Tune-Up Software Greases the Wheels on Old PCs
Viruses and malware aren't the only things that tend to slow down a PC's performance over the months and years. Registry changes made by installing new software can also cut down on performance. Large Software's PC Tune-Up doesn't protect against malicious infections, but it does tidy up the registry, and that's makes for a noticeable boost in speed, writes reviewer Donald Baker.
06/27/08 8:00 AM PT
After a few months of use, a PC never seems to run as fast as when you first opened the box and turned it on. As you install and remove programs, large quantities of unwanted files pile up. These files take up space on your hard drive and can be loaded when you start your computer. This can slow your boot process to a snail's pace.
PC Tune-Up 2.0 is the newest release from Large Software. It's designed to speed up your aging computer. It focuses mainly on fixing errors and outdated entries in the registry file on your computer. This is where settings are saved for nearly all programs installed on your computer. Programmers often ignore many of their registry additions during uninstall processes. They assume the user would prefer to lose a small fraction of memory and speed to make future reinstallation of the software easier. If your computer is brand new, this difference will be negligible. If your computer is somewhat older, these leftovers compound to devastating proportions.
PC Tune-Up has a nice user interface with both standard and advanced user modes. Average users can click a so-called Magic Button to perform all tasks with default settings. This process starts by creating a backup of your registry so you can revert back at any time. This feature is necessary because the registry contains vital information for your operating system, and if a necessary entry is deleted, it could cause a lot of problems.
The software then checks for erroneous or unnecessary registry entries. These build up through everyday operations, so a typical computer has several hundred of these minor problems. All of these are detected and fixed in a very short time. PC Tune-Up follows this process by defragmenting your registry file, which makes many programs run faster.
PC Tune-Up also comes with a tool to disable unnecessary startup programs. It takes a bit of effort to figure out which of these startup programs are necessary, though the utility makes it much easier than before to find these and decide whether they are unwanted. An optimize function finishes the tool set by changing several advanced settings to increase the performance of the PC.
PC Tune-Up is a very small file, and it's incredibly fast compared to similar programs. The user interface lets the user customize operations without making common tasks difficult. I was impressed by the design and depth of the registry scanner.
Problems With the Software
Perhaps the largest downside of this program is that it only addresses registry errors. Most PCs slow down because of spyware and viruses in addition to the registry edits PC Tune-Up addresses. There's also a trend of moving toward .NET Framework programming, which does not rely greatly on the registry and should create fewer registry errors.
The amount of space freed by deleting unnecessary registry entries is usually a few kilobytes -- this is a very small amount compared to modern computers with gigabytes of random access memory (RAM). Windows XP and Vista are designed to reduce the slowdown caused by large registry files, so this is less significant on newer systems.
The Big Test
I tested the software on a computer that was running significantly slower than it should. It's running Windows XP SP3 on a 2.8 GHz processor with 512 MB of RAM. It is clean of viruses and spyware, so this was a good test for software designed for this type of problem. I tested all hardware to ensure any problems were software-related and not caused by overheating or some similar hardware problem.
The software did speed the computer up after a required reboot. There was an improvement, though not as much as I was hoping for. This increase in speed did not show any significant change in benchmark tests either. The best example of speed increase was during program loading phases. Large programs such as Photoshop and Web editors loaded approximately 20 percent faster. There was a slight improvement in system startup speed as well.
Overall, PC Tune-Up did as well as advertised. I did notice an improvement despite the change in design of other programs to make registry errors less of a problem. It's an incredibly fast tool that will complement your virus scanner and spyware scanner well. The whole cleanup process took less than five minutes and the installation file was incredibly small, considering the features of the program. If your computer is running much slower than before, and you have tried everything else you can think of, PC Tune-Up would be a good option.
The software costs US$29.95, though buying a backup CD will increase the price to $39.94. This is a great price compared to the cost of buying a new computer in a desperate attempt to reclaim all of that lost speed. This inexpensive, virtual multitool can save you hours of frustration while trying to find the root of your computer's problems.