Category Archives: Computer Maintenance

Tackle One of the Top PC Performance Killers: Low Disk Space

In this article, guest writer Tibor Schiemann, President and Managing Partner of software developer TuneUp, (the TuneUp Utilities 2011 folks), takes the mystery out of why low disk space can slow your computer to a crawl.

imageNo matter how fast your PC is, low disk space can slow any computer down, especially newer ones with fast, solid-state drives (SSDs). In fact, low disk space is typically the #1 reason for a sluggish machine, and one that is even overlooked by IT pros. In order to tackle this issue, it’s first important to understand why low disk space significantly slows down programs, affects SSD drives, increases load times and causes dozens of error messages.

Windows and most third-party programs need disk space to breath. Windows, for example, needs space for its paging file, which extends a PC’s physical memory (RAM) in case it runs out. When there is low disk space, the paging file can’t grow when required and impacts PC performance. Low disk space can also reduce SSDs’ speed, as it requires these flash-based disks to read single data cells into memory before writing new data. This will even crash read/write performance.

Depending on its demand, the paging file dynamically increases and decreases in size. Imagine if your PC’s disk space were to fall below the 500 to 1000 MB limit. Once the paging file tries to increase and hits the disk space limit, you can expect terrible performance, and your system will most likely crash.

Windows isn’t the only system depending on at least a couple GB of free disk space; many applications create files to store data temporarily. PhotoShop, for example, is known to create a “scratch disk” when running. This disk has a dynamic size ranging from a couple of hundred MBs to several GBs. Expect PhotoShop, or any other application for that matter, to run poorly or not at all once this temporary file takes up the rest of your hard disk limit.

Unfortunately, this problem persists on modern machines as well. Take a netbook, a low-budget notebook or even a high-end machine with an SSD drive. Your music libraries or even stored photos might just be enough to hit the limit quickly—add the regular size of a typical Windows installation (20 GB) and applications, and you’re working at the limit of their disk’s capacity.

Of course, I wanted to test this theory to make sure that low disk space is, in fact, a serious performance threat. For the tests, I used an Intel Penryn C2D with 3 GHz, 4 GB of RAM and an SSD. In order to run low on disk space, I simply duplicated a couple of files that were several hundred MB until I hit the disk space limit.

Surprisingly, once my disk space sank below the dangerous 100 MB mark, the PC didn’t suffer. This is probably due to the fact that both my RAM and the default paging file compensated for the current memory need. However, things got shaky once I started to work more heavily. Programs and applications suddenly wouldn’t start, and those I was currently running didn’t react. For example, iTunes didn’t respond to any clicks—it froze yet kept playing music in the background.

And the PC’s performance continued to take a turn for the worse when I maxed out disk space. The boot procedure took more than twice as long, according to XPerf from MicrosoftsWindowsPerformanceToolkit. Since many of my regular programs refused to launch, I couldn’t benchmark the start-up times for many applications. After trying Outlook, PhotoShop, Indesign and even Live Messenger, I was finally able to get Internet Explorer 9 to launch. But, time basically stood still the moment I clicked on the web browser icon—nothing happened. After about 13 seconds, the web browser appeared on the screen and started to load a website, and that was all I could do—the system was unusable.

Given my test results, low disk space is certainly a performance killer. Luckily, there are several tips to follow that can help you quickly rescue your system from low disk space. First, TuneUpUtilities 2011’s Gain Disk Space feature can be used to remove unnecessary files and old backups, while TuneUp Disk Space Explorer can help you find huge data hogs. It’s also helpful to do some routine maintenance and use Microsoft’s Windows Disk Cleanup tool. Additionally, uninstall unnecessary Windows features and remove large programs that you no longer need to free up your machine’s disk space. This “FiveWaystoGetRidofDataClutter” blog post provides step-by-step instructions on how to implement these tips.

It’s important to keep a close eye on the amount of free disk space your computer has. When disk space starts running low, make sure to take the necessary steps to improve performance and get your machine back up and running again in no time.

