Speed Up Windows XP With System Mechanic 10.8

System Mechanic 10.8 Put Through The Test

We've all seen those annoying television commercials that promise to speed up a slow computer, but do such solutions really work? The CRN Test Center put Iolo's System Mechanic 10.8 through its paces and was impressed with the results.

Our test subject was an old Pentium III-era PC running Windows XP so slowly that the machine was completely unusable. Just opening the Start menu easily took 20 seconds, opening an app required about a minute, and we could fix a steak-and-egg breakfast in the time it took to reboot this dinosaur.

But it was perfect for our purposes. We installed System Mechanic 10.8 and, after running a scan, the tool reported that the overall system status was poor and health and security were at alarming levels.

Performance Problems

After many years of use (and neglect), Windows machines develop all sorts of issues that can sap performance and open the door to more problems. Listed first are the security flaws, which include absence of a firewall, dangerous start-up items and other security vulnerabilities.

System Mechanic also identified hundreds of registry problems, which happen normally over the course of time but nevertheless can slow down a system and make it prone to crashes. The tool also found more than 1 GB of junk. While this might not seem like much by today's standards, it represented more than 1 percent of this system's total hard drive capacity of 80 GB.

Results Of First Pass

System Mechanic was able to clean out all the clutter and remove the unwanted start-up items. Of the 611 registry errors found in the first scan, 591 were repaired, leaving 20 unfixed. Performance results after the first pass were moderate. After restarting, system responsiveness was slightly faster but still far too slow.

When we relaunched the tool, it reported that while our system's health was now firmly in the green, its security was still at warning levels and our system status had only been upgraded from poor to fair. So we ran another scan.

Third Time's The Charm

During a second pass at diagnosing the system, System Mechanic found 44 new registry errors in addition to the 20 problems left unrepaired from the first scan for a total of 64. It also found a new security vulnerability. But during the second repair pass, the tool fixed only 62 of the registry errors and did not repair the security problem.

A third pass found those issues, a third registry problem, and reported that available memory was running low. System Mechanic offered us the option of optimizing memory to fix the problem, which we did.

Getting Rid of CRUDD

We call them something else, but In Iolo's parlance, "commonly redundant or unnecessary decelerators and destabilizers" are known as CRUDD. Whatever they've called, System Mechanic gets rid of them with its CRUDD remover. On our system there were four: an AOL Toolbar, an Ask Toolbar, a Google Toolbar for IE and a Yahoo Toolbar.

The screen here identifies each along with a judgment as to its favorability and presents options to keep, kill or decide later. We killed them all.

Good Enough

During the last repair pass, System Mechanic reported it had done some repairs on the system drive, realigning more than 30,000 files and defragmenting another 6,518. This led on the next pass to even more misalignments and fragmentations, a problem so pervasive that it affected more than the total size of the 80-GB volume. System Mechanic was able to repair all the problems but was never able to achieve more than a "fair" system status. However, the test system was transformed from "a hammer and chisel would be faster" to one that performs well enough to be used as a jukebox, backup PC for Internet access or for doing school papers.

With more than half of all Windows computers still using Windows XP, there are millions of systems out there in need of similar repairs. For such systems, the CRN Test Center recommends System Mechanic, which provides 50 tools in all, including those for acceleration, repair, cleanup and security, for $40 list. System Mechanic 10.8, released in April, is compatible with the current Windows 8 beta. A free version of System Mechanic 10.8 includes seven tools.

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