By Charles P. Jefferies
Continuing our series of system maintenance software reviews, now we take a look at TuneUp's Utilities 2011 suite. How far does $49.95 go towards fixing up your Windows computer?
TuneUp Utilities 2011 is a $49.95 software suite that covers up to three computers. It touts the following features (quoted from the company website):
Utilities 2011 has 32 functions which can be run individually or all at once via the one-click maintenance tool. Let's take a look at this software in action.
Test System Setup
Our test system is a desktop with a Core 2 Duo (2.67GHz) processor, 2GB of RAM, Nvidia 8800GT graphics, 320GB 7200RPM hard drive, and Windows 7 64-bit.
Installation and Program Interface
Utilities 2011 is a 20MB download. The install process is simple and takes two clicks and three minutes to complete.
The main program screen has a polished and friendly look. There are five categories at the top; most people will only need to look at the "Status & recommendations" tab, which opens by default. The three functions on this screen exploit most of the functionality of Utilities 2011. I clicked on the "Start 1-click maintenance" button first:
It runs a number of scans to find what kind of condition your computer is in. As it stands, my computer had a number of registry problems and broken shortcuts. The first time I ran a scan it also deleted a lot of temporary files, which freed up over 2GB of disk space. Clicking the "Run Maintenance" button applied the fixes without issue.
Utilities 2011 keeps a backup of changes it makes in case there are problems; the program's Rescue Center functions like Windows' System Restore and lets you rollback changes.
Next I went back to the main program screen to try out the "Increase Performance" feature. Before it starts applying changes, the program runs through a short wizard to figure out some basics about your computer (Internet connection speed and so on).
It breaks the changes up into an Overview section and subcategories (Hardware and software, Internet settings, Visual effects). As a typical computer user I just clicked "Optimize All" and the program worked its magic.
Lastly I went to the last major category on the main page, the "Fix Problems" section (above-right).
Something I noticed about Utilities 2011 is that it provides excellent descriptions of what the problems are and its recommended actions to fix them. The language used is simple enough for most users to understand yet not dumbed down to the point where advanced users would be offended.
Utilities 2011 has 32 unique tools, all of which can be run individually. The main screen can be switched to an overview layout shown above, which neatly lays out all functions. Each tool has its own interface if run individually -- there is a lot of functionality here. Below is a look at the registry cleaner:
Another characteristic of this software I like is how it allows you to drill down to the exact problem; for example in the Registry cleaner (above-right) I was able to view the exact path of the key that was causing the problem.
One feature I always look for in tune-up software suites is the ability to perform automatic cleanups. A good percentage of computer users will likely not remember to run a system maintenance utility on a regular basis; an automatic maintenance feature solves the problem.
Fortunately, Utilities 2011 has such a feature and it is turned on by default. It takes care of removing temporary files, registry problems, and some system optimization.
I ran Futuremark's PCMark05 benchmark suite before and after the installation of TuneUp Utilities 2011 to determine whether it had an impact on overall system performance:
There is a very slight difference between the benchmark numbers -- 7433 to 7328 -- but nothing noticeable. As is the case with most of these suites I test, I don't expect to see much of a quantitative difference in performance. Removing temporary files and other clutter usually has more of an impact on how the computer "feels" to use -- how fast programs/files open and its overall responsiveness. I can't say I noticed much of a difference either way. Put it this way -- if your computer is several years out of date and dog slow, installing a system tune-up utility is likely not going to resurrect it. These are marginal differences at best.
Utilities 2011 includes a "Turbo" feature that optimizes background processes and services for performance. It supposedly frees up processing power though my benchmarks did not indicate that. This might make a difference if you are running your PC close to the limits of its performance all the time (which indicates you should probably buy a new computer).
TuneUp Utilities 2011 is packed with a lot of functionality and caters to basic and advanced users alike. The program interface is very slick and easy to use. I like the automatic maintenance options and the ability to run program components individually. The program also does a great job explaining the nature of problems in English.
Now the big question -- is it worth $49.95? That's a tough call. It is definitely more recommendable to novice/intermediate users than advanced users; the latter are likely to want to do tweaking themselves. One way or another the price tag is steep; free software like Piriform's CCleaner provides some of the functionality and other free software does some as well. However, Utilities 2011 puts it all in one program. Not having to use multiple programs or do manual tweaking can save a lot of time.
Software & Support
* Ratings averaged to produce final score
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