Category Archives: Computer Maintenance

Advanced System Care 6 – Newbie Friendly (With a Little Help)

imageSome months ago, IObit asked that I take a look at their latest Advanced System Care – Version 6 (free edition). Since I’ve reviewed IObit’s various applications as far back as 5 years ago (ancient history in Technology/Internet time) – and, since I’ve generally rated the company’s free offerings at the high end of the scale, it was easy to say “Yes”.

For this particular review though, it was time to do something a little different. Not only would I run with the application for several months (as opposed to my normal test period of two weeks, or so) – but, three of my “I’m only a regular user” friends would run with it as well.

The primary objective of structuring the test in this manner was to to isolate and compare the experiences of a techie, against the real life computing experiences of a “regular” user – one who has little or no understanding of the Registry, Junk Files, …………

There was no miracle transformation during the time that I worked with my small group. They did not magically turn into “super techs.” But, it’s fair to say, that each of them has a better understanding of the relationship between various parts of their OS, and the need to keep the OS neat and tidy.

Equally as important, at least for this review, was the unanimous agreement  (in this small friendly sample), that Advanced System Care, when run regularly, improved their computer experience.

But did it? Let’s find out.

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Installation:

Installation was fast and clean and did not lead to the expected (from the group) – “what’s this” or “what does this mean”, or……………..

User Interface:

As you’ll see in the following screen shots the GUI is relatively uncluttered and straightforward.

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The application is broken down into three modules – CareToolbox – and, Turbo Boost, as shown below.

Care:

Selecting specific settings to apply to a particular action/s can be accomplished by pointing to an item. If the item can be selected, a settings icon will appear as shown below at the arrow. Across the board, the group found this method awkward, easy to miss, and not instinctive.

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The settings menu allows for a considerable degree of choice. Participants in the test found that choosing which repairs to select was, in most instances, easy.  That’s not to say, that the occasional phone call wasn’t required. But, that’s a matter of user experience as opposed to a shortfall in the application.

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The results of a quick scan (less than a minute on a relatively clean system), are shown below.

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Users will have the option of selecting “automatic repair” prior to running the scan. Less experienced users should exercise caution.

Clicking on repair, in this example, completed the job in less than 30 seconds.

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Who makes mistakes? Me, you – we all do!

IObit, recognizing this, has built in a safeguard – the Rescue Center. Each time a cleaning operation is launched, the first process is the creation of a backup point so that Registry, and Internet changes, can be reversed if necessary.

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Bummer Time (or not?) -

From the Quick Settings menu, clicking on “Activate all functions” ……….

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pops up a teaser.

Keeping in mind that this is a FREE product, I must admit to being astonished by the negativity generated on many forums by this teaser. I wonder how these people respond to ads on TV, or in their newspaper – items that they’ve paid for.  

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Toolbox:

The Toolbox is chock full of goodies (lots of goodies) – some of which are in fact, built in OS system tools. Still, having access to a wide range of tools, all in one place, is a bonus.

More advanced users who like to carry around their “IT Toolbox” on their keychain (on a USB stick, of course   Smile) should find the portable tool creation applet worthwhile.

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Overall Rating:

My assessment: A-

On the whole, this application does what it says it will do – and, it’s fast. But, I will mark it down for a rather convoluted settings menu access.

The groups assessment: A+

Participating in an application test was, I think, a bit of a thrill for my guys – particularly one in which (HELP!) was just a call away. What surprised me was, just how quickly folks grasped the fundamentals with just a wee bit of help.

Overall, participants were pleasantly surprised at both the built-in functionality of the application, and the ease of use. And, in what may come as a surprise to more experienced users – participants were astonished at the availability of such a high quality application for FREE.

System requirements: Windows 8, Windows 7, Vista, XP and 2000.

Languages: English, Arabic, Belarusian, Czech, ChineseSimp, ChineseTrad, Dutch, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese(PT-BR), Romanian, Russian, Serbian (cyrillic), Serbian (latin), Slovenian, Spanish, Turkish, Vietnamese.

