As a long-time Norton Utilities user I’ve always been a firm believer in keeping my computers running at peak efficiency by keeping an eye on potential problems before they arise. System maintenance utilities are essential programs if you want to keep your PC healthy. With so many programs to choose from I’m always on the look out for the latest utilities for fixing problems and speeding up my PC.
The longer you have your computer the more likely that problems can arise from clutter that is left over from installing and uninstalling programs, adding new device drivers, changing system settings and just general usage. Having a good quality maintenance program to keep your PC running like new is an indispensable tool for all users.
System Mechanic 7 Professional is packed full of features to help you do just that, but it may have more features than you want. Why is it that software makers think that putting in everything, and the proverbial kitchen sink, into their products is a good thing? Why can’t they just concentrate on making it the best it can be in its category? System Mechanic 7 is an excellent product to help find and repair errors, clean out clutter, and speed up system performance. As a PC maintenance tool it’s one of the best I’ve used. Unfortunately, System Mechanic 7 Professional adds more than just the PC TotalCare package of its less expensive counterpart. Rather than focusing on its award-winning tools that make your PC run faster, the Professional version also includes a personal firewall, antivirus, DriveScrubber, and a Search and Recover tool. If you don’t already have a firewall or antivirus program installed then you might find these extra features a bonus. However, for people who only want a system maintenance utility, the Professional version may not be for you.
Price to Value (4 out of 5)
System Mechanic 7 Professional will cost you $69.95 which is about average compared to its competitors and the number of features it offers. If you’re looking for a comprehensive utility suite then the price isn’t too much to pay for piece of mind.
For $49.95, you can get the same great system utilities without all the extra bloat by skipping the Professional version and getting the standard System Mechanic 7.
Installation & Setup (2 out of 5)
When you launch the System Mechanic 7 Professional installer you will first be prompted to download any available updates. This is a good feature for making sure you have all the latest components but you need to have an active internet connection for this step to work. After the updates you have the option of doing a full installation or choosing only the features that you would like to install. If you’re already running an antivirus program or personal firewall, you will want to un-check those options because running multiple virus scanners and firewalls can have all kinds of negative effects since they conflict with each other.
During the end of the installation you will need to enter both your User ID and Serial Number to activate the product. This also requires an internet connection. System Mechanic 7 Professional will allow you to activate the product on up to three PCs. You will also be asked to create a new user account with iolo Systems or log into an existing account. If you don’t want to do this you can skip this step. After installation you may be required to reboot your PC.
My experience with the installation and set up of System Mechanic 7 Professional was less than enjoyable. When you first run the set up program it’s looking for an active internet connection to download the extra 42 meg of updates and files needed to install System Mechanic 7 Professional. I find it very annoying when I purchase a program and it’s not the full executable version, but just a small file that needs to go out to the internet to download the program. If you don’t have an internet connection you may be out of luck.
On my Windows Vista PC it took three times and several trips to the online knowledge base to get System Mechanic 7 Professional to install. Problems occurred with my firewall preventing the automatic updates and the program refused to allow me to enter my User ID and Serial Number so that it could be properly licensed. I had to uninstall it and use another utility to wipe out all of it’s registry keys before I could attempt a re-install. Eventually, I was able to install the software but it was a very frustrating experience. Installation on my Windows XP Pro computer went much more smoothly although there were an excessive number of prompts that require your attention during setup and on both PCs the installation process was extremely slow.
Product Features (5 out of 5)
System Mechanic 7 Professional has five major components to it. These are System Mechanic 7, Search and Recover 4, DriverScrubber 3, Virus Protection, and a Personal Firewall.
System Mechanic 7 is the main component of the PC maintenance utilities. When you first launch the program you’re presented with a screen that tells you System Analysis is Required. When you click the Analyze Now button you have the option of selecting to perform a Quick Analysis or a Deep Analysis. The first choice takes only a few minutes and checks your system for the most common problems. The deep analysis takes much longer and looks for all types of problems.
