I'm the kind of person who has an almost religious fervour when it comes to keeping data backed up, perhaps unsurprisingly as I am an IT professional and my livelihood depends upon it. So when it came to the hands-on testing of System Mechanic 9.5 for this DaniWeb review I had no qualms about going real world, biting the bullet and letting the computer tune-up software loose on my day to day work netbook. That, and the fact that System Mechanic has been used by more than 23 million consumers to fix more than 70 million computers over the years, and has a reputation for doing what it says on the box.
The Windows 7 powered netbook in question is just six months old and has been used, pretty much, every single one of the 170 days, to be precise, that I have owned it. My job as a freelance technology journalist involves a lot of three things: web browsing (including social networking and blogging), email and word processing. Along the way, as you might imagine, even the 250GB hard drive on my fairly well specced netbook has become bogged down with superfluous data. The surprise comes when you install a utility such as System Mechanic 9.5 and realise quite how much of it there is.
Installation was, I'm pleased to say, a quick and painless experience. Being a netbook I have no optical drive, mainly as I'm a combination of tight fisted and cynical. Too tight fisted to buy an external USB dvd drive and too cynical to bother with applications that do not let me download and install them from the web. heck, it is the 21st century after all. System Mechanic was duly downloaded and installed, consuming a total of some 15 minutes of my precious time from hitting the download button through inputting my license number and onto getting the results of the initial quick system analysis scan.
This revealed a number of items that were flagged as being worthy of my attention, including a grand total of 372MB of duplicated or redundant data. Now that's not to be sniffed at, and as System Mechanic takes great care in its attempts to be user friendly (bearing in mind that system tune-up software is not for feint hearted nor the computing newbie) making the right choices as to what data could be safely removed was child's play. Indeed, pretty much every problem found, every piece of data, every rogue Registry entry, every problem with your start up routine, comes replete with a set of options ranging from (and I acknowledge that these may not be the actual wordings, but the drift is accurate) 'get on with it and let me do my stuff, dumbass' through 'let me see exactly what you are planning to do, buddy' right to 'leave this stuff alone and don't ever mention it again or there will be trouble'.
Backing it up
Of course, when it comes to messing with the Registry for example, you should always advance with ultimate caution. A backup is recommended prior to editing or removing any entries from the thing. Some might say that a wizard approach to doing these things is dangerous in the hands of those who don't know enough to be able to do it manually, and will often cause more damage than it proclaims it will repair. However, System Mechanic will make those backups for you before you begin and enable easy recovery via a SafetyNet feature should things go pear shaped. SafetyNet is, I am reliably informed, also available in Windows Safe Mode should things go really bad. In my testing, I need not have worried as everything was handled automatically by System Mechanic without any problems at all.
Over the years I have tested many such utilities, including those that come as standard with the Windows OS (System Mechanic will do such things as defrag your drive for example) and while they all work after a fashion most are fatally flawed. They are either hugely problematical in the hands of those possessing that most dangerous of things, a little knowledge, or they go ahead and delete stuff they shouldn't when running in automatic mode. System Mechanic 9.5 is the first utility that I have tested which appears to do what it does without exploding those potential tech bombs. I trust it to be installed on my work computer and left to run in the background and perform its magic without me having to authorise its every action. But I still say that it's not for the newbie, this kind of software never can be.
Still, it performs well in such usually delicate (read: don't touch with a bargepole) areas as optimising a broadband Internet connection and worse optimising the system Registry. I admit I held my breath when my netbook required rebooting after the Registry optimisation, but my fears were unfounded just as they were when I connected to my network and the web beyond. Sure, using software such as this is a leap of faith but for me at least it was one worth taking. I now have nearly 400MB more space on my hard drive and the netbook boots up a whole 10 seconds quicker than before letting System Mechanic work its magic. I cannot, of course, talk for how it works under Vista nor XP as I tested neither of these, only Windows 7.
I would not recommend using any tune-up software, System Mechanic included, without first backing up all your data lest the unthinkable happens. That said, if a family member asked which one-stop software solution for defragging the hard drive, clearing out data and Registry bloat, optimising an Internet connection I'd recommend - then System Mechanic 9.5 would be it. Unless it was my mother as she doesn't know her way around a computer and the Windows OS sufficiently well enough...