While inches forward with each new release, Iolo System Mechanic Professional takes large steps. The latest version, System Mechanic 5.0 Professional (SM5P), includes a program relocator, a boot-time defragmenter for system files, and an automatic undo function, whose recall is limited only by the space you allocate. Factor in the breadth and depth of what was already there--pop-up-ad prevention, junk-file removal, antivirus and spyware detection and removal, confidential-file protection, memory defragmentation, data recovery, Internet speed optimization, and more--and you have a well-stocked computer-utility package that is worth the investment. We recommend System Mechanic 5.0 Professional over SystemWorks 2005 Premier. You can purchase Iolo System Mechanic 5.0 Professional as a download or a boxed CD; either way, the cost is $69.95. Iolo Technologies also offers a 30-day trial version. If you own SM4P, you can upgrade for $39.95. Unfortunately, you can't simply apply this "upgrade" to your current installation. Instead, you'll have to uninstall SM4P first. Unlike Norton SystemWorks 2005 Premier, which requires separate installations for its individual apps, SM5P requires just one installation. Our experience was flawless. After installation, SM5P consumes a mere 60MB of hard drive space--roughly one-quarter the footprint of Norton SystemWorks 2005 Premier.
Running SM5P is a snap; its interface is both clean and intuitive. Click any of the six main tool-group tabs (Clean, Fix, Maintain, Optimize, Protect, 1-2-3 Options) along the left-hand side to display its tools. Highlighting any tool with your mouse displays a brief but helpful explanation at the bottom of the screen. Three of Iolo System Mechanic 5.0 Professional's new utilities are truly impressive. Program Relocator allows you to move programs to a different folder or drive, simultaneously updating links, shortcuts, and configuration data. In several tests, Relocator never failed us. But even if you were to run into problems with Relocator, there's another new SM5P tool, SafetyNet, which is a multilevel undo for all of SM5P's tool actions. The undo actions are stored in a database with location and archive size. SafetyNet allows the reversal of any number of single actions or transaction sets--groups of actions performed using one tool. Each action and transaction is documented in full detail, so you know ahead of time exactly what you're undoing.
We also like the new boot-time defragmenter, which supplements rather than replaces SM5P's Disk Defragmentation Wizard. By working at boot time, before Windows loads, this utility defragments system files that are normally out of reach. These include the Registry hives, the page file, and the MFT (Master File Table). Typically, all three are heavily modified by the Windows NT/2000/XP operating system regularly, leading over time to performance degradation. SM5P lets you defragment any or all of these, plus applications, at your next bootup or during all successive bootups. Given the sheer number of utilities and their individual options, we feel a printed manual is essential to Iolo System Mechanic 5.0 Professional. Unfortunately, Iolo Technologies has yet to provide even a PDF manual on disc, much less a printed one. By contrast, SM5P's context-sensitive, in-product help system is excellent, with plenty of hotlinks and enough detail to make well-informed choices.
Online support includes a basic FAQ, a searchable knowledge base, e-mail help, and a variety of step-by-step, diagrammed tutorials for simple tasks. Telephone support is free, Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET; however, toll charges may apply.
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