back to article PC tune-up software: does it really work?

Installing tune-up and registry fixing software was hit and miss when we tested on a five-year-old Windows XP laptop. Faster Microsoft Office and Windows boot-up times were possible with some software packages, but occasionally performance took a dive and a similarly priced Ram upgrade thrashed the rest of the field. PC speed- …


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  1. Warren G

    You were asking for this

    So, you shaved a bit off the boot time with upgrades and utilities, but Ubuntu cut it by 75%? I've heard it's free too....

  2. alistair millington
    Thumb Up

    Is it me? (probably is)

    The main thing I get from both reports is that XP is basically sound. There is some wiggle room but most of the features XP has are needed, or slimmed already over the years of refinement (hotfixes etc) and therfore it is almost impossible to get tweaks that improve the system to any large extent, relying on RAM to get the speed boost.

    Whereas Vista is such a big pile of crap and written so badly there is more "wiggle room" than strictly come dancing. Some of those changes are vast chasms of improvement over the basic Vista installation.

    Can't wait to see windows 7 report. :)

  3. frymaster

    unplugged wire bollocks

    A computer connected to a LAN where the router doesn't have internet access will spend ages trying to talk to the internet, because it has to wait for timeouts. A computer with the wire unplugged will shoot back an error straight away. I used to use this trick whenever the DC servers were slow - unplugging the LAN cable before boot would speed things up many times over as the computer didn't look for updated login scripts etc.

  4. TeeCee Gold badge

    Tuneup for Vista?

    I thought it was called Windows 7?

    Oh come on! Somebody had to say it.....

  5. Marcus Aurelius
    Dead Vulture

    Given the very limited performance gains

    Why didn't El Reg be a little more condemnatory of the absolute rip-off these products represented?

    If this was some defence kit that performed as uselessly, I'm sure your inestimable Mr Lewis Page would have been all over it with biting sarcasm.

  6. shyted

    Microsoft updates?

    One thing I'd be really interested to know is what effect MS updates and service packs have on both older and newer hardware from a clean install.

  7. DavidB

    Out of interest...

    Which imaging software do you use for the testing?


  8. Paul Hates Handles

    Vista 64...

    My vista 64 boots in something ridiculous like 45seconds :D

  9. colcon

    waste of time

    Best Vista performance option IMO is to use an SSD, instant improvment!

  10. Nik Owen

    Windows 7

    My Windows 7 (64 bit) boots in less than 30 seconds to password screen, SWMBO laptop takes about 2 minutes on Vista 32 bit (until later this month then it's getting the 64 bit windows 7)

    I have never tried to make it any quicker other than taking the crap out of the startup. Turn it on, make a coffee and then return and it works fine.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    I haven't read the article but...

    Is'nt trying to 'tune' Vista rather like putting lipstick on a pig?

  12. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

    pointless text field

    "So, you shaved a bit off the boot time with upgrades and utilities, but Ubuntu cut it by 75%? I've heard it's free too...."

    How did it compare with L4Dead2 ? :)

    My Vista 64 with 6 Gb RAM comes up in about 2 seconds, but takes 4 seconds to re-establish the network connection. Mind you, I do shut down into hibernate mode :)

    In the article, are the boot-up times based on login screen or all the way through to the desktop?

  13. OFI


    @ Warren G

    Nice idea but I think we can guess how far Ubuntu would have got with the Photoshop CS4, Microsoft Office and Left 4 Dead tests ;-)

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Why in the world does the Iolo thing display a weather forecast?! Talk about the opposite of the old Unix philosophy of "doing one thing well". It reminds me of when I got Visual Basic as a teenager and always wanted to add Web browsers and media players in my About boxes.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Vista 64

    Boots or Resumes?

  16. Anonymous Coward

    @ Paul Hates Handles

    "My vista 64 boots in something ridiculous like 45seconds :D"

    I own a red bike :D

  17. Jay Castle

    Any reason why.....

    ....Uniblue PowerSuite wasn't included in the testing? I've used it for a while and have found it pretty good. Seems to help more with system stability than speed but I've definately noticed a difference.

