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Do system optimizers/fixer utilities cause more problems than they solve?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / January 20, 2012 8:25 AM PST
Question:

Do PC system optimizers/fixer utilities cause more problems than they solve?

I am a 68-year-old ex-pat American living in England as the spouse of
a British citizen. As someone who has used a personal computer for 10
years but knows virtually nothing about technical matters, I am
vulnerable to all sorts of computer fix-it promotions and products,
among them The Ultimate Troubleshooter, System Mechanic, and Advanced
System Care.

I recently paid a professional to solve a problem I was
having with my Windows XP system, and when he had finished I
discovered he had intentionally removed all these products, saying
they were unnecessary and caused more problems than they solved. I
was frankly embarrassed that I had apparently been taken in by
advertising claims, and did not challenge his actions. (I have called
on this man's expertise before and respect his knowledge, since it is
obviously superior to my own. He has a number of small businesses in
the community as clients, but will also make home visits to people
like me who cannot transport their computers to another location for
repair.)

I don't like to think I'm being given bad advice, but I've spent a good
deal of money on the software I mentioned, believing the claims as
to their validity. I would appreciate your opinion regarding this situation.

- Submitted by C. R. Tate
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System Utilities

I'm a 67 year old who's been working on PCs for 20 years, and your repairman was correct.
Windows has all the tools you need to tune your PC, and the commercial products are little better than snake oil, especially the registry cleaners.
I've actually had to re install Windows after some of these magical programs worked their evil magic, so send your repairman a bonus.

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Optimizing
by geomurray / January 20, 2012 9:57 AM PST
In reply to: System Utilities

Your tech did the right thing. You only need one optimizer running, when more then one are running they conflict with each other and nothing gets done. It's the old "too many chiefs and not enough workers" routine. I'm retired from Microsoft after 22 years and have been working on computers since 1980 and I have seen it all. Don't feel bad about having all those in there, when in doubt ask a professional. I tell my clients "don't put anything in unless you check with me". It has saved them many headaches and of course money.

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great ans ... again though is it safe to use things like fre
by Xango2 / February 7, 2012 12:37 AM PST
In reply to: Optimizing

free registry cleaners such as ccleaner? Every once in a while, my typing delays and it drives me absolutely nuts ... I will type and sit back and watch it fill in minutes later. I am too impatient for this and ccleaner seems to fix it ... til it happens again.
Also would like to know what I can delete in programs such as : the updates, etc .. once they are updated can we actually remove it or not?

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what MS programs?
by Herplord / January 27, 2012 9:14 AM PST
In reply to: System Utilities

To which MS installed programs do you refer? I recently installed Iolo system mechanic and it seems to have cleaned up a lot. If there are installed programs with Win 7 which will do the job, please let me know

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Iolo - System Mechanic 10.7
by kenjg / January 27, 2012 9:29 AM PST
In reply to: what MS programs?

I have used System Mechanic for several years on different computers. I think they are the best on the market! It has kept my computer humming, free of malware, virus's etc.
You need to enable most if not all the tools available. On download they are disabled. You need them enabled to get the best out of this product.
Good luck!

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You are so right it made me giggle a little bit.
by LucJPatenaude / January 27, 2012 10:19 AM PST

