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Most essential Windows Vista tweaksPosted by Steve Sinchuk, Microsoft Most Valuable Professional on d mmmm yyyy
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Microsoft has increased not only the power but also the complexity of its popular Windows operating system with the release of Windows Vista. It's often difficult to find the settings and tweak the needed Vista parameters. Besides, there are a lot of flaws in Windows Vista performance, self-maintenance and security. Luckily, there are programs that allow you to access many hidden settings and do maintenance, security and performance tweaks. I'll compare three most powerful ones (in my opinion) - System Mechanic, PCKeeper and Performance Toolkit - and explain how each of them handles the most essential Windows Vista tweaks we'll be looking at:
- Performance tweaks: Does the boot process take long?
- Performance tweaks: Does your hard drive contain errors? Is it fragmented?
- Security tweaks: Is antivirus protection enabled?
- Security tweaks: Is your data secured?
- Maintenance tweaks: Is there sufficient free disk space?
- Maintenance tweaks: How many redundant apps run on your PC?
- Registry tweaks: How clean is your registry?
1) Performance tweaks: Does the boot process take long?
A lot of PCs boot so long that their owners manage to do some morning exercises from the moment they turn on their PCs until the OS becomes available. The reason is that some programs have automatic startup enabled in their settings. And sometimes this option is hidden so deep inside that busy PC users wouldn't waste their time looking for it. To find and disable the programs that hang up your startup, you should use a startup manager. All three of the above-mentioned utilities allow you to manage applications that launch upon startup:
Startup management in PCKeeper
PCKeeper's Startup Manager shows you the list of all programs that launch upon startup. You can disable those you don't need with just one click.
Startup management in System Mechanic
System Mechanic's Configure Windows Startup tool is quite complex. To disable application startup, you have to right-click each item and select one of the suggested options. You can also view detailed information about each item.
Startup management in Performance Toolkit
Performance Toolkit's Startup Manager rebuilds the Windows Registry, speeding up your PC's startup and giving more available memory.
2) Performance tweaks: Does your hard drive contain errors? Is it fragmented?
Hard drive errors may have both the software and hardware origin. If you frequently receive error messages from your PC, then it's time to fix them with a disk checker tool.
Fragmentation is when your files get stored inefficiently (i.e. in little pieces all over your physical drive) which reduces storage capacity and in most cases performance.
You'll find a defragmentation tool in all three reviewed applications while a disk checker is only available in PCKeeper and Performance Toolkit:
Defragmentation and disk check in PCKeeper
PCKeeper's Disk Defragmenter first analyses the fragmentation level of your disk by building a diagram, and then offers you to defragment the disk if this level is high. In the end it shows you the "before" and "after" report.
PCKeeper's Disk Checker offers you to select the kinds of errors you'd like to check, and then runs the multistage check, giving you the details for each stage. If Disk Checker finds any errors, it can instantly fix them.
Defragmentation and disk check in Performance Toolkit
Performance Toolkit's Defragment Your Disks tool is similar to PCKeeper's Disk Defragmenter: it analyzes the disk, graphically displays the fragmented files, and performs a quick disk defragmentation.
Performance Toolkit's Repair tool offers several options to deal with disk errors: check the disk for errors, repair the errors, scan the volume for bad sectors, check hard drive integrity, and repair boot record.
Defragmentation in System Mechanic
System Mechanic offers two types of defragmentation: quick and optimized. It also enables you to create defragmentation profiles and schedule defragmentation. However, there may be problems with this tool when run on older PCs.
3) Security tweaks: Is antivirus protection enabled?
There's no need to explain the importance of good antivirus protection on your PC. Viruses, spyware and other threats become more and more severe nowadays - they not only use your system resources and harm your hard drive but also can be hazardous to the health of your computer.
Let's see what PCKeeper and System Mechanic have to offer:
Antivirus in PCKeeper
After trying out PCKeeper's antivirus I can say that it is surely one of the best protection systems in the industry. It detects:
- - All known viruses
- - Identity theft
- - Phishing attacks
- - Malware and spyware
- - Passing on viruses to friends
- - Fraud websites
- - Unsafe downloads
- - Threats from external devices
- - E-mail threats
Antispyware in System Mechanic
System Mechanic's spyware protection is aimed at detecting and removing spyware, though it doesn't provide any protection against viruses, malware and some other threats.