For additional tips and tricks on maintaining PC performance, I invite you to visit the TuneUp Blog about Windows (http://blog.tuneup.com).

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Filed under Computer Maintenance, Computer Tune Up Utilities, Guest Writers, Hard Drive Maintenance, Integrated Tune Up Solutions, Software, System Memory Management, System Utilities, TuneUp Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Free Glary Utilities Is Indispensable. Really?

Glarysoft  has a blurb on their site that at first glance may seem to be a little over the top. … “To call Glary Utilities helpful would drastically understate the situation. It hopes to become your INDISPENSABLE friend with its one-stop-shop utilities for optimizing and maintaining your PC for best performance.”

Since reviewing software (both free and commercial), is a good part of what I do as a blogger, I’ve tested and evaluated more than a thousand applications in the last few years. Sad to say, 30% or so, have turned out to be “not fit for consumption”. No, you normally don’t get to read reviews on the dreck – better to focus on what lives up to expectations, and not what doesn’t.

Based on this exposure to software applications, Glarysoft’s “indispensable” statement, got me thinking – so, I put it to my personal test. First, let me point out that I get loads of free licenses for the commercial version of applications that I test. However, to avoid the disclosure/non-disclosure issue, I do not keep such software on either my home system, or my test systems. Other than the OS, all software on my home machine is freeware.

But, I could have chosen to have kept on board any one of the dozen or so licensed computer maintenance utilities I’ve had access to in the last few years. Truth is, aside from the disclosure/non-disclosure issue, I’m just not into a “one click simple” computer maintenance solution. I’d rather rely on, as I do, a collection of freeware apps which are specially designed to address specific issues.

And, first among these freeware applications is Glary Utilities. So, from a personal perspective, I find little to argue with in Glarysoft’s “indispensable” claim. Since discovering Glary Utilities years ago, it has remained my go-to application for maintenance and cleanup.

Here’s why:

Glary Utilities, (last updated May 26, 2011 – version 2.34), is a terrific collection of system tools and utilities to fix, speed up, maintain, and protect a PC.

A great deal of personal experience with Glary Utilities has convinced me, that a typical user, particularly a new user, will really benefit by having this application on their system. Twenty million+ downloads from Download.com alone, speaks to the popularity of this indispensable application (last time I reviewed this app – February 11, 2010 – this figure stood at eight million).

Using Glary Utilities, it’s easy to tweak, repair, optimize and improve your system’s performance; and its ease of operation makes it ideal for less experienced users.

You can quickly find the tool you’re looking for: disk cleaner, uninstall manager, secure file deletion, memory optimizer, (a gentle) registry cleaner, duplicate file finder, tracks eraser, empty folder finder; a very convenient feature for those of us who like to test drive new software.

Prior to making important changes to your system, Glary Utilities creates a backup copy first, a very important feature.

A quick piece of advice: never allow an application to make system changes, without creating a system restore point first.

As well, you can manage and delete browser add-ons, analyze disk space usage, find, fix, or remove broken Windows shortcuts, and manage startup programs.

A one click maintenance solution is included, but I’m not a fan of this since I like to be much more hands on. But, less experienced users, should find this feature useful.

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Hands on users will appreciate the functional and easily understood GUI.

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You can comfortably fine tune the application using the clear and precise Settings Menu.

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Fast Facts:

Disk Cleaner Removes junk data from your disks and recovers disk space

Registry Cleaner scans and cleans your registry to improve your system’s performance

Shortcuts Fixer eliminates the errors in your start menu & desktop shortcuts

Startup Manager manages programs which run automatically on startup

Memory Optimizer monitors and optimizes free memory in the background

Tracks Eraser erases all traces, evidence, cookies, internet history and more

File Shredder erases files permanently

Internet Explorer Assistant manages Internet Explorer Add-ons

Disk Analysis provides detailed information files and folders

Duplicate Files Finder searches for space-wasting duplicate files

Empty Folders Finder removes empty folders (I love this feature)

Uninstall Manager completely uninstall programs

Languages: 23 Languages available.

