TuneUp Utilities 2013 is touted as your "ultimate PC cleaner, optimizer and troubleshooter." Features include a disk cleaner, browser cleaner, and "Live Optimization 2.0," for stopping performance-sapping programs. TuneUp also claims improvements in system performance and bootup time. Yet how well does this bundle of PC cleanup utlilities really work? For this review, we put the latest edition of TuneUp Utilities to the test.
Sophisticated and complex equipment like your car or PC requires periodic maintenance. With your car, you need to check the air pressure and tread wear in your tires, replace the oil and various filters, and eventually get a tuneup to make sure the engine is performing correctly.
As you continue to use your laptop or desktop PC, it might also need a tuneup. When you install and uninstall software, pieces of the installation are frequently left behind, including no longer necessary registry entries and shortcuts that now lead to nowhere, for instance.
Even with currently installed applications, unnecessary files may sometime reside on the PC without your knowledge, such as temporary files needed for the installation but not removed after the installation is completed, unrequested additions to your Start menu, and update software which is automatically loaded at system start-up.
These -- and other problems such as fragmented or useless disk files building up over time -- can have an impact on your laptop's performance.
One problem with regaining performance through a system cleanup is that it's hard to figure out exactly what needs your attention. There are free and low-cost utilities that examine specific areas of your system, such as the registry, and perform pruning of no longer installed applications. Some hard disk defragmentation is performed automatically in recent versions of Windows, and the defragment tool can also be manually launched. However, few of us have the time, wherewithal or even knowledge to perform a total system inspection and cleanup with these kinds of tools alone.
That's the reason behind utility packages that look at many areas of potential clutter, such as TuneUp Utilities 2013.
In testing TuneUp Utilities 2013 on a Lenovo Thinkpad 400s running Windows 7, I determined that the tuneup utilities package would be easy to use at various levels of user sophistication. For a novice, the 1-Click Maintenance mode is probably the most reasonable. It runs many of the tests, and it delivers the results in an easy to understand format.
During my test run on a laptop that's had many applications installed and uninstalled over several years, the 1-Click Maintenance run uncovered problems with the registry, broken shortcuts, browser items to clean up, and recommendations to optimize startup and shutdown. Clicking on the individual results brought up a list of exactly what problems were discovered in the scan.
Detailed List of Problems Found
The detail screen presents a list of the problems found. Clicking on the specific problem details what the problem is, and how it will be fixed if the user desires. For example, the detail on registry problems uncovered problems on my PC such as the wave file being absent for the Critical Battery Alarm function entry in the registry. The suggested fix, which I accepted, was to eliminate the registry entry, since it led to a dead end.
Tune-Up Utilities 2013 also gives you a tabbed screen which allows you to select specific areas to analyze. These tabs consist of "Status & recommendations," Optimize computer," "Clean up computer," "Fix problems," and "Customize Windows." At the bottom of the screen are buttons to set PC Optimization mode and Optimization Status.
The PC Optimization mode defaults to Standard. The two other settings are Economy or Turbo. On the right bottom of the screen is the Optimization Status. This shows how deeply you have let Tuneup Utilities make the recommended changes (or how deeply you have made these changes yourself). In my test, the 1-Click Maintenance found nine problems, five of which were settings I didn't want changed, such as the recommended backup settings. On the summary/main screen, this resulted in a notification of five problems that might affect system health.
The system testing was performed very quickly. From installation to running 1-Click Maintenance took less than ten minutes from start to finish, and 1-Click Maintenance can be configured to run automatically at a specified time or whenever the laptop is booted.
Gains in System Performance & Boot Time
When I used PCMark 7 (one of the benchmark utilities we use to test notebooks and desktops) to test performance before and after running the various utilities, the results showed just a small improvement in overall performance. However, benchmark results don't always tell the whole story.
The performance gains that you receive will depend on a number of factors that the analysis of your PC uncovers. These might include how cluttered your laptop is and where that clutter is located. For instance, after running TuneUp Utilities 2013, I recovered several gigabytes of disk space that was taken up with temp files that weren't erased.
Also, an overall system benchmark such as PCMark 7 doesn't measure factors such as improvements in system boot times.
TuneUp Utilities also gives you the ability to choose what processes are launched at startup. Many users think that if there's nothing shown in the Startup tab in the Windows menu, that nothing is being launched when the system is booted. For the great majority of users, that's far from true.
TuneUp claims some remarkable improvements in system performance and boot time. Keep in mind, though, that these improvements were probably realized when systems were finely tuned by users who knew what each of the options does, and how granular to go with the settings.
I didn't get nearly the performance or boot improvements that TuneUp claims, but I did get some. Those improvements were accomplished by using the 1-Click Maintenance button, examining and correcting most of the issues found, and then going tab by tab and doing some tweaking. That's what I would expect the average user to do.
If you have more knowledge about what some of the functions that are able to do, you might well get a higher performance boost than I did.
Also, it could very well be that things that need correcting on your laptop are different than those found by Tuneup Utilities 2013 on mine -- and that the things needing fixing on your laptop are having a greater effect on performance than those corrected on my test laptop.
Beyond any improvements in system performance and bootup time, TuneUp Utilities lets you quickly identify and fix problems in your PC. It locates broken links, remainders of removed applications, and unnecessary registry entries. You might find the $49.95 price for the utility set -- which covers up to three PCs -- to be worthwhile even if you don't use all of the recommended tweaks and settings. If you'd like to find out before plunking down the money, free trials are available.
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