Anyone who primarily games on their PC can probably agree: computer upkeep can be a pain in the ass at times. Yes, there are upsides – PC Gaming Master Race and all that – but it’s not all ultra-high graphics settings and PhysX glory. You have to deal with all kinds of issues above and beyond what console gamers really have to experience: bad registry entries. Spyware. Pointless, nigh invisible software taking up valuable processing cycles or clogging up your PC’s all too finite memory. Hunting down and solving these problems – really, even being aware of them – can be a considerable hassle, and those who aren’t particularly inclined to do technical work with their PCs are generally on the hunt for easy solutions. That’s where software like System Mechanic comes in – an all-in-one performance booster package that promises to help get your system running more efficiently with a minimum of hassle. Quite a promise, that. But does it deliver? Good question – I answer that after the cut.
First off, let me say that System Mechanic starts off perfectly. Instead of throwing you right into the middle of the software tools without any explanation, you’re instead greeted by a welcome screen filled with links to update notes, an explanation of the software’s value, and a series of articles and videos that go into detail explaining just what each of the various tools actually do – and how to get the most out of them. That’s important in an informative sense, but also to put you at ease. Really, it’s easy to get worried about even using software like this, since there’s always that vague fear that you’re a button press away from screwing your PC up in ways that the software itself can’t fix – and then you’re right on back to calling up tech support or bothering your more skillful PC-using friends, which is probably what you were trying to avoid by buying this software to begin with. Easing the user into the features is a big plus.
By the way, those features? There are a lot of them, and they come in the form of a wide variety of tools. System Mechanic will detect whether or not you have an anti-virus package installed on your system, whether or not you’ve got a firewall up – basic internet security, in other words. There are tools for optimizing your system’s registry (along with the option to back it up before you attempt this), to analyze your internet speed, to securely erase private data you want eliminated… really, too many to mention in a simple review. Suffice to say, the software rounds itself out with a lot of nifty tools to tweak and maintain your PC.
Still, a lot of these tools are merely ‘nice things to have’ – neat, but not exactly ‘time to lay down money for this’ essential. The real central app, the one that System Mechanic really seems to stake its reputation on, is the EnergyBooster tool. Despite how it’s explained on the page, the general concept behind the EnergyBooster is straightforward – it determines what processes are running on your system, checks against a list to determine what’s essential and what’s not, and turns off the non-essential or superfluous processes. This doesn’t just target software you’ve specifically loaded up, but more core Operating System processes that, frankly, you may not even be aware of. Best of all, these changes can be reverted pretty easily – so you can have your system running the way it normally does when you’re simply browsing the web or doing not-very-intensive tasks. But when you want to squeeze every ounce of performance possible from your hardware so you can run a game at the most resource-demanding settings, the EnergyBooster can be turned on to give you an edge.
I made use of this myself, and I will say, the software seems to deliver on this front. I have no benchmarks to share, but I did notice an increase in performance after running the EnergyBooster. I should warn, for those of you who really like the flashier aspects of Windows 7 – for instance, window previews when you alt-tab or hover your mouse cursor over a running process in a taskbar – the EnergyBooster is going to turn that off immediately. Squeezing every bit of performance out of your PC, remember? Well, flashy OS features like that come with an OS cost, so that’s that. Still, after I learned that you could revert back to your pre-EnergyBooster state with ease, I started to appreciate the program more. It didn’t feel like I was running a brand new PC or anything, but the tool did make me feel as if I could have a performance edge whenever I used it. Just as advertised, really.
Now, so far I’ve talked up this software, because really – as far as system diagnostics and performance tweaking goes, it’s a nice package. It cleared up redundant files on my PC, it helped sort out some registry issues, and chances are I haven’t fully plumbed the depths of what it can really do. The problem comes with the cost, because System Mechanic happens to have jumped on a bandwagon that I have little patience for. As of this writing, you can pick up System Mechanic for $39.95 USD (discounted from $49.95 USD) Except, this doesn’t get you the software itself per se. What it gets you is a one year subscription to the software package. Now, it isn’t quite as bad as it sounds, since this subscription allows you to install the software on all the PCs in your house – so you don’t need to buy a separate subscription for each and every PC you own. But honestly, that seems high to me, and the subscription based pricing comes close to being intolerable. But that may say more about my purchase preferences than System Mechanic itself.
Which leaves me in a predicament with this review. System Mechanic does work as advertised. It truly is a nice package of convenient PC diagnostic and tune-up tools. The articles and information it comes with are refreshing, the presentation is golden. But I can’t shake the feeling that this is a pricy piece of software that probably would appeal more to a user who was after peace of mind with regards to their PC’s efficiency, rather than as a solution for hardcore gamers looking to truly maximize their gaming experience. For those of you curious – and if nothing else, System Mechanic is worth being curious about – there’s a free trial available for download.
1/7/2013 Update: One of my main reservations about System Mechanic is the price. However, I’ve been made aware that the pricing scheme is a bit more forgiving than I thought at first. The short of it is, that pricing isn’t set in stone – deals are offered now and then, particularly to subscribers to Iolo’s newsletter. For instance, right now the company is offering 1 year renewals for a sizable discount. So for those of you interested in this product but who are put off by the subscription cost, keep in mind that there are bargains to keep an eye out for.