System Requirements: Windows 7, 2000, XP, Vista. 32/64bit versions.

Download at: Download.com

A portable version is also available which you can download at GlarySoft.

During the install, pay particular attention to the offer to install the Ask toolbar. I suggest you reject this offer.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Computer Maintenance, Computer Tools, downloads, Freeware, Portable Applications, Privacy, Software, System Utilities, USB, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

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

imageAs regular readers here know, I’m a BIG fan of community based applications – applications in which combined user experiences are used to drive the functionality of an application. What could be better, and more useful, than to use the experiences of the very people who use the product? If there’s a better way for companies to “listen” to the customer, I’ve yet to hear it.

Last year, I reviewed a series of impressive products (including SlimCleaner Beta) from SlimWare Utilities, a U.S.-based software company which states that its mission is to provide crowd-sourced applications that “will revolutionize the performance of personal computers.”

Having experienced the value of the company’s first three crowd-sourced applications, I’d have to agree – this developer is on the right track.

As of yesterday, SlimCleaner’s final release became available for download and, I think you’ll find this application worthy of your consideration as an addition to your system utility toolbox.

Click on any graphic to expand to original size.

For illustrative purposes, I’ve selected only the Windows clean function. But notice, the application offers additional cleaning capabilities – including Applications and Browsers.

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The optimization function allows access to startup entries and most importantly, system services. Optimizing services can often improve system response time.

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The built-in application uninstaller essential duplicates the “add/remove” applet in Windows. Still, having access to this function in an all-in-one application like SlimCleaner, is a helpful addition.

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I’m partial to file shredders so I’m happy to see one included here. I’m impressed with the choice of selectable shred levels.

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If system security is high on your list, then you’ll be pleased to see SlimCleaner added a “Hijack Log” function which includes the ability to query selectable entries through a cloud based AV (Virus Total).

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I tested this feature and the results, returned in just a few seconds, indicated the selected startup entry was clean.

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Application settings are uncomplicated, and very easy to understand. You’ll notice in the following screen capture that you will be given the opportunity to install the program to a USB key.

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Freeware applications often fall short in providing comprehensive help. SlimCleaner’s help setup on the other hand, is quite extensive – as the following screen capture indicates.

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Finally, the most common Windows tools are easily accessible through the applications GUI. Notice both a CPU and a RAM usage meter in the following graphic. Theses meters are viewable in all GUI Views.

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Fast facts:

Optimizer – Disable non-essential background process and services to make your computer run faster. SlimCleaner uses up-to-date cloud data to customize settings for optimal performance.

Uninstaller – Unlike the Windows uninstaller, SlimCleaner’s uninstaller helps you make an informed decision. When it lists the programs on your computer, you instantly get ratings and user feedback, telling you what the web community thinks of each application – whether it’s good, optional, or just a waste of space.

Shredder – Rest easy knowing that you have the ability to not only delete private data, but shred it. SlimCleaner lets you remove files using a process that makes it impossible for them to be recovered.

Hijack Log – Get a fully interactive list of all the software components running on your PC: Toolbars, Services, Startup Entries, Codecs, Drivers, ActiveX Objects and more. Take control of your computer’s functions by getting on-demand information about any given entry.

Windows Tools – One-Click access to all of Windows’ monitoring and diagnostics tools. Don’t hunt for the stats and information you need, get a head’s up display. From one panel you can access the Device Manager, Security Settings, Backup and Restore, System Information and more.

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

Download at: Developer’s site – Slimcleaner.com

If you’re looking for a freeware application that not only gets in there and cleans out the deep dirt, but offers a range of additional functionality, then SlimCleaner should definitely make your short list.

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Soluto Latest Release – Fixes Crashes And Speeds Up Your Boot Time

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Soluto describes itself as being in the “anti-frustration software” game, and they couldn’t be more right.

