[Contest] System Mechanic Pro [Forum Exclusive]

| November 7, 2012

This is my first review for TipRadar, and I want to set forth my biases up-front. I have used the Free version of System Mechanic (SM) for about 6 months, and feel comfortable with its functions. It regularly monitors my system for “registry problems”, “system clutter” and “low memory states”; it also reminds me to backup my Registry every 14 days. It performs these checks when the system is idle so no work (or play) is interrupted.

I expect that the Pro version would do the same things (it does). What I am most concerned about, and will focus on in this review, is the extra tools and functions that the Pro version has over the Free version. So to start with a clean install, I uninstalled the Free version before installing the Pro version. Two files / folders were left behind and needed to be deleted manually. Internet access is required to install the Pro version in order to activate the program.

Lastly, two of the features I chose not to enable:  antivirus and ActiveCare. As most people already have antivirus protection enabled on their computers, and I have no way to effectively test an antivirus application, I elected to disable this feature. ActiveCare sends you an email with a report of your systems “health status”; I disabled this feature as it works over a longer timeframe than this review will allow for.

The program initially starts with a Welcome Screen (it can be disabled for future running of the program) that offers tutorials and product information screens. Once past there you are presented with a screen urging / offering you to run an analysis of your computer. Here you have two choices, a quick scan, or the more involved deep scan, which SM says will take 5 to 7 minutes. I ran the deep scan which on my computer with 4 hard drives attached to a Windows 7 AMD Athlon machine with 3 Gb of RAM took just over 3 minutes to complete.

During this scan a warning popped up telling me that one of my backup drives had a file that was “corrupt and unreadable”. Unfortunately, instead of stopping the scan, or offering to fix the problem, the program directed me to run the Windows Chkdsk Utility. I expect more from a system utility.

The result of the deep scan was a report showing 7 non-critical areas and 4 critical areas needing “repair”. All of the areas were of a type one would expect a system utility to find. These included defragging the hard drive, fixing Registry errors, cleaning up disk clutter, one hard drive error, start-up program review, internet optimization, low memory levels, and defragging and backing up the Registry.

For most of these, clicking on the Repair button brings up a sub-menu offering to repair now, start a repair wizard to review the items to be selected, or to ignore the area entirely. The only exception to this was the internet optimization area, which was an either-or proposition – either optimize or not. This makes testing this feature more problematic.

To test the recommendations of SM Pro, before fixing the found errors I ran competing programs, both paid commercial products and freeware. Lets start with the hard drives first.

As mentioned above, the deep scan found a disk drive error; the scan also reported 64.71 Gb of fragmented files. As a comparison, a paid professional level disk defrag program found just under 66 Gb of fragmented files. Each program reported the same disk error, and each left it up to me to fix it by running the Chkdsk utility. Again, I would expect a commercial program to have its own error fixing program as part of the application; but perhaps I expect too much.

With regards to the other major subdivisions in the scan, I compared SM to the most popular freeware program, and with a popular commercial product.

Registry Cleaner:

System Mechanic                  26 problems found.

Commercial Program          28 problems found.

Freeware Program                22 problems found.

Disk Clutter:

System Mechanic                  88.12 Mb.

Commercial Program          128.7 Mb.

Freeware Program                93.7  Mb.

Privacy Settings:

System Mechanic                  20 references found.

Commercial Program          19 references found.

Freeware Program                11 references found.

Programs Running At Start Up:

System Mechanic                  Flagged a Java program – – ssv.dll – – as potentially dangerous.

Commercial Program          No program flagged.

Freeware Program                No flagging capability.

As you can see from the numbers, SM stacks up fairly well on the quantity of the problems found, As for the substance of the errors found, all three product tracked each other almost verbatim on the content of the problems reported. But before blindly telling the program to fix everything (which is an option for “one-click” fans), I wanted to explore the program more.

One of the main selling points for upgrading from the Free version to the Pro version is the promise of 50+ tools to work with. A quick jump to the Toolbox heading soon found where the details were hiding. Here there were 9 major subdivisions from diagnostics to privacy, from enhanced protection and performance to managing system configuration and add-ons.

Earlier I mentioned that the network optimizer was an either-or proposition, but in the Toolbox, under diagnostics, was the “net speed analyzer” to test my internet download speed. So to measure how this critical tool worked I ran the Analyzer and got a peak speed of 911.84 kbps, with an average of 752.39 kbps.

Then I ran the tool to optimize my internet connection, and after restarting Windows for the changes to take effect, I re-ran the net analyzer. The verbatim results from the program:  “Your average download speed has not changed…. Your peak speed has decreased by 1%. Your internet configuration is optimized for maximum speed.”. Go figure:  a 1% decrease means more speed? Very disappointing. Time to test some more tools.

Disk defragging is one of those less than glamorous tasks that needs to be done every so often, and a program that can do it fast is better than one that ties up your system. So I gave the disk defragging utility a try. It found 15% fragmentation after analysis, so I let it fly….but I’m spoiled, my current defrag program is a speed demon. The comparison:   SM took 50 minutes to defrag the C drive, while my existing defrag program did a comparable drive in under 10 minutes. Again, I’m disappointed in the results.

Privacy Cleaner:  erases browser and surfing history, cookies, etc. . But, configuration is all or nothing, a particular problem if you want to save, for example, certain cookies (sign-in info) while getting rid of other cookies (tracking cookies).

PC Cleanup and Junk File Finder:  the former gets rid of temp files, and the latter removes “obsolete and unneeded” files. Combined with Privacy Cleaner, there are three programs doing essentially 1 job. IMO SM would have been better off making individual files selectable and having one module handle that function, rather than three modules that have a more limited function.

Registry Tuner:  of the 26 problems SM found, it couldn’t fix 2 of them (both related to “COM references”). But here too the program failed to specify what the problems were, or why they couldn’t be fixed. It only offered to exclude those problems from future scans, leaving me no wiser as to the problems.

Drive Medic:  as I mentioned at the beginning of this review, SM flagged a drive error on its initial scan and suggested I fix it using the Windows Chkdsk utility. In Drive Mechanic this error was flagged on the same drive, but the program didn’t specify what the error was; this time however, it offered to fix the problem on the next restart. As the program wouldn’t specify what the error was or what it was going to do to fix it, I declined the offer.

Duplicate File Finder:  the search was speedy, less than 4 minutes to search a 500 Gb drive (but individual drives were not selectable). The selection process for designating duplicate files was very tedious, and not the clearest in choosing which in a series of duplicates one might want to delete. There is the option to delete to the recycle bin, or permanently wipe them from the drive.

Uninstaller:  this is one of the least helpful tools due to overpopulating the uninstall list – every program and component is listed. For example, in addition to listing my graphic card’s control program, it also listed every one of the individual help files, e.g., one listing each for Italian, German, Greek, Turkish, etc. . It makes searching for complete programs problematic at best.

Customize Windows Settings:  again, a tedious process, as those that require restarting are all over the list, instead of making all changes and then doing a single reboot.

One of the patterns that has emerged from my testing is the lack of information about what the program is selecting to do, and what steps it will take to do that task. Though SM gets high marks for its SafetyNet that automatically creates backup / undo functions for the modules, I expect a system utility to tell me (or let me select as the case may be) what specific items its going to act upon, and what it specifically is going to do to those items.

It is perhaps the nature of a review to look at a large program like System Mechanic and feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of available tasks. But having tested a number of system utilities over the course of the last year, I am struck by the lack of specificity in SM. Too much of this program seems to relay on a “trust me” premise, a premise I’m uncomfortable with.

Reviewed by BearPup



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