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Review: AVG PC Tuneup 2011

08 October 2010, Mike Williams

When installing a product from a security company we normally wonder how much it’s going to slow our PC down. But AVG want to show that it doesn’t have to be that way.

Their new AVG PC Tuneup 2011 is a complete optimisation package that aims to reduce clutter, fix Registry errors, optimise Windows, and generally enhance just about every aspect of your PCs performance.

This power doesn’t make the program complex, though, and it starts very simply. Launch a System Scan in a click and it will scan for Registry errors, junk files and disk fragmentation, before returning with a detailed report of everything it’s uncovered. And one more click on the “Repair” button will resolve all those issues with surprising speed, giving your system an immediate performance boost.

If you like to check what this kind of tool is doing to your PC, though, you’ll find plenty of controls and options here. If PC Tuneup 2011 says it’s found some “Internet Downloads” that can be deleted, say, you might wonder what those are, but a quick click on the Internet Downloads section will list them all. If the files seem surplus to requirements then you can leave them to be wiped; if you spot something that you’d like to keep, clear the checkbox to its left and it won’t be touched.

The System Scan isn’t quite as thorough as some of the best cleanup tools (though it’s not bad). And a little annoyingly, it won’t tell you up-front how much hard drive space you can save by deleting whatever it’s found. It’s safe, and easy to use, though, and can even be run on a simple schedule to keep your system optimised, so on balance it’s definitely a tool worth having.

Especially as it’s just a small part of what AVG PC Tuneup 2011 has to offer.

System Advisor

The second section of the program, System Advisor, quickly scans your PC for configuration issues and reports on possible problems.

You can expect plenty of advice on your Windows services, for instance. And on our test PC, this was occasionally a little questionable.

We were told that “if you don’t send faxes using this computer, you can free up memory by disabling Fax service”, for example, but the fax service wasn’t running on our system. Disabling it would free up nothing at all. We would prevent it from running, of course, but that would only happen anyway if it was required for something, in which case disabling the service may cause problems.

Other recommendations included disabling Error Reporting, which would prevent you getting feedback on crashes via Windows Problem Reports and Solutions. And it was suggested that we disable the Indexing Service, a step that would greatly slow down any searches we needed to make in Windows and other apps that use the Service (Outlook, say).

To be fair to AVG, it does explain the last two points, if briefly. And elsewhere the System Advisor does make many less contentious suggestions. On our test system it pointed out that we’d be safer not caching encrypted IE pages, for instance; it listed many other services that are reasonable candidates for disabling, like Remote Registry; and the Advisor highlighted elements of AVG PC Tuneup 2011 that we hadn’t used yet, like defragment system files as boot time, offering to set this up in a click.

The System Advisor produced plenty of reasonable advice, then, with just a few questionable points (though none that would cause any real harm). On balance it’s a useful tool, just as long as you’re careful, you evaluate each suggestion, and choose only the ones that you’re positive will work for you.

Resource Usage

The Resource Usage section of PC Tuneup 2011 is AVG’s take on Task Manager: simpler in some areas, but rather more intelligent and useful in others.

Click the Resource Usage tab, then, and you’ll immediately see small performance graphs that highlight CPU, RAM, Disk and Network activity. The program will also point out which process is hogging the most resources,in each category, so if (say) your hard drive is thrashing then the culprit may be identified here. Although there are no guarantees: the information is displayed dynamically and there’s no history, no way to look back at who was doing what a couple of minutes ago.

Click “View Details”, though, and there are more details available via AVG’s Task Manager. So you can view your applications and processes, for instance, along with their current CPU, memory, disk and network use. There’s not the fine detail you’ll get from Windows – no Working Set, no Private Working Set, just “Memory” – but most people will find it more straightforward and easier to use.

And there are extra functions, too, interesting options that you won’t find with Windows alone.

If a process is being a particular nuisance, say, and you can’t close it down, then right-clicking it provides a Freeze option that should stop the program in its tracks.

Running apps and processes are also rated as “Trustworthy”, or not, which in theory should be interesting if you’re looking for malware. Right now it seems to rate rather too many programs as “Unknown” for this to be useful, though, even extremely well known programs like Skype, so we wouldn’t rely on it too much.

There’s also a list of Locked Files, all the files that your apps have opened right now. If you’ve ever tried to move or delete a file and have Windows complain that you can’t because it’s “in use” then you’ll know this can be helpful, just to point you at the offending application. But it’s also interesting as a pointer to which programs are working on your hard drive, and what they might be doing.

And perhaps best of all is the Search FileInspect button, which at a click will open a web page with more information on the currently selected program. It’s a real time saver, and will quickly help you figure out which processes are essential, and which can be safely disabled to free up resources and improve system performance.

Advanced Tools

The final “Tools” tab in an application like this is normally a place to hide all the junk, the feeble filler applets that extend the feature list, but are so weak you’ll never actually bother to use them. But AVG PC Tuneup 2011 could not be more different: there’s more than enough tools here to create an excellent PC maintenance suite, all on their own.

There’s plenty of help on offer to clean up your hard drive, for instance. An “Explore Disks” option highlights where your drive space is being used; a Remove Duplicates applet tracks down duplicate files; and a Cleanup tool removes leftover junk in a few clicks.

Optimisation tools start with an excellent defrag utility. A detailed Startup Manager gives you control over many of the programs that may be launched when Windows starts, even shell and browser extensions. An “Optimise Services” tool provides an easy way to decide which Windows services you need, and the Internet Optimizer tunes your web connection for the best possible speeds.

You also get a useful set of privacy tools, to erase your web and application histories, or securely wipe everything from individual files to entire drives.

Other applets include a Registry defragmenter, an Undelete tool, and a capable system information program.

And last, but not least, there’s a full-featured tweaking tool. This lets you customise the Start menu, taskbar, Explorer, security settings, IE and Office, start and shutdown options, more than 200 settings in total.

Put it all together and you’ve got a hugely impressive library of PC maintenance tools. And with helpful automated wizards for beginners, as well as low-level controls for experts, there really is a great deal for everyone. So if your system is a mess, slower than it used to be, and generally in need of an overhaul, then turn to AVG PC Tuneup 2011 – it’ll quickly have your system back at its peak performance.

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