    Think you missed a trick there, boyo! :0P

  18. Anonymous Coward

    60 seconds to boot Office 2007 RFLMAO!!!

    Even being lenient about the horrific boot up times (even on a clean install), opening an office application shouldn't take a minute. Good grief.

    Even that bloat monster photoshop CS4 opens faster on my 3 year old macbook.


  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You know what is missing.

    You need to make it a normal home loser PC. install every browser too bar you can find, yahoo, gogole, MS live, alexis, etc. that stupid smiley thing and all the other crap that sotware tries to make you install and that tech people avoid.

    Then run the cleaners.

    Also install itunes andgoogle earth and crap and see how things change.

  20. Edmund Green
    Thumb Up

    Error bars

    First of all well done for at least mentioning error margins on the measurements on page 2 of the article - that alone easily puts this article in the top 1% for quality of online reviews!

    However - could you please include error bars on all your graphs and quote uncertainties when writing numbers, otherwise they are meaningless for comparative purposes. This is especially noticable where you have shifted the origin of the bar chart such as for "L4D (fps)" on page 3.

  21. Nuno trancoso

    @alistair millington

    "but most of the features XP has are needed"

    If you really believe that, you might be interested in buying some property... in Pluto. Nice for vacations.

    Really... cr@p like Indexing Service is pointless (would have been nice if done proper), System Restore was shite (aka broken imaging for the clueless (m)asses...). List goes on.

    Quite bluntly, once you tried a nLite'ed XP w/ some power user toys thrown into the mix you REALLY start wondering whats wrong w/ the old workhorse that ppl actually moved on...

    XP. No bling and why should i care...

  22. J 3


    Snake oil, and expensive one at that. Unless AC above is right and these programs DO make a difference in typical John Doe computers.

    Now... Three minutes to boot a 1 year old "super" computer? One minute to start bloody Office? Really? The thing has a quad-core, 7200rpm HD, 2 (or 4) GB of RAM, FFS... Not that boot times matter (you don't do it much), but the app startup is a bit more of a problem. Sorry see bit rot is alive and well in the Windows world. Let's see if Windows 7 finally solved it -- but being a Vista service pack, I wouldn't hold my breath.

    I mean, my 4 or 5 year old single core (nice 2.4 GHz though) Dell with a run-of-the-mill 5400 rpm HD and 4GB of RAM takes 5-10 seconds from starting OpenOffice Writer (not exactly known as a speed demon) and being fully ready to use, same for other OOo programs -- running Ubuntu 9.04, by the way, don't know how it would be in Windows. And I've never timed the boot (haven't booted in months) but I think it's about one minute or so to have the desktop ready.

  23. Mr Snrub

    Why focus on startup (and immediately post-startup) performance?

    Anyone familiar with optimization should know that you look at frequently-hit sections of code that would yield a benefit even if relatively small - tweaking the system to make the one-off process quicker is a waste of effort.

    Using hybrid sleep makes way more sense - then it's less than 2 seconds to your desktop from sleep, plus you don't incur any disk hammering as the system cache is already populated (by Superfetch or through regular file I/O).

    Speeding up the boot process makes as much sense as whining about the disk footprint of an OS, or doing regular reboots to "keep memory clean and get rid of leaks".

  24. Steve Medway

    Dodgy Graphs.

    hmmmn some non zero and others zero based. anyone would think your trying to punt tune up software or are getting a nice kick-back from memory vendors! even awarding only 60% is taking the piss.

    Startup time - slows with 4gb and and tune up offers barely a difference - no non zero here......

    Office 2007 startup - oooh look how much faster/slower these results are compared to the base line - oh hang on there's virtually no difference looking at the % gain loss.

    CS4 - zero start graph and bugger all difference.

    L4D load time - zero based - it's not rocket science to work out a game level contains gigs of data so will obviously be quicker.

    L4D fps - oooh look how much faster/slower these results are compared to the base line - oh hang on there's virtually no difference looking at the % gain loss.

    Free Ram graph - who gives a shit - if its free it ain't being used.