Download at: Softpedia

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Filed under Cleaning Your Computer, Computer Maintenance, Computer Tools, downloads, Freeware, IObit

Four Windows Boot Optimization Tips You Can Trust

Guest post by: Tibor Schiemann, President and Managing Director, TuneUp.

Does it take an eternity for your PC to boot up? Have you trolled the web for some tips on improving it? Unfortunately, there are some really bad tuning advices out there, but here are four Windows boot optimization tweaks you can definitely trust.

Turn off unnecessary start-up programs. Third-party applications can slow things down quite a bit depending on your system, so go through the list of start-up entries and get rid of the programs you’ll never use or need. This won’t just help improve boot time; it should also reduce the number of annoying pop-ups informing you to take various actions.

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I actually tested this tip by disabling 19 start-up entries on one system and 25 start-up entries on another. It was surprising to see that neither machine had significant improvements in terms of boot time, but I noticed that my systems were much more responsive right after logging on and during general use. This is because disk usage significantly decreased once these start-up entries were turned off.

Since much less is going on during the boot-up process with the start-up entries disabled, you can start working with your computer much more quickly after logging on. You’ll also regain both CPU and RAM resources, which will help speed up the applications you’re actively working with. While you probably won’t notice a huge improvement in boot time like in my test, this tip will help you be more productive and conserve system resources.

Disable devices in Device Manager. PCs and laptops come with several built-in devices or other components that you may not need, such as a Bluetooth transmitter, an Ethernet adapter, a web camera or a sound chip. Windows does not need to reserve interrupt requests (IRQs) and memory resources and load up drivers if the devices are disabled, so turning them off should improve boot time.

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I again put this tip to the test and used Device Manager to turn off several devices, including a webcam, virtual DVD drives and all USB ports and controllers. Boot time went down by a couple of seconds on both of my test machines once the devices were disabled. This tip also had a neat side effect—it helped me preserve battery power on the laptops.

Get more RAM for your PC. This is always a good thing to do, but does it really help improve boot time if you’re just upgrading from 1 GB to 2 GB or from 2 GB to 4 GB? Since core Windows system files, drivers and basic services all amount to less than 1 GB, boot time shouldn’t be affected. However, more RAM should drastically reduce swapping memory to the disk.

I used msconfig to limit the total memory used by my test systems and see how upgrading RAM affected boot time. As expected, the computers’ start-up times steadily improved as more GBs of RAM was added, and on an Asus tablet (Core i5, 4 GB of RAM, SSD drive), boot time decreased noticeably.

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Tweak your BIOS, which may slow down boot time due to unnecessary checks or settings. To combat this, set boot priority to your hard disk, for example, and disable booting from your DVD drive, USB port or network; by doing so, you should be able to shave a couple of seconds off your system’s boot time.

Try to find the “Boot” category in your BIOS, and set your PC to look only for a bootable operating system on your hard disk. But, don’t forget to set it back in case you decide to install a new operating system or run a USB rescue environment. Also, try to find the “Quick Boot” option and set it to “Enabled” to skip the boot analysis of hardware components.

These are the four most effective (and safe) ways of improving Windows’ boot time. Visit the TuneUp Blog about Windows (http://blog.tune-up.com), where we’ve sifted through misleading optimization tips and tuning information, to learn more and make sure that you are maximizing PC performance.

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Filed under Computer Maintenance, Education, Guest Writers, System Tweaks, TuneUp Utilities

Stress Test Your Computer With BurnInTest Evaluation Version

imageBack in computing’s “Stone Age” – off you went to a system builder – chose your components, and then – you waited 48 hours or more for delivery, while the vendor “burned-in” the system.  The purpose being; to avoid component failure at a later date.

