One easy misconception to make with your PC is to assume that its gradual slowdown and increasing lack of stability is down to its physical health – that the only remedy is to persevere for as long as possible and then buy a new computer. In actual fact, in the vast majority of cases, system instability and sluggishness is down to the state of your Windows installation – reinstall Windows from scratch on a freshly formatted drive and your computer is returned to new.
Of course, the downside to all of this is reinstalling takes the best part of an uninterrupted day to complete. It’s obviously far better to extend the life of your current installation by keeping your PC well maintained. This can be done manually, or you can opt for a program like MAGIX PC Check & Tuning 2011 to do the job for you. The question is, does MAGIX’s system utility provide a comprehensive set of tools for the job, and can they be relied on? Read on to find out.
In a nutshell
Once installed, MAGIX PC Check & Tuning 2011 consists of a number of components. First, there’s the PC Check utility, which sits in the background performing various checks on an hourly basis, alerting you to any potential problems it finds. Then there’s the “1-click quick maintenance” tool: click this to view a list of common maintenance tasks – tick the ones you want to perform, click the button and leave the program to do the rest.
The final component is the main PC Check & Tuning tool itself, which is where you take full control of the maintenance process. This offers a large collection of tools – some integrated into the main program itself, others launched as separate standalone tools – and overlaps to some degree the other two components. However, the three aim to dovetail by offering you a staggered approach to PC maintenance: the PC Check utility keeps a zealous eye on key aspects of system health, while the one-click tool is designed to be run on a weekly basis. Finally, the main component is there for occasional use to quickly optimise and speed up your system.
The PC Check tool is accessible from an icon in the Notification area. Click this to summon its pop-up dialogue box, inviting you to start a system check if you haven’t already. Click the button and off it goes, but what exactly is checked? There are eight available tests, although not are all selected by default, which is a little surprising. The tests cover a range of areas – of definite value are the hardware checks (processor temperature and hard drive physical health), along with checks for drive fragmentation, driver updates and superfluous files. PC Check will also verify your security software is running and updated – a little superfluous as Windows performs its own built-in checks anyway, but it does no harm being here too.
Click the settings button on the pop-up dialogue to choose what gets tested, plus determine how often the check is performed (you can extend the checks from hourly all the way up to once a day, or switch off the automatic check) and what messages it reports. With these key checks done for you, it frees up the rest of the suite to cover other aspects of PC maintenance.
The “1-click quick maintenance” tool is something you’ll run on a weekly or maybe even monthly basis. Its main aim is to clean out redundant files, internet settings and Registry entries from your computer, and once again a list is presented with some items ticked while others aren’t. It’s all pretty self-explanatory, but make sure you untick “Delete list of last accessed documents” if you make use of the Recent Documents feature (that includes accessing previously opened files via jumplists in Windows 7).
We’re also pleased to see the “Clean Registry” entry is unticked by default – the Registry cleaning tool is also accessible via the main program interface, where you’ll get more detail about what will be cleaned – you’ll see why this is important later.
Once you’ve selected your options – you can also defragment your hard disk and clean out old System Restore points from here too – just click the “Carry out system maintenance” button and let MAGIX PC Check & Tuning do the rest.
The main attraction
These additional tools take care of regular maintenance tasks, and add valuable extras to the package, but the main program is where most of your tweaks take place, and if you want to give your computer a shot in the arm shortly after installing the program, you should start here.
MAGIX PC Check & Tuning’s main interface is split into seven easily identifiable sections. The PC Check section replicates some of the checks performed by the two satellite utilities already covered, but also adds some more of its own too. As an aside, it’s not immediately obvious, but you need to click the “Check PC button” each time you visit to update the review of your setup. You can then opt to fix all problems with a single click, or go through each category fixing only those you want to.
Although the traffic light system employed here gives a good overview of how the program rates your computer, it doesn’t provide much in the way of useful information to help you determine if you agree with PC Check & Tuning’s findings. Novices may not care – just click the button and there’s a good chance your computer will quickly start to show signs of improvement, although injudicious use of the Registry cleaner can cause more problems than it fixes, not all of which will be immediately apparent. We cover this in more depth below.
