PC optimisation tools tested
PC speed boost: Bootup-time results
Testing bootup times can be tricky, because it’s hard to know exactly when all background processes and services have loaded into memory. Even if you get to the Windows desktop quickly, your PC might still be loading tasks and not yet be fully responsive. We tested bootup times by setting each PC to open a Notepad document on startup, stopping the clock when we saw it appear onscreen. We tested each setup 10 times.
Each utility managed to speed up the process slightly, although typically by no more than a few seconds. Oddly, System Mechanic caused a negligible increase in startup time in the Dell D520 and the Toshiba, but the difference fell within the margin of error. The Lenovo, meanwhile, enjoyed faster bootup times across the board; CCleaner came in first with a 10-second improvement (19 percent faster), followed by System Mechanic (9 seconds), WinOptimizer (6 seconds) and System Speedup (4 seconds).
When we approached the utility vendors about our findings, Iolo (maker of System Mechanic) requested that we try a tool the company uses for its own bootup-time tests: Microsoft’s Windows Performance Toolkit (tinyurl.com/5uo2t3c). The tool wouldn’t work on our Windows XP and Vista PCs, but the two Windows 7 systems reported a bootup-time improvement of 14 seconds for the Lenovo (29 percent) and 17 seconds for the Toshiba (25 percent).
PC speed boost: A better web connection?
All the utilities made claims about improving overall performance, but System Mechanic also touted its NetBooster and Internet Connection Repair tools. “By adjusting the settings that affect network and internet connection speeds, NetBooster fine-tunes your configurations so that more data can be transferred,” the company claims.
There are too many fluctuations in bandwidth on the open internet to test such a claim fairly. Instead, we looked into what System Mechanic was doing in its attempt to fix network-speed issues. We compared the Windows Registry before and after installing and running System Mechanic on the Lenovo. The only Registry adjustment we found was a change in the Maximum Transmission Unit (MTU) setting. Old-school PC gurus will recognise this tweak, as it’s something of a classic – we ran an article on it 13 years ago.
No sophisticated Windows magic seems to be going on here. The optimal MTU for your PC depends on whether you’re using an always-on internet connection (such as standard DSL/cable), a PPP over ethernet (PPPoE) broadband connection (if you have DSL/cable service that requires you to log in at every boot-up, you’re probably using PPPoE), or a 56Kbps dialup connection.
System Mechanic simply asks you which type of connection you have during the setup process, and adjusts the MTU accordingly (1,500 for a standard always-on connection, 1,492 for PPPoE, or 576 for dialup). You don’t need System Mechanic to do this task, though: Dr TCP (dslreports.com/drtcp) will help you change your MTU for free.
PC speed boost: Conclusion
Clean-up utilities are a compelling sell to Windows users. We all want to believe that our PC is still the same snappy spring chicken it was when we bought it, and that it just needs the light touch of a clean-up tool to start sprinting again.
The reality is a bit different: you might feel better after running a utility but, judging from our testing, your computer’s overall performance is unlikely to change much. Instead of investing in a clean-up utility, uninstall any unused applications for a short-term speed boost, and save your cash for a hardware upgrade.