4) Security tweaks: Is your data secured?
What if you lost an important file by accident? Making a backup would be a smart thing to do - but sometimes it's just too late. The data recovery tools included in PCKeeper and Performance Toolkit will do their job smoothly - and your files will be good as new.
Data recovery in PCKeeper
PCKeeper's File Recovery utility suggests you to select the file type you want to recover and then scans your hard drive for all files of this type available for recovery. Then you'll have to click Recover and wait until your file(s) is(are) restored.
Data recovery in Performance Toolkit
Performance Toolkit's File Recover utility scans your hard drive for all recoverable files (you can select between the quick and deep scans), sorts the scan results by file type, and enables you to restore the files you need.
Another security issue is confidential data - how do you hide it so that no one knows about its existence? I found this tool in PCKeeper called Hider and I love it - there's absolutely no way to find the hidden files unless you're the one who hid them. And whenever you need to dispose of these confidential files, you can delete them forever with PCKeeper's Shredder.
Hider and Shredder in PCKeeper
To use PCKeeper's Hider you should create a password for unlocking your hidden files. Then you should select the files/folders to be hidden, and hide them with one click.
PCKeeper's Shredder will completely erase any file using a complex shredding algorithm.
5) Maintenance tweaks: Is there sufficient free disk space?
However large your hard drive volume may be, you'll always feel a lack of disk space, as the more applications you use, the more useless files they create. System log files, browser cache files, cookies etc - all of these clutter your hard drive and slow down your PC.
A good cleanup tool will help you free up quite a lot of disk space. System Mechanic and PCKeeper have each got one:
Junk cleanup in PCKeeper
PCKeeper's Disk Cleaner scans your hard drive for files that can be safely removed, showing you the total amount of space to be freed up with just one click.
Junk cleanup in System Mechanic
System Mechanic's PC Cleanup Power Tool scans your PC for junk files, allowing you to perform a fast system cleanup. It also can detect junk typical for specific Windows versions.
6)Maintenance tweaks: How many redundant apps run on your PC?
If you open Windows Task Manager (Ctrl+Shift+Esc), you'll see a lot of applications running in the background that you don't really use. Disabling automatic startup for some of them will solve half of the problem. But analyzing all of your installed applications in PCKeeper's Uninstaller will give you a clear idea of which applications are old, take up a lot of disk space and are hardly ever used.
Uninstaller in PCKeeper
PCKeeper's Uninstaller gathers data about all programs installed on your PC along with additional info such as size, installation date etc. Just select the program you don't need and click Uninstall.
7) Registry tweaks: How clean is your registry?
Windows registry is a large database that stores configuration settings of your system. Unfortunately, with time registry errors accumulate on your PC, making it slower and slower. Sometimes these errors may even lead to system freezes and crashes. To avoid this, you should regularly clean up the Windows registry. Fortunately, all three tools reviewed by us include the registry cleanup feature.
Registry cleanup in PCKeeper
PCKeeper scans the registry using the advanced technology that can detect and fix even the most complex errors. At the same time the scan does not take much time compared with other registry cleanup tools.
Registry cleanup in System Mechanic
System Mechanic cleans up and protects your registry. It also has the registry backup option. The trial version includes the free registry scan. However, the tool is too complex to use, and scanning takes a long time.
Registry cleanup in Performance Toolkit
Performance Toolkit's Registry Cleaner quickly identifies missing and invalid references in your Windows Registry. Its registry scan shows registry errors for each item. The tool is easy to understand and use, and the scan speed is high. However, it detects not all errors that can be found in the registry, compared with other similar tools.
From my own experience I can assure you that these tweaks bring fantastic results! First, I've uninstalled some some unnecessary applications and customized the startup list. As a result my Windows Vista started loading almost twice faster! Then I detected and removed all viruses in my system, and finally, with PCKeeper's cleanup tool I was able to free up almost 9 gigs of space (8.842 MB, to be more precise).
Still want to throw your PC away? Stop and try some Windows Vista tweaking tools first, and you'll see the difference!