Tune Up Your PC
Fast startup times and speedy operations are among the greatest joys of working and playing on a brand-new PC. After all, we all want our PCs to run at peak capacity, regardless of whether we have a budget laptop or a polygon-pushing gaming desktop. Inevitably, however, that out-of-the-box performance fades away. Eventually, every PC will slow down, either gradually or suddenly. That’s when tune-up utilities prove their worth.
All computers eventually lose that day-one luster, becoming lethargic, unresponsive, and, at worst, unreliable. The operating system gets gunked up as apps are added and incompletely deleted, leaving behind drivers and all sorts of other system detritus. Their hard drives fill up with forgotten files we’ve abandoned in folders whose existence we’ve forgotten. Programs build up enormous caches behind the scenes that we don’t even know about. Eventually, our full hard drives choke the OS as it tries to run. Outdated drivers cease to work correctly. Toolbars and other plug-ins can precipitously slow our browsers to a crawl. It doesn’t matter how diligent you are, or what sort of productivity software you use to get the most out of your time if end up sitting around and waiting for your computer to catch up to you.
When our machines become so impaired through use and neglect that we can no longer use Microsoft Word or play PC games with the same speed and efficiency to which we have become accustomed, we often ponder buying new computers. But that’s a drastic solution, and one that’s frequently unnecessary. Instead, you can get often that fresh-out-the-box performance for tens of dollars—instead hundreds or even thousands—thanks to a relatively inexpensive tool: the PC tune-up utility.
Note that we tested all the tune-up utilities in this story on a junked-up Windows 7 PC. We are currently testing whether or not it’s necessary to run a tune-up utility on a Windows 10 machine, as Microsoft’s newest operating system has many built-in tools for improving your PC’s performance. Until we make our proclamation, please check out How to Tune Up Your Windows 10 PC for Free for a few quick fixes.
What Is a Tune-Up Utility?
A PC tune-up utility is an application that digs deep into your computer and fixes trouble areas. It performs several functions, including defragmenting your PC’s hard drive, repairing the incredibly problematic Windows Registry, and freeing up disk space by deleting useless and duplicate files. Some tune-up utilities perform just those basic functions, while more elaborate ones add numerous features that improve your computer in interesting ways.
For example, Iolo System Mechanic—a PCMag Editors’ Choice for paid tune-up suites—cleaned our gunked-up test bed with its real-time system monitoring and Commonly Redundant or Unnecessary Decelerators and Destabilizers (CRUDD) Remover. SlimWare Utilities SlimCleaner Plus troubleshoots your computer’s start up process, helping you to remove apps that don’t really need to be there that are slowing down your boot time.
Sounds pretty good, right? It is! And, thankfully, you won’t spend a small fortune to begin the PC clean up process. The subscription-based services can be had for roughly $20 to $50 per year. There are even a handful of free tune-up utilities that typically contain less features than their premium counterparts.
Starting prices for tune-up utilities typically grant one license per purchase, which means you’re allowed to install the software on one PC. That’s fine if you own a single computer, but in the age of multi-computer households, the license costs can put a dent in your wallet. To be fair, many companies offer multi-license packages, but they can prove pricey, too. That’s why you should look for a paid tune-up utility with no installation limitations, such as Comodo PC Tuneup or AVG TuneUp. Both let you clean as many computers as you’d like.
The other common features found in tune-up utilities include file shredders (for thoroughly deleting hard drive data), scheduling (for setting specific times to run tune-up sessions), and automatic backup (to safeguard your system data from file and system mishaps).
Extra Tune-Up Features
The previously mentioned features are par for the tune-up utility course, but a few of the category’s top tools contain standout components that aren’t commonplace in the space—at least not yet. AVG TuneUp, for example, offers multi-platform protection with a suite that includes Android, Mac, and Windows tools. SlimWare Utilities SlimCleaner has Instant Alerts, tools that leverage community recommendations to notify you that unwanted software, such as a toolbar that came packaged with an application, tries to insert itself into the boot process. And KromTech PC Keeper Live has the unique Find & Fix option, which is an inbox where Microsoft-certified specialists leave improvement notes after you’ve run the utility.
In addition, many of the utilities automatically fetch new drivers so that your hardware runs at peak performance. If just want that sole feature, check out the Editors’ Choice award-winning IObit Driver Booster Pro. It’s easy to use, and it’s a very useful way to keep your drivers up to date.