The latest Soluto release (May 25, 2011), not only continues to analyze and offer recommendations to speed up your boot time, but through increased functionality, remedies are available to deal with system crashes. On top of that, the application can guide through the process of determining which Browser add-ons you should consider removing

According to the developer

Soluto employs innovative low-level Windows kernel technologies to identify what users are asking their PC to do, and what their PCs do in return. Soluto is able to pinpoint and analyze what resource obstacles stand in the way of users’ desired actions. These can be I/O issues, network issues, resource locking, and so on.

Having run Soluto since the first public Beta and, having been part of the closed Beta testing group for this new release – I can safely say, that this is an application that lives up to it’s promises. The term “must have application” is used so often that it’s lost it’s luster but, Soluto really is a must have application – particularly for a typical user.

Installation is straightforward, but in the event of a bad install the application automatically creates a restore point. Given the complexity of the application, you may find the install time slightly longer than normal. Not to worry – the installer is chugging away at the background work.

Click on any of the following graphics to expand to original size.

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As the following screen shot indicates, on re-boot, you will have the opportunity to make adjustments in your boot configuration.

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On system startup, you’ll notice that the application is auditing your current boot sequence.

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Since the application places a control icon in the system tray, launching the program is a breeze.

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The user interface is crafted in a simple no nonsense style.

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Here, I’ve taken a look at Soluto’s recommendations to reduce my boot time. Potentially, I could reduce my boot time by a further 10 seconds, or so.

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While Soluto will suggest Browser add-ons which you might consider removing, you should use caution here. After all, if you installed these add-ons, you must have considered their relative value when you did so.

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As the following graphic indicates, there are no crashes, yet!

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But, should unexplained system crashes become an issue, Soluto promises to jump in and help out. Now that’s very cool!

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In the following graphic (supplied by the developer), the applications crash analytics function, and solution recommendations, are illustrated.

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Fast facts:

Chop Boot – allows you to understand your boot, discover which applications are slowing it down (and keep running later in the background, affecting your ongoing experience), and allows you to significantly improve it.

Lighten Web Browser – Shows you which toolbars, add-ons and plug-ins are ‘riding’ on your browser, what they do, and what they look like. Helps you easily remove unneeded ones, making your browser faster and more stable, and shows you whether other users chose to keep them or disable them. It also lets you revert back to your search provider of choice in case it was ‘hijacked’ by other software.

Heal Crashes – Changes the way you experience application crashes (that is, when applications unexpectedly ‘die’ and prompt Windows to send ‘Crash Report’ dialogs), analyzes application crashes against tens of millions of crashes already collected, and provides solutions to prevent them from recurring.

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

Download at: Developers site – Soluto.com

While the application is still at the Beta stage, I should point out – I have yet to experience any stability issues with either this version, or any of the prior versions.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Beta Software, Computer Maintenance, Computer Tools, downloads, Freeware, New Computer User Software Tools, Slow Computer, Software, System Utilities, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Check Disk GUI–Check Hard Drive System Integrity The Easy Way

This past week I put up a post on Hard Drive maintenance – Don’t Wait Until Your Hard Drive Goes “Clunk-Clunk” – Check It Out Now With These Two Free Tools – which led to a query from Michael F., as to whether I had checked out a super little freeware application; CheckDiskGUI.

In fact I have. I originally posted on CheckDiskGUI in November 2010, but since CheckDiskGUI was recently updated to version 1.1.1, I’ve retested it. While I didn’t find any noticeable improvements, I continue to see this application as part of a sophisticated computer user’s system toolbox.

Here’s why:

imageFrom time to time, as part of your computer maintenance routine, it’s a good idea to check your Hard Drive’s file system integrity, by running Windows system integrity checker – CHKDSK (short for Check Disk).

There are a number of ways to run CHKDSK. If you’re an old MS DOS hound like me, then you’re probably comfortable running from the command prompt, using the following switches.