To help you to stay clear of hardware failure (which could leave you hanging), it’s a good idea to stress test your system/s from time to time. Better to be aware of impending hardware failure now, than to face the consequences later.

BurnInTest (latest release December 12, 2011), is a terrific software tool for both Windows and Linux, which allows all the major hardware systems, and sub-systems of your computer to be simultaneously tested for stability, and reliability.

This menu driven application tests the CPU, RAM, disk drives, optical drives, sound cards, 2D graphics, 3D graphics, video playback, network connections and printers. This can all be done simultaneously, in approximately 15 minutes.

The version tested here, was the fully functional 30 day trial version, (no restrictions).

Test Screens:

The preference screen, as the following screen capture indicates, allows for considerably test customization. Far too many to go into in this short review.

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You have the option of running selected tests as per the following screen capture…..

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or, running a block of tests as per the following.

A main test screen, as well as additional screens for each system test and sub test, allows you to view detailed scans in progress.

BurnInTest 4

The test midway point.

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Test completion. You’ll notice in the following screen shot that an error is reported on the Optical disc portion of the test. This was a deliberate choice on my part (no disc inserted in the drive).

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Since excessive heat is a hardware killer – in this test, I paid particular attention to the temperature of the graphics card. A graphics card under heavy load – and, this test suite lays on the graphic load – can run – hot – hot – hot!

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Fast facts:

Assists in PC Troubleshooting and diagnostics.

Dramatically reduce your burn in times with multithreaded simultaneous testing of components.

Avoid costly downtime, system rebuilds and lost data.

Test the stability of a system after configuration changes or hardware upgrades (critical for over clocking).

Results can be saved to disk, printed, or exported as a graphical image.

System requirements:

Windows: Windows 2008 Server, Vista, Win 7, 2003 Server, XP, 2000. (32-bit and 64-bit platforms).

Linux: Linux kernel 2.6.9 or higher. X Window System X11R6. KDE 3.2 or higher. Open GL 1.2 or higher (for 3D graphics test plus working Open GL drivers for your video card). libusb library required

Download at: PassMark

Note: The download refers to the 30 day fully functional evaluation version.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Computer Maintenance, downloads, Evaluation Software, Software, Software Trial Versions, System Utilities

TuneUp Utilities 2012 – The Classic Computer Maintenance Application

imageThe Internet is awash in computer tuning tools – tools designed to help computer users manage, maintain, optimize, configure and troubleshoot their computer system. From freebies to shareware, to full-blown commercial products, the market is saturated with applications targeted at those who suspect that their PC is operating at less than maximum potential. That pretty well describes most of us, I should think.

Those of us who are technically competent are, I suspect, comfortable using any number of free system tools readable available for download on the Internet – tools that can act as a helpmate in tweaking and maintaining computers.

Now that’s very cool – if you’re a high end user. But, if you’re a “I know where the power button is” – type of user, you’ll need more than just a handful of freebie helpmate applications to assist you in tweaking and maintaining your computer.

Luckily, there are tune-up applications designed specifically for average users – applications that make it easy for a typical user to achieve the same level of high performance as a techie. One such application, an application which can rightfully be called a “classic” in it’s class, is TuneUp Utilities 2012.

I’ve tested every released version of TuneUp Utilities going back to 1997, and I’ve come to rely on it to help me get the very best out of all my machines. Despite the fact that I’m a huge fan of free software, there are times when only a commercial application will meet all of my needs in one interface.

Quick overview:

Following installation, you will have the opportunity to analyze your computer to search out issue that are negatively impacting performance.

For this test, I’ve installed TuneUp Utilities 2012 in Windows 8 developer edition with it’s hilariously absurd Metro interface.

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An abundance of modules, shown in the Windows 8 screen shot (above), are available to analyze and repair, maintain and improve, and configure the operating system. The following screen capture, in Windows 7, shows a more familiar application module layout.

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In step one of the test, I checked the system status and choose to allow the application to recommend improvements.

