BoostXP Review: A PC Performance Enhancer or Another Application to Tug at Our Paranoia
The very existence of a suite of utilities like Systweak BoostXP begs that a certain class of questions be asked. The first might be, why does such a suite exist? I mean, you don’t have a “clock radio tweak” or a set of tools that allow you to tweak your refrigerator. Why do you need tools to tweak your computer? The simple answer is entropy. Entropy is a measurement used in thermodynamics. The second law of thermodynamics states that organized systems naturally move from a state of order to a state of disorder. In other words, entropy tends to increase in organized systems over time. Computers are entropic systems; their performance and functionality deteriorate over time. Sometimes the introduction of agents (people) to a system can reduce entropy. Painting one’s house or changing the oil in one’s car are examples. With computer systems though, the introduction of agents actually tends to increase entropy. The more you use your computer, the more it’s performance, storage, memory, and hardware deteriorates.
BoostXP is a suite of tools that exist to help you decrease entropy. BoostXP is designed to focus on the areas that tend to be the most affected by things that increase entropy and undo their destructive forces. Some tools can work in the background to keep those forces minimized. For instance, I have a disk defragmenter that defrags my hard disk in real time to keep the affects of disk fragmentation at a minimum. Other tools have to be run at regular intervals to address the affects of those forces. Boost XP does both.
Of course, the effectiveness of entropy-decreasing tools is measured by how well they actually undo whatever deteriorating damage has been done and that can be hard to measure. How well is the paint on your house protecting the material underneath? It can be tough to tell. Most times you won’t know until disaster strikes and you find dry rot or termites. The same can be said for computer tweaking tools. Does your memory manager actually improve performance? Does your registry cleaner actually make any difference in speed or functionality? These can be tough to measure. This ambiguity was one of the biggest challenges I had with Boost XP. It was very difficult to know whether any of the cool tools I was running against my system actually made any difference at all.
Still, we do know that putting just about any paint on your siding is better than having no paint at all and that systems that have never been defragged experience a noticeable performance decrease against the same system that has been defragged. When using Boost XP, you’ll have to take some of its claims on faith. What I’ll be looking at in this review is whether that faith can be based on reason or whether you’ll be taking a blind leap.
Installation & Setup (5 out of 5)
The installation for Boost XP was quick and effortless. This wasn’t unexpected since the installer only wrote 20Mb to the disk. Uninstallation went smoothly as well and removed all the files it wrote (down to the kilobyte). It did leave a handful of registry keys on the system. The product could not be uninstalled by rerunning setup. I had to use Add/Remove Programs.
Price to Value (4 out of 5)
At around $25, BoostXP has enough features to make it worthy of that price. If users try BoostXP and can objectively determine that it truly enhances their system, not merely tweak it, then it’s a bargain.
User Interface (3 out of 5)
BoostXP is easy on the eyes. Most of the graphic images used throughout the interface are clean and professional looking. The color scheme is pleasant and soothing creating an appearance in which most users, I think, wouldn’t mind spending time.
While the look and feel is pleasant, the navigation suffers. Users can get a most of the main features by clicking any of the links along the right side of the application. These links change the main content window to the appropriate category exposing the main options of that category. Thankfully, BoostXP also underlines the category name so you always know where you are.
One of the more unnerving UI anomalies occurs when you click the Systweak symbol in the upper left of he main UI frame. Clicking the company’s web site link takes you not to systweak.com, which is what I expected, but to a site with a URL of www.mypccenter.com. There is no sign of BoostXP on this site. This is disturbing partly because generally when this happens, I immediately suspect spyware or malware. Further, there is a site with a URL of systweak.com which makes the odd link even more disturbing.
[systweak_main_nav.JPG]Once in a general category however, things can get a bit random. In many of the categories, the navigation changes to more of a web model with a “home” and “back” button and links along the bottom that load other, sometimes unrelated, content screens. Each of the bottom links have an icon with an arrow pointing to the right which implies that the link will load a screen in a particular sequence. But this is not the case. Some of the links launch other programs and some switch to a new content area. [systweak_web_site.JPG]
Product Features (3 out of 5)
Like a well-stocked toolbox, BoostXP is loaded with utilities that can be used for heavy-duty work or daily maintenance. Some of the features you will use regularly, some you may not use at all. I will outline the classes of features and highlight the ones I believe are the most or least useful.
