Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

How to get a 35 per cent faster PC for $50

A screenshot of System Mechanic 9's Windows Sidebar gadget.

Iolo Technologies recently contacted me about the latest edition of System Mechanic (version 9), a utility meant to keep PCs in prime operating condition by tidying up registries, defragmenting RAM, and eliminating system "clutter."

In theory, this tool should already be a bit of a boon for gamers looking to maximize system performance, but the latest version has a new feature called EnergyBooster that shuts down all but essential applications and processes, freeing up cycles for resource intensive applications-like the latest 3D games. According to Iolo's press literature, it's supposed to act "like a shot of rocket fuel for your PC."

I requested a copy and gave it a whirl this morning.

Story continues below advertisement

The machine I tested it on is an HP Firebird 803, a sleek little performance desktop designed by HP's Voodoo unit. I've been using it for a few months now, and haven't really noticed a difference in performance over that time. I ran a FutureMark 3DMark Vantage benchmark test on it about a month ago and it achieved a respectable overall score of P4755 3DMarks (all you need to know about this number for the purpose of this post is the higher the better).

I employed System Mechanic 9 the way I thought an average user might. Upon installation I performed a quick (as opposed to a deep) scan and discovered that, according to SM9's rating criteria, my machine was in "poor" health. It found hundreds of registry errors, over a gigabyte of system clutter, and suggested that the system's memory was running at only 29 per cent efficiency.

I clicked the repair button. Ten minutes and a system restart later my PC was in "good" health. According to a new gadget installed on my Windows sidebar (see picture above), SM9 had repaired 452 registry errors and reclaimed nearly a gigabyte of memory.

Then I opened SM9 again and found the EnergyBooster feature. Users have the option of letting EnergyBooster find extraneous applications that can be shut down to save processing power or they can poke through a list of active processes themselves to select those they believe to be unnecessary, simultaneously creating a user profile so they don't have to do it again later.

I tried the default setting first, but EnergyBooster found no apps or services to shut down. So I went in and shut down a few items myself, including some Apple media apps, WindowsSearch, and a couple of more-or-less useless security programs. It took about a minute.

System cleansed and in prime operating condition, I ran 3DMark Vantage again…and achieved some very impressive results.

My Firebird's overall performance score jumped to P6571 3DMarks, an improvement of more than 35 per cent. Meanwhile, its CPU and Graphics scores went from 9120 to 11170 and 4100 to 5778, respectively (again, higher numbers are better).

Story continues below advertisement

Of course, the real proof is in actual game performance.

So I loaded up the strategy game World in Conflict and ran its built-in graphics benchmark. The result was an increase of about 12 frames per second over what I had recorded when I ran the test shortly after first unboxing the machine. Impressive, to say the least.

I should note here that I've not tried any of SM9's competitors, so I can't speak to its abilities relative to those of similar applications. I should also say that I keep a pretty messy PC (or so I've been told by my hardcore techspert pals). It could be that SM9 had more to sink its teeth into in my machine than it would in some others, and that the improvements it made were consequently more noticeable.

Regardless, I liked the results. At US$49.95 per year (it's on sale right now for $39.95), System Mechanic 9 seems kind of pricey, especially considering that some of what it does automatically can be performed manually via built-in operating system utilities, but I like how easy it makes it to keep a clean, speedy PC.

And I can't argue with the numbers. It has undeniably helped me achieve a richer PC gaming experience. That alone is worth the cost of a single game once per year.

Follow me on Twitter: @ chadsapieha

Story continues below advertisement

Report an error
Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.