/c – NTFS only. Skips checking of cycles within the folder structure.

/f – Fixes errors on the volume. The volume must be locked. If Chkdsk cannot lock the volume, it offers to check it the next time the computer starts.

/i – NTFS only. Performs a less vigorous check of index entries.

/l – NTFS only. Displays current size of the log file.

/r – Locates bad sectors and recovers readable information (implies /f ). If Chkdsk cannot lock the volume, it offers to check it the next time the computer starts.

/v – On FAT. Displays the full path and name of every file on the volume.

On NTFS. Displays cleanup messages, if any.

/x – NTFS only. Forces the volume to dismount first, if necessary. All opened handles to the volume are then invalid (implies /f ).

/? – Displays this list of Chkdsk switches.

After CHKDSK has completed (if you’ve used the /f, or the /r, switches, this will only occur following a reboot since the volume is locked when in use), you can then view the Application Log by launching the Windows Event Viewer.

If you’re more comfortable operating in a graphical user interface environment the following method will suit your needs.

In Windows Explorer open the volume’s “Property” Tab “Tools” – click on “Error checking” and then “check now”.

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In this example, I’ve checked “fix errors”, and “recover bad sectors”, the equivalent of the /f and /r switches, in the command prompt. As I said earlier, these commands will not be executed, until a system restart.

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This method is not terrible complicated, but it’s still lacking a report capability. Once again, the users must launch Windows Event Viewer in order to view the Application Log.

As an alternative to either of the these two methods, I recommend that you run the Chkdsk command using the free CheckDiskGUI application.

The following screen captures will give you a quick overview of this small, but fairly powerful application.

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Read only results – no “Fix”, or Fix and Recover”, options selected. However, notice that a full report is available.

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Executing in “Fix”, or “Fix and Recover mode”, will allow two options – you can either run the commands at system restart, or immediately – by choosing to dismount the selected volume.

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System requirements: Win7 x32, Win7 x64, Vista, Vista x64, XP.

Download at: Major Geeks

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Fix Up To 50 Windows 7, And Vista Problems, With Free FixWin

image You just have to love Windows as an operating system – it makes it so easy to DO so many things. Often however, Windows does not make it easy to UNDO, or “fix” things. It’s not uncommon that attempting to undo things, does nothing more than create additional problems.

If you are familiar with working with Registry entries, you can fix virtually anything, but…..

So, if you’ve been looking for an easy way to fix issues such as, Win Explorer not starting at boot up, CD drive or DVD drive is missing or not being recognized by Windows, or other programs, or the Device Manager is not functioning correctly (not as uncommon as you might think), then the recently released FixWin freeware application, could be the perfect solution.

It’s important to note however, FixWin does NOT scan for problems. YOU, have to recognize that you have the problem – the application will then correct the problem, provided of course it is one of the 50 very common problems the application is designed to deal with.

The FixWin interface consists of 5 easy to work with tabs:

Windows Explorer

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Internet & Connectivity

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Windows Media

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System Tools

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Misc. Additional Fixes

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How to use this application (from the developers):

We first suggest that you run the System File Checker Utility. The button provided on the Welcome page, will ‘run sfc /scannow‘ and will check for and replace any corrupted Windows system files. It is expected to take anywhere from 5-10 minutes. If asked to, do reboot.

Next we insist that you create a System Restore Point. The provided button will create one, called Safe Point. We always recommend that you create one before making any changes to your system. Should you wish or need too, you can always go back to this Safe Point.

Having done that, apply at most one fix at a time and restart your computer. Please check if things are to your satisfaction; and if not, you have the option of restoring back immediately.

Since this application does not require installation, it’s a perfect portable application to carry on your “tech tools” flash drive, for the times you get those inevitable calls from family, or friends – “Uh, I don’t know what I did, but….”