When it come to System Mechanic's software, the pro version is a must.
The reason I get to say this is: My machine(HP Pavilion) is so lagging at cold boot time that it will, eventually, one day, not boot at all, as of right now. Do not have such software right now and, am aching badly at getting that Pro software a.s.a.p.
The O.S. will not provide enough tools to do such intense maintenance without the intervention of an outside techie. This is beyond HDD filing clutter and disorganisation of the currently installed programs. Windows does not have a proper registry, remover-adder of installation keys. Without the help of these awesome utility programs, you have to regedit every single key at a time, and remove the ones that has no reference to any programs installed on your HDD at this current time. Manually. This is, seriously bothersome and time waster to its worse case scenario. Plus, registry defragging and optimizing does not exist to Windows features(from '98, Me, 2000, XP, XP MCE, Vista and, 7). Even on Dos, it never existed. These performance booster programs are, literally, new and, will do a marvel of a good job, doing just that(manual maintenance) in no time flat.
Obviously, that businessman of a techie, is stopping you from getting yourself a newer machine that will refresh your own mind as to where and when you are in this current world of ours. So, yes, you definitely need a better performing machine no matter the O.S. installed onto its totally new HDD(Win. 7 HPE-SP1 is, normally, ready to unpack itself upon first power on-cold boot and install itself right-a-way).
In other words, never mind what that super rich businessman says, your issue is beyond a mere system maintenance problem that has to be quick fixed every month or so. XP's days are totally numbered by its maker: Microsoft. And, will no longer support this aging O.S. ever again(that is common knowledge of 2 years ago).
Lets hope now, that you will consider everything I just wrote here and, will consider saving monies for a much needed, newer PC system.
Plain

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XP works fine
by KenHusveg / January 28, 2012 4:56 AM PST

We deal with corporations every day who are using XP to run their systems. The CEO and some office staff may have newer software but the back end, warehousing, etc., is running just fine with XP.

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And, that is, exactly that, that makes the Economy suffer.
by LucJPatenaude / January 28, 2012 9:59 PM PST
In reply to: XP works fine

Nobody and, nobody will ever be properly trained to go out there, by themselves and get themselves a fresh start as a new entrepreneur or their own businesses. Having no idea of how to use the 'Right Now' s software suites of office programs and, not mentioning the vast array of utility programs available to Vista and 7 as of this very date.

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budget and money
by OntheCoast / January 29, 2012 2:57 AM PST

I operate a small business. That said, we still use some Win 98 and mostly XP machines. There is NO money in the budget to upgrade and train our employees. As for home use, I don't have the money to upgrade either. Where ever you are, it must be great not to feel this economy. We have to keep our old machines running or go out of business.
We need local XP help and our local computer guy knows XP well and hears a lot of the economy problems. XP works well, but large corporations will always make software obsolete in order to sell new software.

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A small business that is not profitable is better off sold.
by LucJPatenaude / January 29, 2012 10:51 PM PST
In reply to: budget and money

You must love misery to the max. for putting your business onto a belt tightning budget like that.

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I agree!
by surfdanz / January 30, 2012 8:48 PM PST

Windows 98?!!! Really...!!!
You have not prioritized well your expenses, I believe that if you understood how badly you are hindering yourself and your business in this techno era, by feeling that upgrading your computers is such a low priority, you would find the money within your expenses. There has to be less important expenses.
I agree if it's not profitable, get rid of it! But I also have known many business owners that just undervalue the importance of maintaining their systems up to date, and think from the beginning that they will update their vehicles, their wardrobes, and not their all important computer systems!!! Come on!!! In this day and age it should be a higher priority of businesses to be reasonably up to date.

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Did your fix-it software solve any problems you really had?

There are a lot of good fixer utilities out there, just like there are a lot of good pharmaceutical products, yet most people don't go around swallowing every medicine that comes along -- even the latest miracle cure -- unless they have the indicated malady. Sure, computers can be mystifying -- as can medicine -- but over ten years you probably developed a pretty good idea of what "normal" is with your computers (as you have over 68 years with your body), and most problems display some sort of symptom. So, rule number one (with both computers and medicine) is try to refrain from fixing problems you don't have.

In many instances it is possible to do a web search based upon the observed symptoms (or error messages in the case of computers) and gain an understanding of what may be going wrong. With computers, the fix often requires deleting something (think surgery) rather than adding, or changing a setting in some program or other. Reading through software help sites and any reader forums discovered in your internet search will help you understand what's happening and what your choices are. You don't need to be a techie to get the gist of most of the material you'll find, and if you hit something you don't understand, look it up. So rule number two is do your research.