  25. Johnny Canuck

    Holy crap

    Holy Mary mother of Jesus! Three minutes to boot the untouched machine! I'd be throwing the thing through a window. My XP machine takes 18 seconds from power on to an open browser window. I don't need no steenking optimization software.

  26. This post has been deleted by its author

  27. spegru


    Well you could still do a back to back test with Gimp and openoffice since those are in windose too. Would have made for several interesting comparisons

  28. VirtualMark

    Useless utilities.

    Well it would seem that buying any of these utilities are pointless, as i've always thought. To shave a couple of percent off a couple things will make no difference to me, and the fact that they actually decrease performance in some areas really defeats the point in these utilities.

    I wonder why reg hardware didn't do a test with games on high detail. Thats what i'd like to see, a state of the art game running at full settings, and see if these utilities make any difference at all. I can almost guarantee that a ram upgrade in this situation would make loads more difference than any tune up utility can offer.

    I personally like to tweak my own system. I run a very minimal OS, and have disabled anything that i don't need. It frees up ram, and also makes the system more secure. I also know exactly what i have done, and can easily undo each of the changes. Some people will agree, some won't, but i like the way my system runs. The things i have changed are:

    Disabled indexing service, i'm using a laptop and don't want the hard drive constantly thrashing.

    Disabled any unneeded services. This will vary from system to system, depending on what you use your pc for. I've

    Disabled any junk from starting at windows logon.

    Disabled 8.3 name creation, i don't care aboud DOS, we're in 2009, i'd rather have the faster read/write times.

    Disabled page file, i have 4gb of ram, easily enough to run any 32bit program, as they can only use a maximum of 2gb anyway.

    Got rid of system restore, i have never needed to use it and don't want it taking up any cpu cycles.

    Disabled superfetch, i shall decide what programs to load into my memory when i decide to load them, thanks very much microsoft.

    Optimised system performance for background services, as i use my laptop for a lot of audio tasks.

    I also schedule a defrag to run every week and make sure my drivers are up to date. I don't use any antivirus, mainly because i don't download garbage off limewire or anything. I'm careful what i run on my system. I don't run a firewall on my laptop either, as my router has a hardware firewall and theres little point in running two.

    I've probably done various other tweaks, just can't remember them all at the moment.

    One thing i have learned over the years, is that its probably better to save up my money and buy a completely new system when the old one feels slow. I don't even like going down the upgrade route anymore, as i did that to my old dell and it was still slow. Started with 512mb ram, 1.7ghz p4, 40gb hdd and geforce 3 graphics. Upgraded it to the max i could at the time, 120gb hdd, 2gb ram, geforce 7600 and 2.4ghz p4. At the end of that the cpu still wasn't powerful enough to run modern games, pentium 4's sucked. And it was an agp system, which is now obsolete. I bought a new dell laptop with 4gb ram, geforce 8 and core 2 duo t9300, and it annihilates my old dell in almost every area. Seems like the upgrades were a waste of money.

    I do agree with what someone else posted, that if these utilities were used on a novice users pc, which is cluttered up with spyware and hundreds of system tray utilities and toolbars, then they may well make a lot of difference. But for an experienced tweaker like myself, i bet they'll make little to no difference.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Don't you get the full 4GB since Vista SP1 (or maybe 2, I can't remember, I upgraded to XP)?

  30. sleepy

    oh alright then . . .

    My Macbook Pro 2.26GHz boots up to the Snow Leopard desktop in 14 seconds. Since I shut it down less than once a month, it's an acceptable delay.

    But 15 years ago, my SE/30 booted up Mac OS 6 to desktop ready (from ram disk) in under a second.

  31. Tezfair
    Thumb Up

    I love tune up programs...

    ...As they invariably trash the registry and then im called out to restore the computer.

  32. Benedict

    @Steve 70

    The pig would be sexier. Windows 7 seems good to me though.

  33. Anonymous Coward


    Good grief! I got as far as ``Ubuntu boots in 41 seconds'' and stopped right there. Why go any further? A better system boots in less time. Enough sed, you can stop now! Don't know why you wasted a further, what was it, 6 pages? on another MS failure...

  34. Shtumped

    Advanced System Care

    I am currently running advanced system care freeware from Iorbit on 5 machines - just wondered how this would do compared to the ones published.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Tsk! Silly kwestshun!

    Of course it works otherwise so many peeps would not be vying for your buziness dood!



  36. GrantB

    Will Win7 be any better?

    Work brought me a new lappy 15 months ago; dual core T6400, 3GB ram, Vista Ultimate x64 patched to SP2. I try and keep it clean & lean with few add on crap other~than google desktop - which I need as Vista search is fundamentally broken.

    Startup times (even resume from Sleep) have still declined to the point that it takes several minutes to start up simply to check an email in Outlook 2007.

    I will probably just buy another laptop running Win7 in due course, simply to avoid the expensive pain of clean & reinstall everything (include hassles with getting licence validation for some tools). But will Win7 be any better after 18 months of use? Lots of people claim Win 7 is faster, but then a new clean install of Vista is (as the article shows) 75% faster than a mature install of Vista. Wonder how many people claiming speed increases in Win7 are really comparing like with like.

    I am running fewer and fewer programs that need Windows. So the price of a MacBook is starting to look attractive given the time I waste fighting with Vista. One thought is that given the cost of laptop hardware compared with software prices is to re-image my current Vista box with Ubuntu to use for day-to-day webbrowsing, email etc and only use a new Win7 box for MSOffice.

  37. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD


    Thanks for the useful post. I never thought to disable the system restore and legacy dos file names.

    Of more interest is your idea just to go the whole hog and buy a new system every few years. Hmm... Food for thought.

  38. Paul 129
    Thumb Up

    @Nuno trancoso

    I have to comment on system restore being useless... It is if used the MS way, but it has a complete registry backup for each stored restore point. You just need to access the media offline and its worth more than its weight in gold.

  39. A 31

    ubuntu boots faster ...

    ... and I can't play the latest games on ubuntu, or any linux base.

    so yes, great OS , but this post was about windows ?

    why is there always some geektard ready to point out the obvious out of context ?

  40. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    iolo stuff

    Is very ordinary in my experience.

    All these u-beaut supa-dooper utilities are over-rated.

  41. Elmer Phud
    Thumb Up

    @Marcus Aurelius

    "Why didn't El Reg be a little more condemnatory of the absolute rip-off these products represented?"

    Hmm, someone didn't look at the prices correctly. CCleaner - sharing top spot - is free.

    The same company do a few other handy odds and ends - all free, gratis etc.

  42. AndrueC Silver badge


    If you want to reduce boot up times go for hibernation. Most machines will come out of hibernation in a dozen seconds or so. I run nearly all my machines like that. The XP ones get a reboot after the occasional Windows update. The Vista and Windows 7 machines almost never get a reboot.

    The only machines I don't use hibernate on are the ones on timed startup like office machines because I haven't found a BIOS that lets me combine timed startup and hibernation.

    NB:With any Windows version you often have to disable 'Allow this device to wake the machine up' in various device properties if you want to use hibernation.

  43. Dale Richards

    Freeing up RAM

    "The tune-up applications also made more Ram available on our Vista PC too. System Mechanic 9 led the way, just as it did on our XP laptop, freeing up 70MB of memory"

    Free RAM is wasted RAM. Repeat it after me:

    "Free RAM is wasted RAM!"

    The whole point of SuperFetch in Vista is to pre-cache programs and data in RAM to improve loading times. If SuperFetch is doing its job properly, nearly all your RAM should be in use. This isn't "bloat" - it's a performance-enhancing feature. If these utilities "free up" your RAM, the RAM will be sitting there going to waste when it could be working to improve the PC's performance.

  44. Peter Kay


    No. It's an architecture and driver issue.

    32bit systems are limited to 4GB and need space to put the PCI/PCI-e address space in (graphics cards account for a lot of this).

    The solutions are 1) 64 bit and 2) PAE. PAE is a horrid hack that adds up to 64GB accessible memory on some (not all) 32 bit x86 systems. Drivers have to be PAE aware, and many are not.

    PAE is a bit more viable on servers (better written drivers, usually), but if you can run 64bit you should.

  45. Brett Weaver


    "If SuperFetch is doing its job properly"

    - Which it never does because its not designed to make things faster. Its designed to load stuff into memory, slowing your currently running processes with its excessive I/O.

    Simply put. If SuperFetch worked on Vista, there would be a way of turning it off to prove it.

    Give me unallocated RAM because Microsoft software does NOT reliably free the RAM stolen by its processes because it thinks it would be a good idea to load them.

    Because you can't turn it off and prove its effect, SuperFetch remains a tax on your machine..

    If you believe otherwise, thats it. Belief.

    Vista runs slower than XP on the same hardware. Thats all the proof I need about "SuperFetch"

  46. Brett Weaver

    @dale Richards

    Sorry - I was just shown how to disable "SuperFetch" on Vista.

    Unfortunately there is no way (that I know) of stopping Exchange and SQL Server from indulging in the same activity...

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Auto vs Me

    One thing I hate about most of these, is that I can generally improve boot up times by just doing manual work on the machine. Sometimes faster than these tuneup crud can run themselves.

    The only thing I use now is CCleaner just to help clear out temporary files etc quicker than I can browse around the folders. Even then, "clearing your temporary files" really is a poor suggestion to speed up your pc. (ccleaner is free, and runs off my penkey where a lot of my cleanup tools are stored for disinfecting and improving peoples pc speed).

    If you don't like the look of the "minimal services", just go in and turn the Theme service back on, I've never really tested the speed with it on, and I don't really mind it for 99% of (desktop) machines I would use.

    TuneMePCUPAndChargeMeMoney2010 doesn't know which programmes a user never uses or even needs...

    First off is updater programmes, google is annoying for this, leaving it running often, and stuff like ipod updater service, why do you need a service to update something?

    The other is pre packaged software with devices that don't even need it. Mouse/keyboard drivers software (unless you REALLY want their functions, which most people probably don't).

    And camera loading software, ArcSoft, Adobe Album stuff etc... half the time people don't even use the 10 pieces of software that loads with their camera (kodak and fujipix are bad for this).

    But... when you are trying to remove them for people it can be hard for them to know if they actually use it or not... using the "remove and hope" is a bit awkward, specially if you are the type to have paying customers for this.

    In short, no it doesn't work. In long, yes it can work, but if you know enough to make it work, you don't need it in the first place.

    Install as much as you can, and start again by installing what you want when you need it.

    These days, I like to try using anything that can run portable, either PortableApps style, or I can run the software using the installed files after (not worrying about its registry holdings, not that basic single entry software\company\program will slow your pc).

    The sooner the world moves to the brilliant Ubuntu style packages, the better...

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Boot-up times

    XP was supposed to be the answer to all the faults of earlier Windows operating systems...Vista was supposed to be a big improvement...

    Why the f**ck can't Microsoft write a decent operating system?

    I've been in compuiting for nearly 30 years, from the early days of the personal computers of the 1980s, when processors ran at 0.5 million instructions per second, where they had to communicate with peripheral cards in the backplane on boot up, conduct start-up tests.

    What I do not understand is, what the f**k is a PC doing on boot up that takes so f**ing long?

    0.5 MIPS and the computer would be up and running in just a few seconds. Now we've got processors running at 100MIPS?? faster? (200 times faster) and take 90 seconds to boot up?

    There is something fundamanetally wrong with the way Windows is designed.

  49. the_madman

    Re: programs on Linux

    Something I don't understand is that the applications listed here, as well as many other popular applications, are effectively already cross-platform.

    Microsoft Office runs on both Windows and Mac OS, meaning it either must be cross platform or in fact two products under the same name - which wouldn't make sense, given how many resources it would waste (though that actually wouldn't surprise me, given Microsoft's take on resources...);

    The full Adobe suite is written in Qt specifically so that it can be cross-platform while only needing a single code base - available for Windows, Mac OS and... NOT Linux....

