Utility packages can be used for a variety of system-maintenance tasks. They speed up your PC by cleaning out the rubbish that hogs memory and disk space, and improve efficiency by tidying the Registry, thus reducing the time that your system spends searching through files to locate the one it needs.

Utilities can even help with dire emergencies, by rescuing deleted files or preventing cataclysmic breakdowns of your hard disk. In short, utilities are essential for your PC’s health.

There’s a huge variety of utilities on the market. Some offer a broad array of functions, while others concentrate on tweaking a particular aspect of the PC.

In the following workshop, we’ve used Fix-It Utilities 7.0 Express. This offers a broad range of tools that will be useful for all users. Indeed, Fix-It addresses most of the problems your PC will ever face. You can grab Fix-It here.

Fix-It is able to clean up your hard drive, optimise your Registry files, check the status of your hard drive (and warn you if it is about to fail), keep track of system resources and even manage the programs that launch at startup. It can also recover deleted files, diagnose hardware faults and synchronise your computer’s clock with an atomic clock.

We’ll explain how to go about some of these tasks and give your system a well-deserved spring clean in the following walkthrough. Before you plunge into using the program, however, allow the included EasyUpdate software to update your installation.

EasyUpdate can also be used to set Fix-It to launch at startup, automatically check for updates, schedule a regular maintenance routine and back up data regularly – just in case.

Getting started

1. Grab Fix-It Utilities 7.0 Express for free here. Install and run the software, then complete the registration process. Keep a copy of the serial number that appears in your browser window after registration, since you’ll need to use it when first starting up the software.

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2. Fix-It’s main screen provides a quick summary of the current health of your PC. If the System Protection bar is at the red end of the scale, click Windows Update to ensure your Windows files are fully up to date. If the System Health bar is red, run a more general check by clicking the One-Click Optimize button.

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See also:
Scan and fix the Registry

Synchronise the System Clock

Control startup items

3. While Windows collects a great deal of information, it doesn’t allow you easy access to it. Click Diagnose in the sidebar to see all the diagnostic facilities available, including SystemExplorer (which shows what your system is doing at that moment) and ErrorTracker, which keeps a track of all Windows error messages.

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4. Click PCDiagnostics to begin testing the individual components of your PC. Tests are completed in sequence and can take two or more hours to complete. Fix-It first scans your PC to locate components to check; click Next to begin the actual testing. Our machine underwent more than 100 checks.

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5. Click SmartDiskCheck to find out whether your hard disk has potential problems. Select the level of test you want to undergo. Return Smart Status checks whether any of the ‘Smart limits’ are being exceeded. Short Smart Test does what it says, while Extended Smart Test should be used if your drive is experiencing problems.

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6. Fix-It doesn’t just troubleshoot existing problems; it’s also able to step in and provide a failsafe should your PC go awry as a result of a bad installation. When you install an application, Fix-It’s Recovery Commander launches and offers to create a Restore Point on your PC. You’ll be asked to confirm the action.

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See also:
Scan and fix the Registry

Synchronise the System Clock

Control startup items

Scan and fix the Registry

1. Click Fix & Maintain to access six related utilities (the first four are pictured above). To scan and repair the Registry, click RegistryFixer. You’ll be presented with a new window listing the various areas of the Registry. You can select these via a tickbox to include them in the test.

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2. Before you begin the Registry scan, you can change the settings to modify the tests. Click Settings, then tick the boxes to select which drives are to be included in the test. Click the ‘Show yellow items’ and ‘Show red items’ tickboxes to receive an indication of the priority of the problems found. Click Ok to accept.

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3. Click Next to begin the scan. A flashing arrow points to the test currently being performed. Once passed, a green tick will appear adjacent to the test description, and the arrow will move down to the next test in the list. A list of problems is presented; click Apply to correct them. Click Done to exit.

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See also:
Getting started

Synchronise the System Clock

Control startup items

Synchronise the System Clock

1. The world is full of servers run by atomic clocks that offer the exact time. ClockSync connects you with such a server, keeping your system’s clock to within a second of the exact time. To access this utility, go to the Fix & Maintain screen as above, and click ClockSync.

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2. Click Settings to access a list of atomic clock servers. The program will default to a particular server, so use the list to select a server nearer your location. Click ‘Test Selected Server’ to check whether your selected server is responsive. If the server doesn’t respond, select a new one and repeat the test.

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3. Click Synchronize. Fix-It will then connect the PC to your selected server and correct the time. A confirmation message will appear underneath both time outputs when the process is complete. If a problem occurs, select a new server and repeat the procedure. Click Done.

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See also:
Getting started

Scan and fix the Registry

Control startup items

Control startup items

1. At startup, your PC automatically launches a range of programs. Many are genuinely useful; others are convenient but not essential. The more programs your PC loads, the more RAM is used up and the slower it will run. Click StartupCommander on the Optimize tab to get selective.

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2. The current startup programs will appear in the main window. Clicking on an item will cause Fix-It to display information about its function and importance below. To remove an item from the startup list, click the tick box beside it. Any deselected items will no longer launch at Windows startup.

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3. Further information about the selected program can be found to the left, in the Startup Areas window. This will tell you whether the item launches at every bootup, will only run once, or is a device. Click the check marks to select which items you wish to view.

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See also:
Getting started

Scan and fix the Registry

Synchronise the System Clock