The Counter That Editorial: System Clean-up utilities.

So this week, seeing as it’s late summer, and there aren’t any interesting game release’s coming out for a couple of weeks. I figured I’d try and catch up on my backlog. I’ve written and sent off a review for Orange UK that they had asked me to do (they aren’t going to like it), and I figured I’d borrow my brothers laptop so I could try out a system tune/clean up tool Editor Kenny asked me to review. Now, I have to admit that if I had seen it advertised anywhere online, I would have cried malware and ignored it, especially as the tool is called System Tune-up Utilities 2012, I mean seriously? Hands up who wouldn’t have done the same? Everyone? Oh, wait who’s……. Editor Kenny, I see didn’t put his hand up. Yeah, shut up smarty pants! (By the way, how’s the hurricane? I heard someone sent Jim Cantore.)

System Tune-up Utilities 2012 itself was pretty uninspiring to the point where I’m not going to bother writing anything serious about it. It would be a waste of my time (thanks for the free license though), but it did get me thinking: Why are there so many tools like this out there, and why do all the crap ones like Ccleaner get the notoriety?

The conclusion I came to was mainly paranoia. With malware, spyware, and virus’ so prevalent in the Windows environment (no, these tools don’t exist for any other platform), and the cost of recovery from a major outbreak being so high, not only financially but also emotionally, people are scared to stray away from what’s popular or what their friend or colleague recommended.

As an example, we will take Ccleaner. You will have noticed I called it “crap”. Now I can hear the voice of the internetz screaming back at me “but it’s not crap! You are crap!” Well, let’s take a look at what Ccleaner actually does, shall we?

First up, it does a temp folder clean, browser cache clean, other basic stuff. There is another tool that does that, Do you want to know what it’s called? Windows Disk Cleanup and it’s been included in every version of windows since Windows 98. Yeah, it’s been around that long! And it’s included in your operating system. Ccleaner doesn’t just do everything Disk Cleanup does though; Ccleaner will clean up your recent documents shortcut on the start menu because “it speeds up your system.” Sorry guys, but that is BS. If anything it’s going make the first couple of loads of the start menu slower as it refreshes the MRU cache and then starts filling it up. Same with the Thumbnail cache and all the other Most Recently Used list’s. The only advantage you get from cleaning them is maybe 150MB of freed space for maybe a couple of days while Windows repopulates them. The Paid version of Ccleaner has features to clear the DNS cache, which you don’t want to do unless it’s really necessary (and you’ll know when it is). You can also clear the font cache, the windows size, and location cache and many other supposedly useful things. All of which serve no benefit or useful purpose.

So why are these programs that serve no more benefit than the standard windows drive cleaning tool, at best and at worst, actually harm system performance by cleaning things that should be left alone, so popular? Well in my opinion, and I hope you’re all ready for this….

It’s because the vast majority of PC users are thicker than set concrete!

Its only because the companies that make these tool pay tech magazines and websites to give their programs good reviews that that friend or colleague thinks it’s a good product. Before they even tried it, their opinion of the tool was twisted, and when you combine that with a lack of knowledge of what the program is doing does it then get recommendations from trusted sources. Granted there are some tools out there that do more. For example, System Tune up has a network share security analyser, but that is just broken. It doesn’t reanalyse the shares, and it also doesn’t allow for multi-zone firewalls, like the one included with Windows 7, so it makes assumptions that perfectly OK things, like allowing admin access to root drive shares, is not a risk to system integrity.

So what is the conclusion to this? I don’t think there is one to be honest. There is definitely a lesson to be learned though, and that lesson is: The next time someone you know suggests you try some program for your PC, don’t.

,

Leave a Reply