Review: TuneUp Utilities 2011

October 29, 2010 – 22:02 by in Reviews Print Share 2 Comments
Overview
Manufacturer: TuneUp Distribution GmbH
Price (RRP): $49.95
Best Price: $29.95 (save 40%)
Platforms: Windows XP (32/ 64-bit), Windows Vista (32/ 64-bit), Windows 7 (32/ 64-bit)
Requirements: 80MB free hard drive version
Softwarecrew Rating:
 
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The more you use a PC, the slower it gets. This simple rule is as true today as it’s ever been, unfortunately, even with the otherwise excellent Windows 7.

To keep your system in order, then, it’s important to have plenty of PC maintenance and optimisation tools. And few suites come quite as well equipped in this area as TuneUp Utilities 2011.

This starts with the core functionality you’d expect from any good maintenance package: Registry fixes, hard drive cleanup tools, startup program management, a defrag applet, Windows tweaks, and more.

But the TuneUp Utilities 2011 goes further, with some genuinely new ideas that will help you get the most out of your PC. It’s able to make genuinely intelligent recommendations on how your performance can be optimised safely, and this version sees increased support to ensure that your own optimisations deliver the best results.

These advantages aren’t difficult to find, either – they were visible from the moment we began to explore the program.

Program Deactivator

Like much of the competition, you can run TuneUp Utilities 2011 in a largely automated mode where it scans for and reports problems, then fixing them at a click. For review purposes, though, it’s more interesting to explore each tool manually.

The program now divides its features into four sections, “Optimize system”, “Gain disk space”, “Fix problems” and “Customize Windows”, so one click and you’ll generally heading in the right direction. We started with perhaps the most important area, “Optimize system”.

The first tool we encountered here is the Program Deactivator, something brand new to TuneUp Utilities 2011, and a technology that we’ve not seen in any of the competition.

Launch another maintenance suite, for example, and they’ll generally offer to uninstall programs to free up resources. But if that’s not convenient – you’ll want to use the app again, just not for a while – then you’ll probably leave the program in place.

The Deactivator, though, claims that it can disable rarely used programs at a click: remove Startup entries, turn off their Windows services, stop their scheduled tasks and everything else that’s slowing down your PC, while leaving the program files, your data, and everything else intact.

And then, when you need to use the program, even a few months later, just enable it with another click, the Deactivator will restore these settings and it’ll be back in action.

We launched the Deactivator on our test PC, and it claimed that “21 programs that can be disabled are causing system load”. These are visible at a click.

The list includes some core components that you really shouldn’t disable – .NET Framework 4 Extended, for instance – but TuneUp Utilities 2011 did at least recognise that our security software, AVG Internet Security, was essential, and didn’t allow us to disable it.

The Deactivator also correctly highlighted our installation of VMware Workstation as an application that adds a lot of background activity to Windows: it had 5 processes running in the background, for instance. Could this really be deactivated? We asked the Deactivator to turn it off at our next boot, restarted the system, and…

It worked. Perfectly. Our VMware Workstation processes were no longer running, but the program and our data was still there.

And better still, when we tried to run VMware Workstation manually, TuneUp Utilities 2011 detected this, automatically re-enabled the program (this only took a few seconds) and launched it as normal.

The Program Deactivator is something very rare, then: a genuinely new PC speedup tool that actually works. Now you don’t have to uninstall a program to reduce its impact on your system; deactivating it (as long as it’s supported by TuneUp, and many are) can also be very effective.

We’re still nervous about the idea of listing components here – could the program really re-enable the .NET Framework 4 Extended if that were required, for instance? – but as long as you’re careful, the Deactivator will be a welcome addition to your PC, and probably justifies installing the TuneUp Utilities 2011 all on its own.

Although, of course, the suite has considerably more to offer.

Optimise system

The “Optimise system” section has several other interesting options to apply, beyond the Program Deactivator.

The “Accelerate system startup and shutdown” applet, for instance, scanned our startup programs, scheduled tasks and Windows services and recommended changes. It only listed 3 optimisations for our test PC, but these were well chosen, explained in great detail, and provided genuinely useful advice.

So, for instance, it questioned whether we really needed to run the Google Updater and Installer at every reboot, recommending instead that we run it weekly as a scheduled task. The delay in updating is unlikely to cause any security issues, so this definitely works for us (and it’s far better than other programs, which may recommend that these updaters are removed entirely).

There’s also a full-strength Registry Cleaner that looks for redundant Registry keys, details any it finds, and lets you remove them in a click (a Defragment option then compacts the Registry to save RAM and hard drive space).

The program includes a hard drive defrag tool. It’s not up to the standards of the specialist competition, but is able to optimise the layout of files on your hard drive, for example moving system files to the fastest part of the drive, so delivers better results than you’ll see with Windows alone.