Tools to enhance performance.One way system tools attempt to improve performance is by removing things that don’t belong or that clutter up memory or the hard disk. BoostXP offers three main cleaning tools: a registry cleaner, an “obsolete files” cleaner, and a tool that will remove entries from your recently used list (sometimes referred to as an MRU list). Of these three, the registry cleaner is probably going to be the most useful. [systweak_main_screen.JPG] The registry cleaner attempts to find problems with your registry and remove those problems with the goals both of reducing the size of the registry and improving the read/write speed of registry operations. (Although BoostXP somewhat dramatically notes that a clean registry can “lead to serious troubles [sic] like reboots, programs hang-ups [sic], and even system failure.”) The cleaner is very basic finding invalid keys but not much else. Further, there are no confirmation boxes. When you click the delete button, you’d better be sure you want those entries removed.[systweak_reg_cleaner.JPG] The obsolete files cleaner is robust offering plenty of customization options. The cleaner will not only look for unregistered file extensions but also for bad shortcuts, zero length files, and can remove files that have not been accessed in a specified amount of time. [systweak_file_cleaner.JPG] BoostXP also has specific performance enhancing tools; a tool to “tweak” performance, a system task manager, and a RAM optimizer. The system tasks utility is essentially a dumbed-down Windows Task Manager. The other two tools may overwhelm the casual user and the utility of some of the other tools is suspect. Still, there’s plenty here to play with. Other Utilities.BoostXP comes with various and somewhat random utilities that are designed to expose system settings or improve productivity. Some, like the “Manage System Folder Paths” utility are useful and nicely designed.[systweak_folder_paths.JPG] BoostXP also included some file utilities like a ZIP file repair tool and a tool that allows users to split large files apart and rejoin them as needed. It also includes a file shredder for added file security. The negative with all these tools is that they don’t integrate with the operating system. They only function through BoostXP which, in my opinion, reduces their convenience and thus their usefulness. There are other tools that do the same thing but are much more integrated into the way people normally use their computers.[systweak_file_utilities.JPG] The usefulness of other tools in the suite is more suspect. BoostXP comes with an “Appointment Planner” that has a pseudo-Outlook 97 look to it. With all the free calendaring and task management programs out these days, such an application had very little appeal for me.[systweak_appointment_planner.JPG]What’s Not: Tools to enhance performance.The Performance Optimization settings allow the user to tweak anything from the windows kernel to system file optimization. The problem with some of these “tweaks” is that many of them are not clearly beneficial. While on the face of it, they may appear to be desirable, changing some of these settings may have inadvertently negative effects. For example, checking the option to unload Dynamic Link Library (DLL) files from memory may free up system memory, but may cause frequently-used programs to load more slowly. Ideally, the logic that manages this is optimized to reduce such problems but users may find that the feature has a “push-down/pop-up” effect: optimization in one area causes another area to function more slowly.[systweak_optimization.JPG] The same is true of the ram optimizer. I’ve tried ram optimizers in the past and their performance enhancement capabilities seem dubious at best. While the optimizer will remove items from memory either on demand or when the available memory threshold gets below a certain point, it can be unclear what actually is being removed. How does the optimizer know that a specific block of memory is not needed? Again, you’ll have to trust the algorithm here but I still wonder if the optimization will cause more problems than it solves.[systweak_ram_optimizer.JPG] Tools to Enhance Security.The security tools included with BoostXP are modest at best. They mainly appear to exist in order to provide a convenient interface to modify settings in other applications. For example, the Internet Explorer Security Settings don’t appear to do much other than exposing the security features settings in IE. A lot of these settings increase security only by hiding specific options from the user. This, I suppose, might be helpful for a parent wishing to make specific settings unavailable from her child. However, since the settings are not password-protected, the security of the security settings themselves is suspect.[systweak_ie_security.JPG]
Help & Support (4 out of 5)
The help file, which is a local CHM file, is thorough and clear though some of the writing is a bit rough.
BoostXP would benefit from some reporting that can help the user evaluate the performance gains that BoostXP delivers. It would also greatly benefit BoostXP if the application integrated with the operating system. Putting some of the functionality on the right-click menu options for files and folders alone would greatly improve the utility of the suite of tools.
BoostXP is a fun, well-endowed suite of utilities designed to give the user more control over and improve the performance of their computer. It’s not at all clear whether the “tweaks” performed by BoostXP actually help at all and this reviewer suspects that some of the tweaks may actually affect the computer negatively. For the money, it would be hard to go wrong with the package although potential buyers may want to look at the competition before making a purchase decision.
Tune-up Utilities, CFI ShellToys, Registry First Aid