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When the analysis phase is completed, system issues that require action can be dealt with easily and quickly.

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Done! Virtually in the blink of an eye!

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Fourteen days later, after running the 1-Click maintenance module intermittently, the following screen capture shows just a small number of issues which need to be corrected. Optionally, the 1-Click maintenance module can be set to run automatically which will ensure that any issues which arise will be dealt with immediately.

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Common computer problems are a snap for TuneUp Utilities 2012 to deal with. Simply select the problem in TuneUp’s Repair Wizard and in a couple of clicks, the issue is resolved.

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As with previous reviews of  TuneUp Utilities, I could go on and on describing the additional features that are included in this terrific application but, I think you get the point. This program is overwhelmingly inclusive, and provides virtually every tool and applet, that an average computer user is ever likely to need.

Is it worth $49.95 US for a 3 machine (many of us have more than one computer), license? In my view the answer is a definite – yes. TuneUp Utilities 2012 is easier to use than ever, is overwhelmingly inclusive, and provides virtually every tool and applet, that an average computer user is ever likely to need.

Take a free test run on TuneUp Utilities 2012 for 15 days, and see if you don’t agree that this is one commercial application that offers excellent value – $49.95 US for a 3 machine license.

System requirements: Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP (all 64 bit compatible).

Download a fully functional 15 day trial version at: TuneUp Utilities

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Filed under Computer Maintenance, Computer Tune Up Utilities, downloads, Integrated Tune Up Solutions, TuneUp Utilities, Windows 8, Windows Tips and Tools

Daylight Savings Time Ends – It’s That Semi-Annual “Clean Your Computer” Time Again

imageTo make it easy to remember, I schedule my computer maintenance and cleaning, at the Spring and Fall time changes. Since we’ve adjusted our clocks back one hour today (here in North America), it’s time to rerun a primer on how to do a top to bottom physical cleanup of your computer.

Spring cleaning

Over the years I’ve noticed that many computer users are not too concerned with keeping the physical components clean; and they need to be concerned.  Computer maintenance involves not only keeping a computer clean of malware; viruses, Trojans, spyware, and adware – but, keeping the physical machine clean as well.

As regular reader TeX pointed out last year, when I ran this article – “Think of a place that hides more dust than the space under your bed.” He’s right – a computer system can collect an an amazing amount of dust.

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No, this is not one of my machines. Winking smile

Physically cleaning your computer is potentially one of the most important cleanup jobs you’re ever likely to do. Here’s why – heat.

Heat is a component killer, and it’s the chief cause of CPU failure in computers. CPU failure, caused by dust clogged vents, which leads to reduced air flow, is a more common occurrence than many realize.

Killer Dirt = Killer Heat

Overheating of the CPU will, at a minimum, cause the system to behave erratically; the computer spontaneously switches off, or restarts; frequent “blue-screen” error messages, and more.

Here’s a comment from my Australian buddy Mal, on last year’s reposting of this article – “Earlier this year, my computer started beeping at me. It was an alarm to say “I’m overheating”. I took off the cover and cleaned out all the dust, which was everywhere.

When I turned it back on, the temp at dropped 30 degrees Celsius. No wonder the machine was screaming at me. So a good timely article on your part.”

Keeping your computer in top shape, with a regularly scheduled cleaning program, will prevent the inconvenience of having your system go down, and in the long run save you money.

Tools you’ll need:

Screwdriver

A can of compressed air

Cotton swabs

Rubbing alcohol (70% is fine)

Paper towels or anti-static cloths

Water

Make sure you disconnect the machine from the wall outlet before you begin maintenance and cleanup, and be gentle when touching the components inside the case.

Open the case:

If required, use the screwdriver to remove the side of the case that’s opposite the motherboard. Blow compresses air over the components and interior of the case, keeping the can upright and nozzle four inches away from components.