An Uninstall Manager lists your installed applications so you can review them, uninstalling any you don’t need at a click. And the “Disable startup programs” option similarly details your Windows startup programs. Both applets are supported by a new “Usefulness” rating, actually derived from other users of the suite, supposedly to help you decide what can safely be removed.

Except, well, it doesn’t seem to work that way. Not yet, at least. We found many possibly essential programs and system components rated low for “usefulness” – the Flash plugin, Nero’s Update app, Microsoft’s C++ redistributables, Apple QuickTime – and removing these could cause havoc on your PC.

As more people use the new system and rate apps more sensibly then this ought to change. But for now, the “usefulness” scores are a curiosity only, best ignored (and perhaps TuneUp realise there’s an issue as they can be turned off).

A much better option is the Turbo Mode. In previous versions this could temporarily disable up to 7 unnecessary background processes, for a quick speed boost; TuneUp Utilities 2011 can turn off up to 70.

A click could turn off scheduled defrags or maintenance tasks, for instance; disable Aero themes or switch to the Classic window design; enable the High Performance power plan, regardless of what you’re using now; turn off Search indexing; disable rarely-used services, and more.

You’re able to configure Turbo Mode to use only some of these optimisations, if they don’t all work for you. And by default they only last until you reboot, when your PC will return to normal. You shouldn’t expect too much from Turbo Mode – on our PC it freed up a little over 100MB of RAM, and a tiny amount of CPU time – but if you need to run a demanding program on an underpowered PC then it’s likely to help improve performance.

Gain disk space

A cluttered hard drive slows up your system in several ways. Fortunately the “Gain disk space” section of TuneUp Utilities 2011 contains some very worthwhile tools that can quickly help to recover valuable hard drive real estate.

Most of these are relatively conservative, valuing safety above the amount of space recovered. So for instance the main tools will wipe the contents of the Recycle bin, temporary files, browser cache data, system restore points (all but that last one, anyway) and so on.

Still, given how easy it is to trash a PC by deleting the wrong thing, we’ve no great problem with this. And there are still useful reminders here that you won’t always see elsewhere. Like the “Windows functions” applet, which reminded us that our test PC had a Hibernation file that was wasting 2.25GB, while the Windows Search index files consumed a surprising 1.83GB.

But the real benefits here from TuneUp’s Disk Space Explorer, a valuable analysis tool that will quickly highlight the drive space hogs.

Allow the program to scan your PC and you’ll get a helpful report highlighting the folders and file types that are consuming the most space. Another tab lists the 100 largest files on your drive, and right-clicking these reveals basic Explorer-like options, so you can open or run files to check if they’re necessary, and delete them if they’re surplus to requirements.

The final tool here, the TuneUp Shredder, is all about securely deleting confidential files so they can’t be undeleted. You’ve probably seen many similar programs before, but optional Explorer integration gives this one an advantage.

Not only can you run it from the TuneUp Utilities 2011 interface, but it can also add right-click options to the Recycle Bin, individual files or folders: if you’re in Explorer and want to wipe something properly, just right-click it, select TuneUp Shredder, follow the instructions and it’ll disappear forever. Very convenient.

Fix problems

The “Fix problems” section of TuneUp Utilities 2011 contains a number of applets that should help you diagnose and fix a range of PC issues.

There’s a “Fix common problems” applet, for instance, that lists a few Windows issues that you might experience. If, say, right-clicking a file in Explorer doesn’t display the “Send to” menu any more, then checking “The ‘Send to’ submenu in the context menu does not work”, and clicking Next, should allow the program to fix this for you.

If you happen to be suffering from that problem, then such an easy fix will be very convenient. Unfortunately there are only 18 options listed here, and we can’t remember when we last experienced any of them, so it’s unlikely this section will be regularly used by anyone at all.

The “Restore deleted files” is more generally useful, providing a simple way to undelete files. It doesn’t display thumbnail previews of the files, and there are better freeware options available, but as bundled undelete tools go it’s fairly good.

This section also includes a rather basic system information applet; a “Check hard disk for errors” option, which is essentially TuneUp’s version of Windows own chkdsk; and a more interesting tool, the Process Manager.

The latter can’t display as much detail in some areas as Task Manager, but does better elsewhere. So for instance you can see which DLLs a particular process has loaded, or view all the open files on your PC (handy if you’re trying to delete a file, but can’t, because Windows tells you it’s in use).

You may find Process Manager more useful than Task Manager, then. And if you do, the program can also replace Task Manager, so it’s called up whenever you press the Task Manager hotkey (Ctrl+Shift+Esc) for a closer look at your running programs.

Customise Windows

The final Customise Windows section is a complete Windows tweaking tool in itself, providing many ways to customise both the look and feel of your PC.

Don’t imagine that this is the feeble “tweak a few desktop-related settings” option that you’ll find in similar suites, either. TuneUp Utilities 2011 offers considerably more, mostly through the TuneUp Styler.