It well could be that each and every piece of therapeutic software you installed is the latest and greatest way to handle some problem or other. However, just like other cures, they may interact in unforeseen and unfortunate ways and, indeed, create new problems. There may even be instances where fix-it program A identifies fix-it program B as "problem," and deletes it, or causes your system to malfunction. So rule number three is go back and look at rule number one.

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I Use ASC 5
by proseandpoetry / January 20, 2012 10:10 AM PST

I use ASC 5 on several computers. It's a wonderful piece of software! Keeps my computers running well. The other software I don't own and can't comment on, but Advanced System Care 5 does a great job of straightening out registry problems, identifying and crushing malware, keeping my MS security updates fresh, my hard drive error-free, and defragmented. I recommend it.

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Totally agree
by gjthedj / January 27, 2012 11:40 AM PST
In reply to: I Use ASC 5

Like the "free" ASC version so much, had to buy PRO.

Works better than any 'magic fixes' used before. Been computing since 1997.

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ASC is Nice....
by bill60606060 / January 27, 2012 1:38 PM PST
In reply to: Totally agree

ASC has been better for the computers I use than paid versions of similar utilities (iolo system mechanic....). But I'm learning to stick with the free version, because, I got the paid version of asc a week or 3 ago, and did a deep registry clean, only to return error messages that the registry wasn't cleaned up properly.... So, I don't use the deep clean anymore, and for that reason, I think the asc free version is adequate.....

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SYSTEM MECHANIC & THE ULTIMATE TROUBLESHOOTER ARE EXCELLENT
by Sam4X5 / January 27, 2012 9:55 AM PST

I had The Ultimate Troubleshooter on a Win XP machine for 4 years. Two of my friends also got it. We all love it. All it does is teach you valuable things about programs and services running on your machine. GET IT BACK! I can't have it anymore because I am now running Win 7. I have a DellXPS Studio 8100 and Dell Support recommended Iola System Mechanic 2 years ago. It has been great. GET IT BACK. Ocassionally these programs are identified as malware by antivirus programs. Resolve these controversies with the people at the software companies via email support. Be patient and start fixing your PC by yourself. You can get better advice from support at the various software companies involved. I will bet that your technician can't come close to providing the information you can obtain yourself. Be careful on the web especially with email attachments and phishing scams. I used to involve technicians until I found out how little they know. They often don't have the time or patience to get support from software companies. I am happier and richer and my computer runs better than it ever has since I started fixing things myself. Just Google your problem specifically, and you may find a solution right there. You can do it. Run one reputable antivirus program and several antimalware programs. Malewarebytes Antimalware is good. ALSO BACK EVERYTHING UP. CARBONITE IS GREAT.

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My 25 Jan 2012 experience confirms westendal's opinion
by maanojrakhit / January 27, 2012 3:57 PM PST

I received a promotional offer for free use of ReviverSoft PC Benchmark (hereafter referred to as PCB). I installed it on my PC. It showed my PC was performing at 67% of optimal capacity.

To improve it further, I downloaded ReviverSoft Registry Reviver (hereafter referred to as RR) and installed it on my PC. RR showed 566 Registry errors that need fixing, and it would do so if I purchased a license key. So, I purchased a license key and let RR fix those 566 errors. It reported that all 566 errors had been fixed. I ran RR once again to verify if all errors were truly fixed. To my surprise it reported some more errors. So I let RR fix them. Then I ran RR again and it reported more errors. I continued this process with the award winning RR until it finally exhausted itself and confirmed that no more registry error was left on my PC.

Now, it was the turn to run PCB once again to determine if the award winning RR had truly done the job as it claimed. To my extreme surprise PCB score came down significantly to 51% from 67% prior to wonder job done by RR. At this point, it occurred to me why not restore RR backups of registry removals it had done. So, I restored each and every error fixing RR had done by using the option offered in RR itself for disaster remedy, if required. And then, naturally, I ran PCB again. My revised score was 62%.