Clean the power supply and the case fan with a shot of compressed air. Next, blow compressed air into the CD/DVD drive. Give the inside of the case a wipe with a slightly moistened cloth before replacing the cover.

Clean the exterior:

Wipe the exterior of the case with a slightly moistened cloth; repeat the wipe with a dry cloth or paper towel. Be sure to clean all case openings using this method.

Clean the keyboard:

Since the keyboard gets more physical contact than any other component, if you can, clean it on a monthly basis. Blowout in and around the keys with compressed air monthly and on your scheduled cleanup rub down the keys and case with a clean cloth slightly dampened with rubbing alcohol.

Clean the mouse:

Like the keyboard, the mouse gets substantial physical contact and requires cleaning on a monthly basis. If you have an optical mouse simply wipe it down just as you wiped down the keyboard. If you have a mechanical mouse then you need to remove, wash, and then dry the ball.

Next, clean inside the mouse with a cotton swab moistened with rubbing alcohol. Finally blow compressed air into the opening and then reassemble the mouse.

Clean the monitor:

Never spray liquid directly onto the screen. Instead, moisten the cloth, or the paper towel, with the cleaning solution. Spraying the screen directly runs the risk of liquid penetrating into the monitor components.

Wipe the screen gently to remove dust and fingerprints. For laptop screens, buy a special cleaning solution available at computer stores. Do this weekly.

I know this is a no-brainer, but before you plug the computer back into the wall outlet, be sure all components are thoroughly dry.

Previous postings of this article drew some very valuable comments from regular readers, including the following:

Vhick:

I always clean my PC one a month. In a tropical country like here, dust is everywhere. Clean, turn around, and there’s a dust again. PC cleaning inside and out is must here, because of very hot temperatures.

Georg L:

Cleaning is nice, but when doing so, one should also change the heat sink compound between hot semiconductors and the respective heat sinks. The CPU is most critical in this respect.

Volatile components evaporate over time, turning the compound into an effective heat insulator with a plaster-like texture. I suggest a change every second year in moderate climates, and an annual change in the tropics.

Just to follow up on Georg’s comment – earlier this year, a reader explained that he had rebuilt his machine and replaced all components (other than the CPU), and yet, the machine still locked up after just a few minutes of operation. I passed on Georg’s advice and voila – problem solved!

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Filed under Cleaning Your Computer, Computer Maintenance, Save Your CPU, Windows Tips and Tools

Is IObit Uninstaller 2.0 A Revo Uninstaller Worthy Competitor?

imageLike most geeks, Revo Uninstaller is my main “go to” program for uninstalling applications – except anti-malware applications, which tend to be tricky to remove. Luckily, AppRemover, a powerful free anti-malware, antivirus application remover, supports the removal of virtually all of the most popular antivirus and antispyware applications.

IObit, the developers of the highly recommended Advanced SystemCare, has spread its wings in the last few years and released a raft of applications (both free and commercial), which cover a broad spectrum of computer consumers’ needs. One of these is IObit Uninstaller – now in its second version – which is designed to go toe-to-toe with the venerable Revo Uninstaller.

IObit Uninstaller 2.0, is a simple executable file which does not require installation – making it suitable for a USB toolbox. I emphasize this point, since I often get reader questions wondering why a particular application is not listed in “All Programs”, or elsewhere.

Since IObit Uninstaller is a simple executable, it’s blazingly fast out of the gate – as it should be – and launches into a simple, and instinctive, user interface.

For this review walkthrough, I have chosen to uninstall an application updater on my test system – Nvidia Update – which, as you can see – IObit Uninstaller has located and listed under “All Programs”.

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Prior to completing the uninstall action, the application offers an opportunity to create a Restore Point.

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In this case, the uninstall process took a matter of just a few seconds following which, a secondary scan (Powerful Scan), was offered. The Powerful Scan has been designed to clean out any leftover entries – including cleaning up the registry.

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As the following screen capture indicates, using the Powerful Scan was a good choice since the initial scan had not deleted the program file directory.