Launch this applet, for instance, and you’ll be able to change your logon screen, or system icons. You can change the name of Control Panel applets. It’s easy to tweak how icons are displayed, perhaps changing the spacing between them, or dropping the arrow from shortcuts. And a Repair option rebuilds the Windows icon cache, useful if icons are missing or no longer displayed correctly.

But that’s not all. If you don’t like the standard icons on offer, or changing every system icon seems like too much hassle, then you can also download free Icon Packages, themed collections of icons that will give your PC a fresh new look in seconds.

There aren’t too many of these Packages, fifteen when we looked, but they’re all of a high quality. TuneUp Styler can similarly access more logon screens and Windows visual styles, all in a click or two, which elevates it far above the usual visual customisation tools in this kind of suite.

The other applet on offer in this section, TuneUp System Control, is a more straightforward Windows tweaking tools. It has sections on “Animations and Effects”, “Folder Options”, “Taskbar”, “Security” and so on, and clicking on any of these reveals a collection of related Windows settings that you can adjust in a click or two.

System Control contains many familiar tweaks (over 400 in total), but also has plenty of less well known options, and includes a few settings to help configure Firefox and Opera. It’s not just a “me too” tweaking tool – explore everything System Control has to offer and you’ll be very glad it’s there.

Automatic features

As we mentioned earlier, you don’t have to browse through every TuneUp Utilities 2011 applet to benefit from the package. It can help you in other ways, while you have to do hardly anything at all.

The suite’s Automatic Maintenance option, for example, can clean and defragment your Registry, find and remove broken shortcuts, delete temporary files, optimise your PCs startup and shutdown, and defragment your hard drive, all under its own control.

If you don’t want the program to perform a particular task – you prefer to use a specialist defrag tool, say – then you can disable it with a click. And while by default TuneUp Utilities 2011 will launch its assigned tasks when your PC is idle, you can also run them on a fixed schedule, if you prefer.

The other major automated feature here is TuneUp’s Live Optimization, where essentially the program monitors your system load in real time and attempts to improve performance, when it’s required.

How? It’s all about tweaking process priorities, apparently, with Live Optimization monitoring your background processes and reducing their priority if they take up “too much” computer power.

Exactly how the program calculates the precise value of “too much” isn’t entirely clear, and priority adjustments won’t make a great deal of difference anyway. Still, if Live Optimization helps you then it’s a bonus, and if it causes problems then you can turn the system off with a click, so it’s a no-lose situation.

And you can say much the same for the suite as a whole. While there are one or two questionable moments (the “usefulness” ratings), you don’t have to pay any attention to these, and they’re more than outweighed by the innovative ideas, effective applets, and genuinely intelligent advice. If you’re looking for a way to automate your PCs maintenance, and have never been satisfied with other cleanup suites, then you absolutely must give TuneUp Utilities 2011 a try — technologies like the Program Deactivator introduce brand new speedup opportunities that simply aren’t available anywhere else.

Verdict:
TuneUp Utilities 2011 is an excellent maintenance suite that provides a host of innovative and effective ways to optimise your PC. The Program Deactivator, in particular, is one of the best new ways to free up system resources that we've seen
We Like:
Innovative Program Deactivator, excellent boot time optimisation advice, defrag tool optimises file layout, Disk Space Explorer, configurable "Turbo Mode", handy Windows tweaking tool, convenient file shredding, can easily tweak the look of Windows, many tools can be run automatically
We Don't Like:
Dubious "usefulness" ratings, can highlight some system components for possible removal, "Fix problems" tools relatively weak
Softwarecrew Rating:
 

2 Comments »

  • Dwight says:

    I have tried Tuneup versions 2007, 2008, 2009 & 2010 over couple of months. Apart, I have other tune up utility softwares like IOLO System Mechanics 10, Advanced System Optimiser 3 & Jv16 2010 which are among the best.

    Tune up Utilities 2011 comes with new features of significant utility value to a regular user.
    PROS what i like-
    Enhanced turbo boost feature
    Improved in registry error detection
    Automatic program launch boost (Live optimisation)
    Automatic priority reduction of programs consuming more CPU cycles (Live optimisation)
    Temporary program de activation
    Old back up detection for deletion

    CONS which could be improved-
    Program loads slower than 2010 version
    No new icon/visual styles
    No new tweak options

    Tuneup Utilities 2011 offers some fantastic features not available in the above mentioned other utility programs and is on of the best all rounder program to have to keep your computer healthy and agile in start up, shut down and usage.

  • LexeMan says:

    That’s a good review of TuneUp, thanks.
    In my opinion, TuneUp is a really great tool, very useful.
    But I have noticed only one minus in this program: at my netbook Samsung X120 it works slowly, not so fast, as I want. For me it’s bad.
    In another hand, as I said, this program is really cool, one of the best for the looking after the PC.
    Best regards from Russia!