To sum up, my PC was performing at 67% of optimal capacity which was pulled down to 51%, a drop of 16%. As I restored my PC to earlier state using RR option, PCB score jumped back to 62%, a rise of 11% and still short by 5% from original 67%. While these tests were run, my PC was only running that specific application, and no other application that could have influenced PCB score in any other way. So as you see, these award-winning optimizer/fixer utilities can, at times, do greater harm than any good. I have put up a claim for refund of license key payment and I hope they will soon honor it considering that they offer 30-day money back guarantee. Incidentally, you may have noticed that both products RR and PCB were from the same software publisher ReviverSoft and therefore, one cannot put blame on the other software publisher. In other words, RR publishers cannot claim that PCB publishers were at fault, or the other way round. Hope this recent experience of 25 January 2012 helps some readers at this forum.

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Additional info to my 25 Jan 2012 experience
by maanojrakhit / January 27, 2012 5:37 PM PST

I want to emphasize that PCB 67%, RR removal, PCB 51%, RR restoration, PCB 62% all these operations were carried out sequentially, all factors in this test environment were constant except PCB, RR operations which were the only variables. In others words, everything else being equal these were the results produced by software published by the same publisher ReviverSoft Registry Reviver and ReviverSoft PC Benchmark.

I have been using PC for 27 years (since 1986) and aforesaid tests were carried out on a PC with Windows 7 Home Basic SP1 Build 7601, Main-board MSI MS-7309, 2 GB Physical Memory, Virtual Memory 3.87 GB, AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core Processor 4000+ 2109 Mhz with Microsoft Securities Essentials 2.1.1116.0

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You sound like a
by MikeHolli / January 27, 2012 8:49 PM PST

You sound like a paid spokesman for ReviverSoft. I'm going to put my two cents in here. I use Nortons 360
currently version 6 beta, and running it on Windows 8 DP. I have ran all the aforementioned products, and others. BUT have not seen any of them do anything worth putting my money down. People have mention ASC, and lolo free versions. BUT they forgot to mention the nagware to buy the full/professional versions of those programs, that comes with it. NOW want something free that works, and made by a company that has been around almost as long as Microsoft themselves? Then I suggest you download NPE (Norton Power Eraser). Now all you guys that have already ran your favorite, and got your self a nice clean report on the health of your PC. Take the NPE challenge, download it, install it, then run it. (First time running of this program takes awhile) What's that your saying? NPE found over 3000 infections that your favorite programs missed? WAIT a minute here! How can it have found that many?, let's take a look at the results page here.
(minnum.tro....More Information

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surprised at your comment "You sound like a paid spokesman..
by maanojrakhit / January 28, 2012 4:55 PM PST
In reply to: You sound like a

I reported that RR is a registry cleaner which should have improved PC performance but it did just the opposite. And you say I sound like a paid spokesman of ReviverSoft?

I also said in the end that I had asked them to refund me the money I had paid for RR and you say I sound like a spokesman of ReviverSoft, the publishers of RR?

It's nice to know how people interpret things.

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Reading BOTH yours and his....
by shrapnel_indie / January 29, 2012 4:09 AM PST

Reading both your statements and his, it sounds more like he's endorsing Norton, who has changed hands over the years (thus, not the same Norton that started out years ago.) His sounds a bit like its coming from an advert-exec.

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Who can you believe?
by Finell / January 27, 2012 10:39 PM PST

Why do you assume that the PCB results are accurate or mean anything useful? It's just another piece of software, like RR. What exactly does "67% of optimal capacity," or any other percentage, mean? What components go into the overall benchmark score? How is each weighted in the overall score? Which of those components are most important for whatever you do on your computer? High performance on a machine used for action games, for example, involves different metrics than high performance for indexing 50 GB databases (video performance doesn't matter to database jockey, unless she's watching a high def movie while the database is indexing), which involves different metrics than doing finite element analysis of a medical device. And so on.

