System Mechanic 7 ProfessionalWith its latest release, Iolo System Mechanic 7 Professional has lost its focus as one of the premier system utility suites on the market. Included within this latest release are other standalone Iolo products--including Search and Recover 4, Iolo Antivirus, Iolo Spython (AntiSpyware), Iolo Firewall, and Iolo DriveScrubber 3--which should, on the face of it, make this a great bargain at only $70. But Iolo has decided to play up the security suite features in System Mechanic 7 Professional, stating on the box "Full service for your PC plus Internet Security" even though it lacks the antispam and antiphishing protection typically found in traditional Internet Security suites and new all-in-one security suites, such as Norton 360. Also, Iolo has changed its core system utility tools, and not for the better. Part of System Mechanic Professional's allure was its position as the anti-Norton SystemWorks utility suite, providing useful system tools without all the extra baggage of a Symantec product. System Mechanic 7 Professional has instead moved closer to Symantec Norton SystemWorks, loading itself up with extras you might not use while urging you to accept its findings without providing context or sometimes even a choice. We prefer the older versions of System Mechanic, which focused on system utilities and clearly spelled out what it was doing and why; System Mechanic 7 Professional too often feels like a hot-shot garage mechanic that recommends an oil change even though your car has barely driven 3,000 miles. For those interested in upgrading, we suggest you keep System Mechanic 6 Professional a while longer. At this writing we're still awaiting the latest release of Norton SystemWorks (which, we're told, will be redesigned and fully compatible with Windows Vista); stay tuned.
System Mechanic 7 Professional runs on Windows 98 through Vista. You can download a full-function 30-day trial from CNET Download.com.
The setup for System Mechanic 7 Professional on our Windows XP machine was unnecessarily challenging. Even with a disc from Iolo, we were asked to enter a long license number, then enter an even longer registration number. That's a lot of numbers to key in, and if you make a mistake it's hard to find which character is out of place or entered wrong. You'd think you were entering the access code for Fort Knox.
Should you want to remove Iolo System Mechanic 7 Professional, there is no uninstall icon. You will need to use the Windows Control Panel, then Add or Remove Programs. After a reboot, we discovered several system registry entries and program folders and files remained for System Mechanic 7 Professional. We do not recommend deleting the system registry entries without technical support; however, deleting the program folder required us first to change its read-only status. Only then could we delete the program entirely from our machine.
For System Mechanic 7 Professional, Iolo redesigned its interface. In addition to the familiar speedometer showing your system status as good, fair, or poor, there are right-hand menus that locate specific tools, although most user interface studies have shown the left-hand side of the screen to be the user's sweet spot, visually. Indeed, several times we had to remember that the navigation was on the right, not the left. The left side is occupied by a combined diagnostics test. In previous versions you had to analyze and run separate tools, which was a pain. This is an improvement, of sorts. Within System Mechanic 7 Professional, you only run one, and quickly, you'll see what needs to be fixed in one listing.
Unlike System Mechanic 6 Professional, which periodically asked us to download the latest updates, System Mechanic 7 Professional makes the update process more automatic. This is a welcome change, but it also highlights our concern that too many of the processes within System Mechanic now occur in the background.
What's truly frustrating about the new interface is that unlike earlier versions where you could check the items you wanted--and uncheck those you did not--you are strongly encouraged to accept Iolo's word that all the changes recommended are the best for your PC. The automatic option makes the changes without much information. Only by selecting Remove Manually did we see exactly what Iolo had flagged. In most cases these were minor shortcuts and cookies and other items that we did not think warranted removal, and ultimately we unchecked them. We also question the hyperbolic terminology. "Warning" implies danger, and we don't see how two broken shortcuts on our test PC rise to that level. If anything, in simplifying its interface, Iolo has weakened System Mechanic Professional's credibility to diagnose truly severe problems.
Rather than license existing antivirus and firewall technology, Iolo created its own in-house security products. While this ensures the security apps will play well with the existing Iolo tools, these are largely unproven applications competing in a mature and competitive field. We ended up disabling the firewall because it was too noisy, and recommend you also disable or not even install the antivirus app (see the Performance section below).
Iolo Search and Recover 4, available as a standalone product, is included within System Mechanic. Search and Recover 4 allows you to search your hard drive for that missing file that you know exists, and, if you happened to have deleted it somehow, Iolo gives you a tool to recover it. This can be very handy. We did, however, experience some system errors while using Search and Recover 4 (see the Performance section below).