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  1. #1
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    Test-driving 'free scan' tune-up suites




    TOP STORY

    Test-driving 'free scan' tune-up suites


    By Fred Langa

    Even on well-maintained systems, free system scanners might find hundreds of "problems," as I discovered from a test of three products from well-known companies.

    These suites typically offer to fix system problems for a fee but are these problems real or just scare tactics to drum up sales?

    The full text of this column is posted at windowssecrets.com/top-story/test-driving-free-scan-tune-up-suites/ (paid content, opens in a new window/tab).

    Columnists typically cannot reply to comments here, but do incorporate the best tips into future columns.

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    Hi
    I stupidly bought and installed WinZip Utilities Suite. Now, after it "ZIPped" through "hidden privacy exposing traces" (a default option which I equally stupidly didn't de-select), I can't access my HotMail in Internet Explorer and I am unable to generate new e-mails in Google Chrome. When I try to enter text in the main body of the e-mail I get the following helpful message:
    Hotmail was not able to complete this request. Microsoft may contact you about any issues you report.
    How do I "report" this to Microsoft?
    Instead, to create new e-mails, I have to "reply" to any previously received e-mail and systematically "deconstruct" it as a new document.
    After some considerable searching (FAQs don't apply) I've contacted them at help1@winzip.com and received a reply which helped briefly with the Google browser. When I followed-up with further complaints (still can't access HotMail on IE and Google was a one-of "fix"), I've received no further replies…
    Beware, not only do these guys invent "issues" to get you in, they screw you and your computer! Virtually no after-sales service!!
    Paul Pettigrew
    South Perth
    Western Australia

  3. #3
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    Couldn't agree more. I have tried out at least 20 of these so-called cleaners. One of them found over 1200 "problems" on a hard drive which had nothing but a freshly installed xp pro. I also keep my computer clean using the same programs that you use. I regularly download and test all sorts of programs just for the heck of it. I use Revo-pro installer to install and delete them. Even Revo misses some of the registry files. To fully uninstall these left over entries, I use Registrar Registry Manager (free for home use). It finds all orphans belonging to the program you tell it to look for. It is amazing what it finds.

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    I just want to raise a few points:

    Running the "PC manufacturer's official driver update tool" is most definately not a good way to check for the latest driver updates, as manufacturers rarely have up to date drivers. Some manufactuers such as Lenovo do a reasonable job of providing driver updates, but for most manufacturers they stop providing updates around 6 months after a computer is released.

    Going to the manufacturers website for each device is time consuming but will get the latest drivers.

    Having used the driver updates in Systweak's Advanced System Optimizer (which Winzip's product is a licenced version), and their stand alone drive updater, Advanced Driver Update, I can say that it is very rare for them to find incorrect driver updates. Also it makes the driver update process really simple, becuase it installs the driver updates silently with no user intervention required.

    As for the registry errors, if you look at the individual problems found in the software section, you would probably find that the actual uninstallation registry key is being flagged as an error, but rather there are some empty, unneeded registry keys found.

    For the record, I don't recommend using this registry cleaner as it gives occasional false positives. However jv16 PowerTools has the same problem.

    Cookies are indeed a privacy issue becuase they can show websites you have visited. However, personally I also never delete them, and always disable any option to clean cookies in junk cleaning software.

    I don't recommend this software, particuarly due to the false positives given by the registry cleaner, however Advanced Driver Updater is a very good program, and I have purchased several licences in the past.


    Also, with reference to AVG PC Tuneup, it is a licenced version of Auslogic's Boostspeed which is a well respected optimisation suite. The Auslogics registry cleaner is available sperately for free, and does not give any false positives - so any registry errors found were indeed genuine (athough, by and large registry errors are harmless and don't need to be cleaned).

  5. #5
    Super Moderator CLiNT's Avatar
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    I would avoid running anykind of "online tune-up suite" just for the heck of it, unless, it is from a reputable maker and, most importantly, it purports to fix a very specific problem you are actually having. But over all most of these online scanners are 100% pure garbage to be avoided imo.
    There are enough problems to contend with in life, there is no reason to go looking for more.
    Last edited by CLiNT; 2012-08-08 at 22:47.

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    Lounge VIP bobprimak's Avatar
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    As has been posted here many times before, just because you can update a driver doesn't mean you should do so. While it is true that manufacturers do not update to the latest available versions of the drivers, there may be reasons for this. I can't tel you folks how many times I've experimented with a touchpad (Synaptics) driver update through DriverMax, only to find my touchpad no longer works. Then I have to roll back. Just imagine this happening with a major motherboard chipset driver. You'd be bricked -- no way to boot even into Safe Mode.

    At the minimum, if you feel you must fix something which isn't broken, make a system backup and back up all drivers to an external device or media. You will very likely need these and reinstall media for your OEM condition, as well as Rescue Media (on CD or DVD) and a BIOS preset to boot from CD/DVD, then USB, and last from the internal hard drive. This is NOT the default BIOS setting.