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on "Who can you believe?"
by maanojrakhit / January 28, 2012 5:03 PM PST
In reply to: Who can you believe?

By test results all I demonstrated that system fixer utilities like registry cleaners, etc. cannot be solely relied upon. And I did that by testing registry cleaning utility against PC performance benchmarking utility designed by the same software publisher ReviverSoft. In all this, from where arises the question as to who I should rely on and who I should not?

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tune up utilities, registry cleaners
by bill60606060 / January 27, 2012 11:08 PM PST

It's been my experience that tuneup utilities (advanced system care free version is my favorite [ASC]) and/or registry cleaners, of which are in part one in the same, are best used regularly, after a fresh operating system (OS) install. Trying to use these to revive a dying PC may or may not work. By dying PC, I mean one that hasn't been tuned up for months or years, shows hundreds of errors, or has viruses or malware infections.... On the bright side, I have revived a few dying PC's by using ASC, and Spybot. I always delete/remove spybot after using it, because it's a pain to have on the PC. Other VIRUS removal software may be required also.... I use MSSE and AVG. When they don't work, I reinstall the OS.... My favorite antivirus program is McAfee, when I can afford it.... Happy

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Re: dying PC
by maanojrakhit / January 28, 2012 5:38 PM PST

While responding to my post you have mentioned of dying PC. If that observation was in relation to my PC then I would want to clarify that my PC is in good health, daily scanned for viruses, malwares, spywares, etc.; all windows updates kept up to date; daily de-fragmented; hard disk space always more than 50% free meaning no overcrowding; all software with latest versions; no pirated software; no dubiuous freewares; no games downloaded. So, you would realize that it's not a case of a dying PC you were responding on.

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How old is this PC of yours?
by LucJPatenaude / January 29, 2012 11:23 PM PST
In reply to: Re: dying PC

First of all, you should have the real Edition of Win. 7. Win. 7 Home Premium Edition(x86 or x64) to start with.

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Re: How old is this PC of yours?
by maanojrakhit / February 7, 2012 6:26 AM PST

Sorry, you are grossly mistaken.

1] It has a real edition of Windows 7 a genuine paid one. It has passed all genuine tests including that of Microsoft Securities Essentials and Windows Updates are always up to date.

2] I am not short at RAM for I do not ever play games, watch videos, etc that require high RAM. 2 GB DDR2 RAM is good enough because at no point of time Memory Utilization exceeds 50% (Task Manager Performance tab).

3] BIOS I have checked. Also had done quite a bit research on it and made inquiries with regard to flushing it but responses were not encouraging, terming it as a risky process. Thereafter, I decided not to mess with it unless there was a reason good enough. And, there had been no such occasion.

4] PC runs and responds instantly and that is 99%+ time (12 hours a day 365 days).

Do you truly realize that requirements that you speak of depend on the kind of use you put PC to and how you maintain it? A mature person should consider all relevant factors before becoming so very opinionated. Think about it.

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So, it is a workstation type of a machine.
by LucJPatenaude / February 25, 2012 6:39 PM PST

You know that, it is normal for a very old, single core machine to just, quit working, for no good reason what-so-ever.

And, that you needed the 'professional' Edition of Win. 7.

These are facts, not opinions. Plus, an old workstation like that one is, financially worthless on the 'Right Now's consumer market(of any possible kind).

My last phrase of the above post of mine still stands. Read it slowly and realize things before replying to this post.

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The professionals' actions were unilateral.

First, its difficult to generalise. There are a few such packages that all of us have - though we may not use them regularly. That said, there are many that do cause bother.

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You're forgetting the client
by mwooge / January 27, 2012 1:50 PM PST

You're telling C.R., who "knows virtually nothing about technical matters" to do a lot of stuff he/she is not capable of. Most everyone else is giving sililar advice.
At least one of the programs removed, and I suspect the other two, should only be used by someone who knows computers. Which is not C.R.
I think the tech should have let C.R. know what he did, but the removal was proper.

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