Thankfully you don’t need to take your life in your hands here – you’ll find more detailed analysis of the various findings on the other tabs provided, something more seasoned PC users will welcome. It’s just a shame there isn’t more direct integration between the checks displayed here and the more detailed analysis elsewhere.
Get detailed information
The other tabs cover both the quick-fire checks performed on the main screen, plus some other useful tweaks and settings. The “Increase performance” tab is where your computer will benefit most: a system start tool enables you to see what’s starting with your PC, then choose whether or not to disable certain entries to speed up performance. It offers some unique features not found in other startup managers, but it’s not quite at the same level as the free Soluto tool.
“Configure Services” can deliver some real performance gains too, freeing up memory and speeding up startup in much the same way as selectively disabling startup entries does. Disappointingly the “Defragment drives” option doesn’t link to a dedicated defragger, but instead takes you to the basic Windows defragmenter tool – definitely something MAGIX needs to revise in a future version; in the meantime, opt for a program like Puran Defrag Free instead.
The “Clean Registry” and “Defragment Registry” links both optimise the Registry, but in different ways. On its own, cleaning out allegedly redundant Registry entries does nothing for performance – it’s the actual defragmentation of the Registry files themselves that can reap limited performance gains. MAGIX’s Registry cleaner is also a little too over-zealous for our liking, finding over 200 so-called problems in our Registry (other tools found less than 100 by way of comparison). However, you can review each entry individually and untick it, so only those you’re sure are safe to delete get removed, plus there’s an option to restore previously deleted entries, should something go wrong after the tweaks are applied.
The “Increase performance” section is completed with a driver update button – a good way to improve performance and fix problems – and an internet tuning function, which is disappointingly sparse on both options (Internet Explorer, Firefox and a rather vague “general”) and explanations.
The “Free up memory” tab contains five options, most of which deal with freeing up hard drive space rather than clearing memory. The “Clean hard drive” and “Delete Internet history” tools merely replicate what’s covered by the one-click tool, while the “Uninstall Programs” tool is simply a redesigned version of Windows’ own Program and Features Control Panel. That leaves two of interest: “Data Manager” lets you visualise your hard drive space in such a way as to quickly expose which folders and files are taking up the most room, which can then be deleted from within the tool to free up more space. The downside here is that the scanning process can take some time. Meanwhile “Data Shredder” allows you to wipe individual files, folders or free space to ensure deleted data is really deleted. It’s not as sophisticated as some tools out there, but it offers all the key functionality you need.
The Secure data tab includes several useful back-up tools, a data recovery tool and the ability to protect PC Check & Tuning with a password from unauthorised users. Select the “Configure Windows” tab to fine-tune your Windows settings – you can also manually adjust the swapfile settings from here. Get detailed system information about your PC from the “Info – My PC” tab – you can also review what changes to your system PC Check & Tuning has made from here, and then potentially save money on your electricity bill by visiting the “Save power” tab and pick one of the MAGIX power saving plans.
MAGIX PC Check & Tuning 2011 contains a comprehensive set of system optimisation and cleanup tools, all of which are reasonably accessible and easy to manage. Although the one-click option feels a little superfluous, simply replicating a lot of features found inside the main program, some will find it a useful shortcut to quickly cleaning up their PC. The automatic PC Check tool is a useful feature, although it could perhaps cover a more comprehensive range of system checks (how about a memory checker, for example?).
The key criteria for a program like this is that it improves PC performance, and if your computer has been creaking under the seams then it can definitely help breathe new life into it, putting off its replacement or a complicated, time-consuming Windows reinstall. Less experienced users and those who do not wish to spend hours tinkering with system settings will get the most benefit out of it, but experienced users may find it can fine-tune their system too.
The final consideration is price, and the good news is that MAGIX PC Check & Tuning offers exceptional value for money. Not only is it £10 cheaper than most of its rivals, it comes with a three-PC licence, enabling you to use it across your home. Now that has to be worth thinking about.