How We Test Tune-Up Utilities
We test tune-up utilities with a very specific, repeatable process. We run the Geekbench system performance tool and measure boot times on a junked-up testbed before and after running a tune-up utility to compare the computer’s potency. We run each test three times and average the results.
Each tune-up utility we’ve tested improved a PC’s performance in some fashion. Typically, the operating system feels snappier, and the computer boots up far quicker than it did before we ran the software.
This tune-up utility collection includes not only the utilities mentioned above, but several other programs, too. It doesn’t highlight every single system-enhancing tool on the market—these are the best tune-up utilities, after all. You can trust that they’ll help your PC run in orderly fashion.
Click the links below to read full reviews of these PC tune-up tools. If you an experience you’d like to share with one of the tune-up utilities we’ve reviewed or if you have one you like better than the ones we’ve reviewed here, let us know in the comments.
Best Tune-Up Utilities Featured in This Roundup:
Pros: Excllent performance-enhancing tools. Windows 10-specific privacy tool. Excellent explanation of PC problems. Unlimited installs. Useful desktop widget.
Cons: Included NetBooster grants marginal Internet-connection performance boost.
Bottom Line: An excellent tune-up utility, Iolo System Mechanic has all the tools you need to get your PC performing like new again.
Pros: Improves system performance. Real-time system monitoring. Windows XP support. File recovery and shredding capabilities. No subscription fee.
Cons: License limitations. Lacks Windows 10-specific features. No community-based features.
Bottom Line: Norton Utilities bundles several useful tools that make a lethargic PC run with new pep, but license limitations limit its appeal for households with multiple PCs.
Pros: Easy to use. Effective system cleaning. Community-based features. Windows 10-specific data protection.
Cons: License limitations. Can only uninstall unwanted apps one at a time.
Bottom Line: Now boasting the incredibly helpful Instant Alerts feature, SlimCleaner Plus continues to be one of the best PC tune-up utilities on the market. That said, license limitations keep it from becoming our top pick.
Pros: Many features and customization options. One-click tune-up capabilities.
Cons: License limitations. Only yielded minor boot-time improvement in testing.
Bottom Line: Cloud System Booster is an effective tune-up utility, but license limitations may keep it from being a favorite in multi-PC homes.
Pros: Improves a PC’s boot lime and overall feel. Deletes junk files. No license limitations. Deep system scan and repair. Real-time system monitoring.
Cons: Potentially confusing app branding.
Bottom Line: The overhauled AVG TuneUp keeps your Windows PCs in tip-top shape, and now offers unlimited licenses. It’s a top choice among tune-up utilities.
Pros: Improves system performance. Windows 10 privacy protection. Offers file encryption, HDD benchmarkng, and backup. Feature-packed 10-day free trial.
Cons: Lacks a health widget. No community-based features.
Bottom Line: Tune-up utility Ashampoo WinOptimizer has a potent, performance-improving feature set that can get your PC running like new again.
Pros: Improves computer performance. Useful Performance Monitor widget. Health Monitor provides at-a-glance system information. Low cost.
Cons: Installation limitations. A few features are separate downloads and upsells. Lacks across-the-board community-based recommendations.
Bottom Line: IObit Advanced SystemCare Pro does a good job of rejuvenating sluggish PCs, but it has a few issues that keep it from being our top pick for tune-up utilities.
Pros: Improves system performance. One-click clean-up. No installation restrictions.
Cons: Active Clean feature is only available in Comodo System Utilities Pro, which you can’t purchase at this time. Restore features not as deep as competing apps.
Bottom Line: Comodo PC Tuneup is an effective system-enhancing utility. It may not offer as many enhancements as the best in the space, but its lack of installation restrictions is a big point in its favor.
Pros: Good system-performance improvement. Simple, easy-to-use interface. Lets you manage which programs launch when a PC boots. Built-in secure-deletion tool. Privacy-protecting features. Integrated driver updater.
Cons: License limitations. Lacks in-depth software descriptions.
Bottom Line: Boasting an entire suite of PC-enhancing tools, Glary Utilities Pro gives heavily used PCs a shot of new life. A few competitors offer better all-around system improvements, but Glarysoft’s tune-up app gets the job done.