TuneUp Keeps PCs in Tip-Top Shape

As Windows computers get long in the tooth, they require special attention to keep running at an optimal level. Hard disks and registries need to be cleaned and defragmented. Settings need to be tweaked.

All those things can be done manually, or individual programs can be obtained to make the tasks less of a chore, but there’s something to be said for an application that bundles all primary maintenance tasks into a tight suite — an application like TuneUp Utilities 2006 (US$39.95), from TuneUp Software in Darnstadt, Germany.

In the past, I’ve favored the individual program approach to maintenance. My thinking has been that it’s better to do one thing well than try to do all things and water down the process, but there’s nothing watered down about TuneUp Utilities.

Excellent Registry Analysis

The software offers you two options for tuning up your computer. You can use the full suite of utilities or do quick one-click maintenance.

With one click, the program will analyze your system registry for problems, sniff around for missing files needed by your applications, check your registry for structural errors, and identify temporary files that can be deleted to free up space on your hard drive.

After those tasks have been performed, you can view details about what the software found with a single click. I was particularly impressed with the results from its registry analysis. The details it displays about the problems it finds are clear and relatively easy to understand.

Dirty Your Hands

If you want to really dirty your hands under the hood of your computer, you can run the full suite of utilities. It’s organized into five parts.

Part one lets you customize and analyze your machine.

You can control the look and feel of Windows — manipulate animation effects, appearance of menus, fonts and such — and change the look of the interface by altering things like the boot and welcome screens, or the default icons for your files and folders.

You can also take a peek at what programs automatically start when your machine boots up, and obtain comprehensive information about your system.

Part two allows you to clean up and repair your computer. It contains disk and registry cleaners.

Memory Optimizer

Part three contains programs for optimizing and improving system performance.

It has a memory optimizer. Windows is notorious for failing to reallocate memory after an application is shut down. Optimizers run in the background and reclaim memory on the fly.

The registry defragger also works here, as does a system optimizer. That optimizer analyzes your system and gives you tips for changing settings to improve performance.

Reveals Hidden Installations

Part four includes applications for administering and controlling your machine.

There’s a process manager that’s a sort of Windows task manager on steroids.

It shows you the processes currently running on your machine but it lets you display lots of detail about each one. This is quite a goldmine of information.

There’s a registry editor that’s an improvement over the editor packaged with the operating system, too, and there’s also an uninstall manager. What surprised me about this utility was that it found programs installed on my computer that didn’t appear in the Add/Remove feature in the Windows Control Panel.

Maintains Healthy PC

Part five gives you some file recovery and destruction utilities.

If you’ve ever accidentally deleted a file or run some program that deleted files that were important to you, you know the value of a utility that can recover deleted files.

The reason you can recover deleted files is that Windows doesn’t actually erase them. It only erases their names so they don’t appear in Windows Explorer. Eventually the files may be overwritten by other files, but if you really want to zap the files from your disk, you’ll have to take TuneUp’s shredder to them.

The shredder uses a technique used by the U.S. Department of Defense to ensure that not even a data recovery lab can revive the files.

TuneUp 2006 is an impressive set of utilities for maintaining the health of a PC. If you want to keep your computer running in tip-top shape, this powerful suite is a good way to do it.

John Mello is a freelance business and technology writer who can be reached at [email protected].

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