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

Download at: The Windows Club

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Advanced SystemCare Free – Version 4.0 Blasts Off Today

imageIObit has been offering a comprehensive PC care utility (Advanced SystemCare), that takes a one-click approach to help protect, repair, and optimize your computer, since 2006. IObit continues this strong tradition with the release of Advanced SystemCare Free Version 4.0, which is now available for download.

This latest edition continues to provide a super convenient solution for PC maintenance and protection – including the ability to complete all maintenance in a minute or two, with just one click.

There are a host of improvements in this new edition but, for now, I’ll focus on just two, since I haven’t yet had a chance to comprehensively test the application.

One click to solve as many as 10 common PC problems – With one click, it scans and repairs ten PC problems and protects your PC from hidden security threats. The newly added “Disk Scan” and “Vulnerability Fix”, helps scan and fix disk errors and Windows vulnerabilities.

More than 20 dedicated smart tools for everyday PC maintenance – Replacing the original “Utilities” module in version 3, Advanced SystemCare 4 integrates IObit’s latest Toolbox, which has more than 20 dedicated smart tools for everyday PC maintenance, or advanced needs – including tools for system cleaning, optimizing and repairing, tools for security enhancement, and tools for full control over the system.

Installation and configuration are straightforward and one screen “follow the bouncing ball” simple. I should point out that a toolbar is no longer offered as part of the install.

A new and improved user interface, focuses on  four major PC areas – as shown in the following graphic.

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First pass test scan results, using the Quick Care Module. Click on graphic to expand.

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First pass test scan results, using the Deep Care Module which includes all of the tools in the Quick Care Module plus Passive Defense, Disk Scan, Vulnerability Fix, and Disk Defrag. Click on graphic to expand.

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Newly added Toolbox Module. Click on graphic to expand.

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Turbo Boost Module. I’ve illustrated two functions here. Click on graphics to expand.

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Fast Facts:

Extremely Easy to UseCompletes its work with just one click! Scans, repairs and secures your PC in one minute.

Next-generation Free Windows XP/Vista/7 Registry Cleaner and System OptimizationSafely cleans registry junks, compacts registry bloat and defragments the registry for blistering-fast performance.

Quick and Extensive System Clean-upBoosts your system’s performance with Advanced SystemCare Free, the powerful free XP registry cleaner by cleaning missing files, destroying unwanted files, deleting obsolete files, and removing junk files. Supports deep-cleansing of more than 50 types of junk files.

Speeds Up PC Performance and Internet AccessTunes up Windows by releasing the built-in power of your system. Dramatically improves both system and Internet performance by up to 400%.

Enjoy That New PC Feeling AgainWhatever version of Windows you’re running, enjoy that “good as new” speed usually only experienced on a brand new PC.

Powerful Hard Drive DefragmentationFast, powerfully and incredibly effective Disk Defrag function to defragment hard drives – up to 10 times faster than other defragmentation tools.

Defends PC Security with Extra ProtectionSecure your PC – quickly and easily. Scans and removes spyware and adware using up-to-date definition files. Prevents spyware, hackers and hijackers from installing malicious items on your computer. Erases and updates your PC’s activity history with this powerful free XP registry cleaner. Security and Privacy assured!

Fixes Multiple System ErrorsMore than a mere free XP registry cleaner – keeps your PC stably and running at peak efficiency.

Safe and Free100% free with no spyware or adware! Advanced SystemCare Free is a safe and trusted PC protection and maintenance solution from a leading software vendor.

System requirements: Windows  7, Vista, XP, 2000 (32bit and 64bit).

Download at: Download.com

Bottom line:

As well as keeping your machine physically clean, it is always good practice to keep your computer’s operating system and subsystems clean, so that you can get maximum performance from your machine. This free application can certainly help you do just that.

It’s no accident that Advanced SystemCare  (all versions cumulatively), is listed number one in CNET’s diagnostic software downloads.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Anti-Malware Tools, Computer Maintenance, Computer Tools, downloads, Freeware, Integrated Tune Up Solutions, IObit, Slow Computer, Software, System Utilities, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools