There are a number of ways in which you can keep Windows running smoothly, and the operating system even includes a few tools that can help to keep your system optimized. To help make things easier than ever, Ashampoo WinOptimizer 8 is a suite of tools all designed with one goal in mind – keeping things running quickly and smoothly. A newly designed interface belies the sheer number of tools that can be found in the suite, totalling some 20 modules with hundreds of options to choose from.
Starting at the Overview screen, WinOptimizer provides a few automated, quick-fix options such as the Tuning Assistant. By answering simple questions such as whether hibernation mode should be enabled and whether or not your regularly perform files searches, a couple of resource-hungry services can be quickly disabled if they are not needed. The Maintenance section of the system Overview enables you to disable unwanted startup items and services – automatic analysis provides advice about which should be left running – as well as freeing up hard drive space.
Additional space can be freed up by deleting the Windows hibernation file and out of date backups, and both of these options are just a click away. At the Overview scree, it is also possible to activate the Live Tuner module which will then constantly monitor your computer’s use of resources and ensure that as much memory and other resources are made available to the programs and processes that need them most at any given time.
Moving to the All Modules section of WinOptimizer, and you start to get an idea of the number of tools included in the suite. The tools are broken down into six clearly labelled categories, grouping together options that are related. The Maintain System section includes the Drive Cleaner for freeing up disk space, Registry Optimizer, Internet Cleaner for deleting traces of web activity and Defrag 3. There is also a One-Click Optimizer that can be used to run all of these tools apart from the defragmenter.
The self-explanatory Improve Performance section includes a number of tools specifically related to speeding up your computer. Both the Service Manager and Startup Tuner enable you to take control of processes that start with Windows and it is possible to download rating for individual items that have been placed by other users. If you are unsure as to whether a particular item is needed or not, these ratings can help you to make the correct decision. The Process Manager works in much the same way as Windows’ Task manager, making it possible to adjust the priority of individual processes that are running, while the Internet Tuner can be used to automatically or manually change settings such as MTU and TTL to optimize your network and internet connection. The Uninstall Manager largely mimics the uninstall option found in the Control Panel, but also includes the option of removing entries for programs that are no longer installed.
Moving to the Customize Windows section, there are dozens of tweaks and personalizations that can be put in place. While some of these can help to improve performance, the majority are focused on improving the user experience by changing settings that control how key features of Windows work. In this section you’ll also find handy options that enable you to edit file associations and edit the context menu. If there is anything you need to know about your computer, head to the Analyze System section where you can find out details about your hardware, check the state of your hard drives, and benchmark your system to see how it compares to other WinOptimizer users’ machines.
There are also a number of file tools available such as secure file deletion, encryption, splitting, joining and the restoration of accidentally deleted files. With so many tools for you to choose from, it is good to see that there is the option to categorize the ones you use most frequently as favourites so that they can be accessed more easily. The Statistics section of the program is also available to help you to keep track of just how much work has been achieved with WinOptimizer.
On our test machine, WinOptimizer 8 was able to free up almost a gigabyte of hard drive space and suggested hundreds of unnecessary entries from the registry (which we left unoptimized). The hard drive was found to be 17% fragmented and this was something that integrated Defrag 3 tool sorted out very quickly. Defragmentation was completed much faster than Windows 7 built in maintenance tool and was accompanied by a helpful legend that gives a great overview of the state of your drive and how the optimization process is going. A pro-active defragmentation option is also available so you can ensure the on-going performance of your drive without the need to keep manually launching the tool.
We found that while the one-click fix options were useful, far better results could be achieved by working through each of the individual tools one by one. This obviously means that system optimization takes longer and is a more hands on affair, but the performance and stability improvements speak for themselves. Most benchmarking software only takes into account the raw performance of individual hardware components rather than taking into account the setup of a machine. As such, measuring any performance gains that came about as a result of using WinOptimizer were slightly hard to quantify, but we certainly felt that we were left with a faster system that suffered few crashes, hangs and bottlenecks.
It is easy to dismiss system optimizations tools as inducing a placebo effect and offering little more than peace of mind. However, there is no getting away from the fact that all computers need regular maintenance. While this is something that could be done manually in many cases – there is nothing to stop you from researching the registry and manually deleting or adjusting incorrect entries, or to manually search your hard drive for unnecessary files and deleting them, for instance – but this can be immensely time consuming and it is all too easy to do something wrong. By turning to WinOptimizer, the entire process is not only made significantly easier and faster, but there is also the added reassurance that any changes you choose to make can be backed up in case you should suffer adverse consequences.
It’s worth adding that a 40-day trial version is available for download and it’s worth testing on your system to make your own judgements before considering a purchase.