Upon completing you’ll see a screen that tells you all of the problems System Mechanic found. The program looks at an impressive number of areas to keep you informed about your PC’s health including, firewall and Antivirus status, registry issues, system clutter, security vulnerabilities, and unnecessary startup items. You can choose to let System Mechanic repair all the problems for you or run a wizard to let you inspect the problems that were detected and chose which ones you’d like to fix.
Search and Recover 4 is a handy utility for helping you find and recover lost files that are on your hard drive. You can even search CD/DVD drivers, USB drives, floppy disks, digital camera memory sticks and MP3 players and recover email. The email recovery tool works with Microsoft Outlook or Outlook Express, Thunderbird, Netscape Mail and Eudora.
DriveScrubber 3 is a utility for securely erasing all files from your hard drive. As you may know, when a file is deleted it’s not actually gone from your PC until another file overwrites the space that it occupied. This means that confidential, or person files, can be recovered using the right software. DriveScrubber overwrites all sectors where a file existed making it impossible to recover. In addition, you can completely wipe all contents of your hard drive. This is a must have feature if you ever plan to get rid of a hard drive or your computer. Before disposing on a hard drive you should always be sure that it is wiped clean of all your information for security reasons, ensuring your privacy and preventing identity theft from someone who may find the drive. DriveScrubber will do this for you.
System Mechanic 7 Professional also includes an Antivirus program and a Personal Firewall. If you don’t already have these on your computer then the added benefit of these two programs will help keep your PC free from viruses and other forms of PC attacks as well as preventing hackers from accessing your PC and destroying or stealing your files.
The email recovery tool in Search and Recover 4 doesn’t appear to work with Windows Mail, despite the fact that the program is supposed to be Windows Vista compatible. It also will not work for online accounts (web-based email).
There are also additional features that are unavailable under Windows Vista, such as increasing performance using the defragmentation tool. The online documentation states that this is because “Vista includes security restrictions that block access to functionality utilized by these tools.” The support article claims that this is because Microsoft prevents third party companies from creating tools that can work around these restrictions and that resolution is expected to come from Microsoft updates to Windows Vista rather than changes to the software itself. Having used a number of system utilities that work just fine with Windows Vista, I’m concerned that iolo Systems appears to be leaving the problem with Microsoft rather than finding it’s own solution. I also don’t like purchasing a product that claims to be Vista compatible only to find out that it isn’t the case.
User Interface (4 out of 5)
System Mechanic 7 Professional is packed full of features but they aren’t all easily accessible from one user interface. When the installation is complete the program creates a desktop icon for System Mechanic. If you want to use Search and Recover, DriveScrubber, Antivirus, or the Personal Firewall you’ll have to go to Start, Programs, System Mechanic Professional 7 to find them. Not having all the features available from a single UI may confuse users who are looking for the additional functions.
Once you launch one of the programs, however, each UI is very clean and easy to navigate. I was impressed with the amount of information that System Mechanic told me about possible problems on my PC. The deeper look at individual programs gives you more information about the problem, vulnerability, threat level, and the repair that is needed. It does this using colored text and icons to make it more readable. The main dashboard of System Mechanic gives you easy access to all of it’s features and tools.
The UI uses a large number of collapsible lists that can get a little confusing at times. It’s also not very intuitive on how you can inspect the vulnerabilities the program found. You need to click the little down arrow on the Repair button to see the option for running the various wizards that let you inspect the problems that were detected. If you’re not careful with your mouse clicks you may accidentally run the automatic repair instead of the wizard. Fortunately, there’s an additional prompt when you click repair that lets you chose to repair now or use the advanced options to inspect the problems first.
System Mechanic 7 Professional is an excellent suite of utilities for keeping your PC free from clutter and increasing system performance. It also includes additional security features that help you protect your data and secure your PC from hackers. System Mechanic 7 Professional also protects you from online threats such as viruses, worms, spyware, and adware.
If you’re only looking for a comprehensive suite of utilities to keep your PC running at peak performance, than the Professional version may have more than you need, especially if you’re already running an antivirus or firewall program. You can get all these great performance utilities and features for a lower price by buying the standard System Mechanic 7 product.
System Mechanic, Registry Repair Pro, Norton SystemWorks