a small CPU & memory footprint. Not having used it myself, this is merely rumour to me at this time. I can state that the system overheads from Mcafee are ridiculous - resident memory usage frequently exceeds 150MB even when idle and CPU exceed 50% when actively scanning.
Defragment the drive already
You'd probably achieve the same effect as TuneUp Utilities by simply using a smart drive defragmenter like o&o defrag to move all executable and frequently accessed libraries (dll files) to the front of the drive.
Setting the swap file to a FIXED reasonable size (and then using the drive defrag software to move it towards the front of the drive) also helps a lot.
Here here for NOD32, uses about 45MB of memory, which is quite little compared to other antivirus products.
mount -t sda1/windows /mnt/winblows && rm -rf /mnt/winblows
Problem solved.. aside from some syntax errors
Got some milage from tuner
I've used a product called Systweak for several years now on various machines and it seems to make a significant difference. I wish you had included it in your review. ( no I don't work for the supplier!)
Nobody needs these tools, defrag is total waste of time. putting swap at the end of drive is total waste of time, makes absolutely no sense at all, BTW. Then again, Windows mem management makes no sense, either ...
What a performance increase do you get by deleting 15 unused registry keys If they are not in the following three locations?
HKLM/Services/Current Control Set
Nothing, forget about it ... Those are the only places where you should delete stuff and these tools come up with registry keys nobody, not even Windows cares about ... ok, they "clog" up the registry, but you do need quite a few to clog up a registry, never happened to me ... ;-)
Read a book about MS Windows, pay special attention when it comes to startup section!!!
Check google for msconfig.exe (which you can copy to win2k, together with another file to have it work there, too).
On startup tab, take note of what looks suspicious ... nobody wants office/acrobat/blabla to start when Windows starts (All except AV, I say).
Turn everything off you do not need in services.msc
So you somehow expect a guy will really give you the best alternative for you, which is also the worst for him?
A product that recommends turning off windows update is going to lead to more problems than it solves.
A few myths still floating around amongst the tech literate...
Disabling the page file can be done simply, safely and is worthwhile for many people. I've read Russonovic and he's wrong, it'd be tedious to go into explicit detail of why but basically he incorrectly analyses the information, rather than being incorrect about the overall technical detail (which is his real field of expertise, in fairness). In practice, most users with enough memory to be disabling the pagefile (it doesn't actually disable paging, by the way), which is just about any system made this century and many older, should probably just set a fixed and very small one, in order to avoid problems with some software that blindly checks for it instead of trusting the OS to do its job as configured by the admin. The specific gain is hugely increased response time, especially from applications you have minimized or where the machine was left idle for any significant period, as well better caching (it's now always in RAM and not occasionally paged out to HDD). The danger is that you manage to put together a working set which really does exceed your available memory and applications begin to get failure responses when making allocation requests. I've never seen this happen without actually deliberately coding it, for test purposes (but I run with 4 GB on my systems).
That brings us to the next myth... Windows XP, yes even 32 bit XP, can see 4 or more GB just fine. In fact it can see whatever physical memory is installed as long your BIOS can see it properly, you do NOT need a 64 bit OS to take advantage of a lot of memory but a 64 bit OS will make more efficient use of it in many ways (at the cost of some significant overhead, but you have a lot of RAM now, right?). The limitation is the number of unique addresses possible and Windows lies about actual address anyway (to put it simply) so that applications can be writing to the same location (if you believe the raw address) but are in fact not. There is also the 2 GB limit on continuous addressable memory, PER APPLICATION, which can be increased to as much as 3 GB with a boot switch (but there are side effects) and can be circumvented cleverly anyway.
Truly, if you guys are what passes for the tech elite or even the tech monkeys, these days it is no wonder products like these sell to your customers and friends.
Replies from the author
@ Brian 6
Actually, the margin for error in the gaming test was +/- 0.27fps (95% confidence interval), so the 2fps drop is very significant.
@ Shaun Hunter
It was only when we tested Iolo's software that we re-enabled MSN and Snaggit, as these were two programs that were being used and disabling was over the top.
"That'll be the green bar in the chart that you're after."
The one that says "512Mb"? It would have been clearer if it said "unmodified" or something. The article didn't make me really grasp the importance of 512Mb.