The President's Message

February 2010

Rick Curry

Don’t forget your sweethearts as Valentine’s day has arrived!

A quick announcement: Helen Long is looking for someone to take over the HTML and ColdFusion editing for the club Web site. This can be a great opportunity to learn or practice web skills.

I had a bout with the flu this week, which gave me a chance to test System Mechanic. Naturally, the first thing you want to do before undertaking the sort of changes that a program like System Mechanic will perform is to make a good backup. I prefer a full backup in these situations, so I took one.

Next, I tested the ease of use by having my 13-year-old perform the steps with me looking on to observe how intuitive the system is.

I was very impressed with System Mechanic. After my system was optimized, I noticed a significant Web/network speed improvement, and the registry has mostly tolerated the 980 entries that were deleted.

Installation was unremarkable: Dropping the CD in the drive and accepting the defaults works just fine in most situations. A reboot is required. I did not use its virus protection or firewall. I have no criticism of the install.

Running the program for the first time was also straightforward. There is a large button around the top center that invites one to analyze the system. This is the first step for anything the product does, so it is pretty much mandatory.

Once the (surprisingly fast!) analysis is done, problems are shown in several categories. One of these categories was where I found the nearly 1,000 registry entries that were not needed. I decided to just let the program do whatever it wanted with those entries (partly because of the sense of security I got from having a good backup!). I think this is one of the crucial pieces of a program like this: to make a large number of changes without hand-holding by the user. Some of us may know how to look at the registry and decide whether to allow a program to modify the entries, but while I may understand a lot of the entries, I have no intention of going through a system’s registry with a magnifying glass and a crate of aspirin. I think System Mechanic passed that test with flying colors.

I thought the program was a bit overly aggressive about trying to remove tray (startup) items. At the lower-right corner of a Windows screen, several icons represent active helper programs on your machine: for example, Antivirus programs and activities surrounding Windows update both cause icons to appear in this "tray" area. System Mechanic found a couple of items and recommended I suppress them. That isn't a problem, but the fact that the system bundled them up and offered to fix the category without comment means that I could have easily lost those tray items. Presumably the "undo" functionality would have cured any ills caused by blindly accepting the change.

The "optimize Web access" function worked mysteriously, but effectively. I know there are things such as packet size that can be modified to improve network throughput, and going into a lot of detail in System Mechanic for most customers would hardly improve the experience. So I don't know exactly what it did, but it worked pretty well.

My video display got strange after the registry had been "cleaned." I tried to re-scale and move my desktop to how it looked prior to the cleanup using the video board utility, but after playing for a while discovered the simplest fix was to set the video to 800x600, then restore it to my original size (1024x768). At that point, the desktop snapped to the proper size and position the way it should. I’m guessing that some older revision of the video utility, a game, or some other tool had left artifacts that have now been cleared off. It would be unfair to criticize System Mechanic for anything that happened here, and in fact I think they cleared out a nuisance item that had been forcing me to readjust the desktop occasionally.

I am very happy I have this program. I recommend it for clearing out old garbage from the registry and for optimizing Web/network speed.
Happy computing!