    EA Games writes most of its games in OpenGL so that they can be cross-platform, but in a different way - they run on the X-box, Playstation, Nintendo Wii (the latter two of which ONLY use OpenGL for 3D graphics), Windows, Mac OS (feel free to correct me here, but I'm sure some games are available for Mac users) and... NOT Linux...

    Seriously, what's wrong with a single recompile? A wrapper script online for Linux/unix users that requires the Windows version of the CD and requires you enter the product key to install?

    And before you start throwing out the, "Linux users don't like to pay for crap" argument, what do you think Linux RUNS on, air and penguin shit? We aren't just prepared to BUY computers, ranging from massively powerful and expensive to netbooks (as any Windows user would be willing as well), but we're willing to pay for something we don't even want/need - Windows - with it. Many Linux users already pay for extra Dropbox storage (as do many Windows users), for Flickr Pro accounts as an example (both my parents pay for this anyway), pay for music from Magnatune, Jamendo and etc. etc. so on and so forth, so what makes people think we wouldn't pay for Dreamweaver on our servers, or for music from iTunes, or for World of Warcraft/Call of Duty 5/Sims 3 etc.? Hell, that's why the Wine project exists - if Linux users didn't want to pay for this stuff, we wouldn't be working so hard to get it working.

  50. Doug Glass
    Thumb Up

    @ Nuno trancoso

    "once you tried a nLite'ed XP w/ some power user toys thrown into the mix you REALLY start wondering whats wrong w/ the old workhorse that ppl actually moved on..."

    Great Comment!!

    Finally somebody (besides me) understands the power of nLite. My nLite build of a fully patched XP Pro SP3 (as of 9/8/09) installs Windows in slightly under 20 minutes on an ancient box with an AMD XP 3200+ CPU and 2GB RAM . From there it does a silent install of an additional eight patches, Office 2003, MS money, Nero, Audacity and a whole slew of my favorite utilities and graphics programs in just under 50 minutes. The only thing I can't make happen automatically is to kill the auto update nag from the security center, but I'll get there.

    It's just hard for me to believe more people that post comments here don't seem to consider this program. I understand having a level playing field for valid comparisons, but come on folks, this is a major power tool and if you're an XP user (Vista and 7 use vLite) you need to master this program. Or some other that does the same thing if they exist.

  51. Doug Glass
    Thumb Up


    "And before you start throwing out the, "Linux users don't like to pay for crap" argument, what do you think Linux RUNS on, air and penguin shit?"

    Short and to the point and one of the best comments I've ever read on this site. And when your OS is free, you maybe have that bit of extra money to spend on higher quality hardware.

  52. Emil Larsen

    @David B & @Sir Runcible Spoon

    @ David B: Acronis 10 was used to re-image the PC for all utilities and both Ram setups.

    @ Sir Runcible Spoon: Startup times were measured all the way to the desktop + all icons + all taskbar utilities.

    For whoever talked about imediate-post boot testing, all the benchmarks were run in order before a reboot. Although I like the idea of mixing in some sleep-testing and running more programs at once with open-close-open testing too.

  53. techfreak

    Performance and operation

    Except for ccleaner, which automates some tasks that can be executed through a batch file, I see little value in these utilities. I use contig.exe in a batch file to defragment some files that get constant read/writes by their applications (e.g. outlook databases, guildwars, indexing databases for WDS, Google Earth), use the "defrag c: /b" on XP to defrag the pre-fetch data routinely, and keep the web browser cache to 64 MB.

    Something is definitely wrong with the test machine. I haven't experienced this level of poor performance on less impressive systems running the same OS (how about a 1.8 gHz Sempron with 1GB RAM?). I don't disable services, like indexing. In my experience, disabling some Windows built-in services slows down the computer. However the default settings on Windows Vista for VSS and Defender are definitely a problem; this seems to be addressed for Windows 7.

    My Golden Rule for good computer performance is to aim for a steady state system, as much as possible. I install a stack of carefully selected software, and try to not alter anything after that, except for patches and updates. The xBox360 runs Windows. Does it ever crash? Maybe it does, but not very often. Everything runs inside an hypervisor, and as such things don't change much.

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