If your PC isn't blazing along at the same speed it did when you first took the machine out of its box, you'd do well to invest in Iolo System Mechanic 11. The multi-faceted utility suite, priced at £25, aims to turn back the clock on ailing computers by repairing the registry, defragging the hard drive, and eliminating files that stymie snappy performance. Iolo System Mechanic 11 serves up a number of new goodies not present in previous builds, including a feature called AcceleWrite, not to mention Windows 8 compatibility.
Setup and interface
Iolo System Mechanic 11 is compatible with all PCs running Windows XP and higher, including Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 (due in October). Unlike most PC tune-up utilities – such as PC Tools Performance Toolkit – which limit you to three licenses, Iolo System Mechanic 11 lets you install the software on any number of computers provided that it's not for business purposes. This is a welcome feature in the age of the multi-PC household.
The interface looks very similar to that of Iolo System Mechanic 10, with its familiar red-white-and-blue colour scheme. Like the previous version of System Mechanic, this incarnation has several options in the left pane (Dashboard, ActiveCare, Internet Security, Toolbox, Reports), all of which have their own individual tool sub-categories that let you run specific apps.
Iolo System Mechanic 11 also installs a useful widget on the desktop that gives you at-a-glance PC health and security readings. From this widget, you can run a system scan to determine your computer's health, or launch any number of Iolo System Mechanic 11's features to begin the clean-up process.
The clean-up process
The Overview screen opens by default when the program is launched, and that’s where the "Analyse Now" button lives. Clicking the arrow next to it opens a drop-down box that presents two choices: "Perform Quick Analysis" and "Perform Deep Analysis." The former is a one to two-minute scan that looks for the most common PC problems; the latter is a five to seven-minute scan that checks for all problems. Considering the heavy use that our test laptop had received, I went with the second option. Approximately six minutes later the program finished the scan and uncovered numerous problems on my test machine.
A highlighted message appeared beneath the reading: "Boost speed and stability by removing redundant programs with CRUDD Remover." CRUDD is Iolo's acronym for Commonly Redundant or Unnecessary Decelerators and Destabilisers – which is fancy talk for duplicate programs that clog your system. The idea behind CRUDD Remover is to eliminate those extra programs, as each application install theoretically slows your PC's performance a bit. After running CRUDD Remover, 9 problems were detected on the PC, which were explained in simple detail on the Problems screen.
What I was very impressed with was the fact that Iolo System Mechanic 11 didn't just serve up a number – it provided blurbs that explained why these problems negatively impact performance. I checked off all nine problems, clicked the "Repair All" button, and performed the required reboot. Performing another deep scan revealed that the problems were addressed.
Next, I ran Iolo's Program Accelerator, which smartly re-aligns all of a program's dependent files on the hard drive. It's touted as being better than disk defragmenters, which can blindly compact and separate files even more. Program Accelerator took approximately 15 minutes to work its magic, and, when it was done, I discovered that it had re-aligned over 20,000 files and eliminated nearly 100 file fragments. Four further files were defragmented after a restart. There are also a ton of other tools packed into the suite such as AcceleWrite (a new real-time feature that helps organise the way data is written to the PC's HDD or SSD), and IntelliStatus (which displays RAM and hard drive information, and serves up cleaning tools).
I tested Iolo System Mechanic 11's ability to whip a PC back into shape by performing two tests – running the Geekbench system performance tool, and measuring boot times – before and after running the software to compare the computer's potency. Each test was run three times and averaged. Before Iolo scrubbed the system, the test machine, a 2GHz Intel Core i7-powered notebook with 4GB of RAM, and an 80GB Intel SSD drive, achieved a 5,914 Geekbench score, and booted in 50.2 seconds.
After I used Iolo System Mechanic 11, I saw a much-improved level of system performance: The GeekBench score rose to 6,452, and the boot time decreased to just 37.1 seconds. That’s a very impressive result.
After running the tests, I also used the computer extensively to get a sense of how the app changes the machine's responsiveness. Iolo System Mechanic 11 delivered a noticeable performance improvement – of special note, iTunes and Steam opened faster in the fresh environment.
There were a couple of weaker areas when it came to System Mechanic’s box of tricks, though. The NetBooster tool provided only a marginal increase to the performance of our Internet connection. Also, the Designated Drivers feature, which keeps critical driver updates automatically installed, didn’t manage to supply as many drivers as other similar utilities we’ve used.
So, the big question is: Should you buy Iolo System Mechanic 11? The answer is a resounding yes. System Mechanic 11 boasts a simple interface, easy-to-understand problem definitions, and a deep array of performance enhancing tools that produce excellent results. All in all, Iolo’s offering remains one of the best PC tune-up utilities around, and we have no hesitation in bestowing a Best Buy award on the program.