    Bottom line -- these programs are scaring folks into paying to have their computers damaged or "fixed" when they aren't broken. Never run these utilities if your PC is having no problems. NEVER. And if your PC is having problems you haven't succeeded in fixing even with the help of us here in The Lounge, it's a better investment to go to an independent repair shop than to pay these companies to run "one size fits all" fixup tools.

    So what do I see directly below this article in the Newsletter? An ad for PC Matic, which is a System Optimizer (in fact, one of the safest and oldest out there). Ironic, eh?
    Last edited by bobprimak; 2012-08-09 at 02:58.
    -- Bob Primak --

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    I have followed many of Fred Langa's articles for years, but this is the first comment that I have made. But first I must say that they are very useful, so please keep up the good work Fred. I am not at all surprised at Fred's conclusion about the commercial drive to scare PC users into buying software that can be obtained free from others, but also may make some dangerous suggestions. I have noticed at gradual change among the "free" providers, that increasingly offer a hook to get you started down the road to buying their product. In the distant, past Winzip was always free, but now it comes with the trap to force you into buying or uninstalling it. And now AVG has joined in. I have been using MS Windows Essentials for some time, but have a different expreience from Fred, because I, and I think quite a few others, find that some of its components such as matshost.exe and MsMpEng.exe can take over your processor (like 98%) for minutes on end. My solutions has been to uninstall Windows Essentials and install AVG, which is how I have found out about their new sales policy where AVG only runs for 30 days before you have to pay up. Removing Windows Essentials has got rid of these MS problems, but now I am going to have to pay for AVG, although I don't mind paying for good software, which it is. But how do we PC users know which is good and which is bad? No good relying on the big names: Corel, Symantic? What we need is independent professionals like Fred Langa to help us through the minefield of bogus software available for "free" on the web. Thanks Fred.

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    Great article. I installed JV16 Power Tools 2012 (paid version) earlier this year at your suggestion on this site. I have found that the registry cleaner and optimization features have improved my startup/shutdown and operations noticeably on all my home PCs. Worth every penny. The duplicate file finder feature is also handy.

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    Thumbs up Thanks for this article

    I've always wondered about those free tune-up sites - thanks for doing the work of checking them out in a systematic way. As a network admin, I am get questions from colleagues at work regarding best Internet practices, and articles such as yours help me give more informed answers.

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    Another comment but regarding MS Essentials. Do not use it. I had recommended it for my Father's new PC rather than Norton's bloat. It worked well for several months and then out of the blue he became infected with a virus and a slew of malware. MS Essentials didn't detect it because the virus somehow managed to shut MS Essentials down. It would not start again and after I reinstalled it, it found the virus but decided to shutdown becasue the system was unstable. I had a two minute warning between each shutdown. After 3 hrs, 10 reboots, using a system restore point, and using a recovery disk and toolset from Vipre, I cleaned off the virus and installed Vipre Internet Security 2012. I would not recommended MS Essentials to anyone else.

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    Good article

    I thought the article was well-written and addressed a number of key issues one encounters with "free stuff." I once used Norton products almost exclusively and stopped a number of years ago when they began to fail to bring any real usefulness to the party.

    For system clean up and tweaking, I use TuneUp Utilities (http://www.tune-up.com/). They offer a free 30-day trial wherein the software provides full functionality. After that time expiration, you have to pay to use it. I think it does an excellent job of cleaning and tweaking various aspects of Windows 7.

  12. #12
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    Thanks Fred for another excellent and in depth article.
    I was a little surprised that you didn't include an analysis on PC Matic since it's one of the sponsors.
    It also happens to be a product I own and I visit their forum frequently.
    If possible, can you do the same sort of analysis of PC Matic as you've done on the other tune up
    programs in the article.
    Thanks
    Last edited by bob3160; 2012-08-09 at 08:28. Reason: typo

  13. #13
    Silver Lounger Banyarola's Avatar
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    These online scanners are geared toward the novice user and tend to use scare tactics to get your money..

    Registry cleaners have always been debated, on my old XP system I NEVER cleaned the registry and it still works fine.

    People that use these online tools are usually un-aware of making backups and images so when things go wrong they have no option other then to get their PC repaired in a local shop for MORE money..

    Most people learn from their mistakes but many never learn and keep doing the same wrong things over and over again.
    "If You Are Reading This In English, Thank A VET"

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    Cleanup

    Fred does not seem to participate in these threads, so I'm hoping others here will help me out. In his article, Fred mentions that after running Winzip for example, he uninstalled it, cleaned up his PC, then went on to the next app to be tested.

    Would it be a better approach to create a system restore point, install the app, test it, then restore the system to the point created before the test? Would this lead to, perhaps, a more clear baseline than the uinstall, clean up routine?

  15. #15
    Silver Lounger Banyarola's Avatar
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    Well gw, system restore sometimes doesn't restore properly depending on what was fixed or removed with the software.

    I believe system restore mostly restores registry settings that were changed during the installation of software.

    They may be other things system restore fixes but I am not aware of them.
    "If You Are Reading This In English, Thank A VET"

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