Iolo's System Mechanic 9 is a powerful and deep set of tools for analysing and optimising your Windows system.

It is easy to use, with an elegant interface and an extraordinary degree of customisability and fine control. Unfortunately, System Mechanic 9 has one issue that could cost some time.

Let's look at the good first, since it outweighs the bad by a wide margin. System Mechanic 9 is one of those programs which can elegantly move from "Fire and Forget" to drilling down to the deepest levels and tweaking each option, and it does so hierarchically - so you can leave most things to defaults and then drill down in particular areas.

System Mechanic 9 provides a wealth of information if you ask for it, but doesn't overwhelm you with it. You decide how much you want to know about any particular item.

System Mechanic's range of capabilities denies easy categorisation; this suite combines many different tools into one integrated package. It defragments memory, makes sure your deleted files are really deleted, erases unused temp files and old web caches, optimises your startup routine, and more.

System Mechanic also allows you to create several profiles of various sets of startup and background processes. If you're logging in to raid in World of Warcraft, you don't need your Java updater lurking in the background, so you can create a "gaming" profile that deactivates unneeded background processes. You can also create an "actually doing work" profile so that you turn the Java on and the Ventrilo (You don't voice chat with your guild at work, do you?) off.

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The more you poke around in System Mechanic 9, the more tools you find. There's an uninstaller that is faster, cleaner, and more useful than the default add/remove programs. There's easy access to many of Windows's more obscure system settings. A lot of the features here can be found elsewhere - some by spelunking through Windows, some by loading up on other programs - but having them all in one place is a tremendous time-saver.

We did find one problem. The "deep search" feature for duplicate files, despite promising "3-5 minutes", at first seemed to be non-responsive. After talking with tech support, we allowed it to run unhindered, and, 12 hours later, had found all our duplicate files and was 9 percent of the way through organising a list of them.

According to the support person who handled our questions, the length of time taken for the procedure was normal for a 1.5-terabyte hard drive like the one on our PC. On my notebook PC's more average-sized hard drive, the scan took 15 minutes - better, but a far cry from the promised 3-5 minutes.

NEXT: our expert verdict >>

PCWorld.com

Iolo System Mechanic 9: Specs

  • PC running 64 or 32-bit Microsoft Windows 2000, XP, or Vista
  • CD or DVD drive (for CD installation)
  • 256MB RAM
  • 25MB of available hard disk space
  • Internet Explorer 6.0 with Service Pack 2 or later
  • Internet connection required
  • PC running 64 or 32-bit Microsoft Windows 2000, XP, or Vista
  • CD or DVD drive (for CD installation)
  • 256MB RAM
  • 25MB of available hard disk space
  • Internet Explorer 6.0 with Service Pack 2 or later
  • Internet connection required

OUR VERDICT

We've found System Mechanic 9 to be a very useful and powerful suite of tools, a great way to stay on top of all the things which can drag down system performance.

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