[Full disclosure: College Being was given a review copy of System Mechanic.]
Just by using them, computers will be bogged down and slow. Installing new programs or download something new off the Internet, is like eating a big unhealthy double cheeseburger: It will satisfy you but, after so many, your arteries are going to get clogged up.
Downloads: Don’t download things from websites you don’t trust. It is the perfect way to give your computer a virus. If you need to download a program off the Internet, the best way is to go to the official website. If you cannot find the official site, use Google and go to the first result. It will usually be the safest.
Antivirus: Always a good idea. AVG is a free antivirus which I have been using for years. Download it here.
Backup: Back-up your files regularly. Hard drives will always break down; it is only a matter of when. Make sure you have all important files saved in at least two different hard drives. Amazon has some great prices on external hard drives.
Uninstall all programs you don’t need. Unused computer programs take up hard drive space and they may even be running applications in the background (Apple and Adobe are notorious for having memory-intensive apps running at all times).
Disk Clean-up: To go My Computer and right click on the hard drive you want to clean (usually disk C), then click Properties. Here click the button for Disk Cleanup. Disk Cleanup will get rid of files you don’t need from your computer.
Defraging: In the Properties pop-up box (see above), click on the Tools tab. Here you will find the Defragment Now button. As you install programs, move files, and delete things from your computer, your hard drive becomes fragmented. This means that one program may have files if various different places on the hard drive. This will cause this program to operate slowly because it needs to access all these different files in different locations. But what if these files were all next to each other? This is what the Defragment application does, causing your computer to operate much better and hopefully, noticeably faster. Try to defrag your computer every week for best results.
System Mechanic is an all-in-one tool that does a lot of what we covered. It makes your computer faster and more responsive by cleaning up your registry, fixing programs, optimizing memory, and much more. They claim the program can make your computer up to 300% faster.
We decided to test this ourselves and take the program for a spin.
We went with the deep scan since this was the first time we used the software on this computer. The analysis took forever! It was a few hours until the report was ready. [Upon using the software again, the quick analysis took only a couple minutes.]
System Mechanic identified:
We went through each step individually to make sure the software would not erase anything important. The whole process was pretty painless. After a restart, we were up and running. The computer did function better and was much more responsive even during the start-up process. We did however encounter one error when trying to open a Powerpoint file: “The program can’t start because msvcr100.dll is missing from your computer.” It appears the cleaning process may have accidentally removed some files which were being used and we will need to reinstall.
Conclusion: Be active about keeping your computer clean. If you don’t have the patience or the time, buy System Mechanic, which will do most things for you automatically. But even using System Mechanic, make sure to back-up your important files.
You can buy System mechanic from iolo.com for $40 with one year of updates included. Additional years of updates and support cost $30 (or less if you purchase several years).
[UPDATE Sept 20, 2012: System Mechanic has released a new version of their software, version 11, which improves on several of the things we mention in this article. Also, the pictures shown are reflective of the previous version, version 10.]