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As illustrated in the following screen shot, IObit Uninstaller offers the user a number of additional uninstall options – other than the straightforward “All Programs” option. You’ll also note, that the application is available in a number of selected languages.

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Fast facts:

Batch Uninstall – Uninstall several applications so easily with just one click.

Standard and Advanced Uninstall – While Standard Uninstall works as the Windows built-in Add/Remove Programs function, Advanced Uninstall function helps you scan Windows registry and hard drive for any possible installation leftovers.

1-Click Toolbars Removal – Annoyed by so many toolbars in your system? Here’s the simplest and fastest solution.

Portable Application – Look for a pure uninstaller that does NOT need an installation and will not screw your system again? IObit Uninstaller is the answer.

Forced Uninstall – Even if a program is not listed in Windows built-in Add/Remove Programs, this feature still can help you automatically find the program’s leftovers and traces in your system and remove them completely.

Log Manager and Restoration – Easily view what has been changed by IObit Uninstaller. Every time an “Advanced Uninstall” is performed, a restore point image will be automatically set for possible future system restoration.

Free and Easy-to-use – No IT knowledge needed, just download it and simply run it to remove all junk programs.

System requirements: Windows 7 (32 bit), Windows 7 (64 bit), Windows Vista (32 bit), Windows Vista (64 bit), Windows XP.

Download at: Softpedia

Frankly, I don’t think either product has a marked competitive advantage – one over the other. Both applications perform essentially the same function – uninstall applications. Still, there are differences that should be noted.

IObit Uninstaller Pluses – The user interface sidebar lists a number of items   that may be important to an average user, including – installed toolbars, recently installed applications, large programs, rarely used applications,  and Windows Updates. Full 64-bit compatibility.

Revo Uninstaller Pluses – Revo Uninstaller (as illustrated in the following graphic), provides an opportunity to dig deep into an application prior to removal and, additional information on an entry can be generated by following the enclosed Google search link.

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The following graphic illustrates additional functionality available in Revo  including – Autorun Manager, Tracks Cleaner and access to Windows System Tools. These additional features may have more value to an advanced user than to an average user.

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In the final analysis – which one is better?

I don’t think it’s quite as simple as to which one is better. But, I do think IObit Uninstaller may be better suited to those users who are not as familiar with system maintenance as more educated users. It seems to me, that Revo Uninstaller has more broad appeal for those users who like to dig just a little deeper.

Additional free uninstaller software – 

MenuUninstaller is a free Context Menu alternative to the Windows Add or Remove Programs applet

SlimCleaner Final – Optimizer, Uninstaller, Shredder and Anti- Hijacker Built In

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Computer Maintenance, downloads, Freeware, IObit, Portable Applications, Software, Uninstall Tools, Windows Tips and Tools

Free SlimCleaner 1.8 – Now With IntelliCookie

SlimCleaner just keeps on getting better. The latest release of this free application which is designed to cleans out your PCs deep dirt, now includes IntelliCookie – in addition to a wide range of extra functionality.

IntelliCookie lets users delete tracking cookies from their PCs while preserving the time-saving cookies that contain login information for frequently visited Websites, such as email, bank or social media sites.

IntelliCookie isn’t the only innovative new feature in SlimCleaner 1.8. The free software’s latest version also includes a new section that lets consumers manage their browser settings and remove any “junkware” that can bloat and slow down a browser.

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For a complete rundown on this trend setting application, take a look at Free SlimCleaner Final – Optimizer, Uninstaller, Shredder and Anti- Hijacker Built In, here on this site.

System requirements: Windows 7, Vista and XP (32 bit and 64 bit).

Download at: Developer’s site – Slimcleaner.com

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Computer Maintenance, Computer Tools, downloads, Freeware, Integrated Solutions, New Computer User Software Tools, Software, System Utilities, Uninstall Tools, Windows Tips and Tools