The PC optimisation suite SystemSuite started life with Ontrack, was later a product of VCOM, and is now part of Avanquest's stable. Avanquest SystemSuite 12 Professional shows a steady evolution, with four heralded improvements: the PC Analyser, which shows which processes you can afford to switch off, faster registry repair, Program Optimiser, which realigns program files for faster execution and a new anti-malware engine for its firewall.

During installation, the setup utility checks for pre-existing firewall software and asks you to choose whether to switch to Avanquest SystemSuite 12 Professional's or stick with your own. The main screen offers utilities under three main headings: Optimization, Security and Fix & Maintain, and in each case there are separate utilities and quick-fix scripts which run them in various combinations. See all software downloads.

The Optimization tab offers 10 utilities, including file and registry defragmenters and several optimisers. The PC Analyser includes a breakdown of the programs started at boot time, showing how long each takes to start and whether Avanquest SystemSuite 12 Professional considers it necessary or not.

The Program Optimizer checks all the applications on your machine and makes unspecified realignments to ensure they're running efficiently. It's a bit of a ‘black box' operation, as nowhere does it say what the optimiser has actually done.

The Security tab offers the NetDefence firewall controls and a log, to show what it has been doing. Settings include the ability to set up and maintain an application white list, although the firewall also prompts each time an app tries to use the internet.

The Fix and Maintain tab has a bumper 13 utilities, as well as its One-Click Fix script, which sorts out any errors on the hard drives connected to a system. The extra utilities include file cleaners, disk and shortcut fixers, a US military-spec file shredder and a utility to track and display Windows errors.

The Suite can create a bootable CD, which enables you to run its rescue app, Recovery Commander. This helps fix partition problems or a corrupt boot.ini file and can create and format partitions. See also: Group test: what's the best PC optimisation software?

The interface isn't always as intuitive or accurate as Avanquest would like you to think. When we ran the overall Fix-Now script, it took 4 min 45 sec to scan our test PC and another 3 min 34 sec to fix what it found – none of it particularly serious. The Optimization and Security score bars then each showed 100 percent, but the Maintenance one was stuck at 41 percent. Even when ‘100 percent optimised', though, running the Registry Fixer individually spotted and fixed 305 registry errors.

Moving to the Fix & Maintain tab and running One-Click Fix, another 1 min 46 sec on our test PC, reported that a problem required our attention, as some temporary files couldn't be deleted. Fair enough, except that the Details button didn't reveal which files, where they were located or how we could delete them.

A restart didn't rectify things, so we were frustratingly stuck with a persistently low Maintenance score.

There are a plethora of tools within this suite, but some ‘utilities' turn out to be shortcuts to Microsoft's own apps or simple revamps, such as the Registry Editor. SystemSuite's File Recovery, for example, just pulls files out of the Windows Recycle Bin. See also: Does PC speed boost software work?

Avanquest SystemSuite 12 Professional: Specs

  • Windows XP/Vista/7 (XP 32-bit only) with 64MB RAM
  • Windows XP/Vista/7 (XP 32-bit only) with 64MB RAM

OUR VERDICT

Avanquest offers a 5-PC licence for £41, which seems good value. The improvements SystemSuite can make to a PC are worth having, and the start-up and program analysers can help make sensible choices about a Window PC's setup and hence improve its day-to-day speed. Some of the ratings and reports are hard to fathom and a bit more transparency on what the software is actually doing would improve things.

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