Download a System Tune-Up Tool or Get Real Help for Your PC?

Let’s get this out front.  I have a low opinion of every system tune-up tool.  Have You seen their ads on TV and the Web? The pitch is that PC Tune-up, PC Pitstop, PC Optomizer Pro, Slimware Utilities, AVG PC Tuneup 2015, et al will scan your PC & make it as fast as it was when you first got it.  Once installed, the program generates a scary report to bully you into purchasing their full featured tool.  They are named to imply they bring SPEED and/or OPTOMIZATION to your Windows System.  They may provide a small measure of relief but there is no reason to run it every day or week because it already fixed everything. Right? System Tune-Up Tool

Many clients swear by CCleaner.  When an update changed the program to run at startup, I stopped using the tool.  A while back, I fell for the hype & purchased Norton Utilities.  I had a 3 pc license but the pc’s never got faster but the program would brag about all of the repairs made.  I uninstalled it. Now my system is faster because I no longer wait for the tune up to run for 20-30 minutes.

If your system is slow, you may have too many things running at start up.   Skype is a good example.  Microsoft sets Skype to run at startup but I can go days without using it.  If I don’t start Skype at startup, I can still open Skype when I am ready.   Activity monitors for your wireless printer runs at startup.  Dropbox & Google Drive sync.  iTunes checks with Apple for updates.  Reader and Flash check with Adobe for updates.  Java checks in with Oracle to see if there is yet another patch.  Your antivirus needs to get new definitions and check what every other program is up to. Windows checks with Microsoft for updates.   Firefox checks with Mozilla. Chrome checks with Google.  When your system is starting, many things are happening as quickly as the computer can accomplish them. Adding a Tune-Up program is another task to run.  Constant monitoring of your system creates more work to process.  Many of these tasks can’t be affected by a Tune Up program.

If you are not running a bunch of fluff at startup, your pc may have picked up adware, bloatware, bundle-ware, riskware, malware or a virus and need a cleanup to get back to normal.  A tune up program can’t help with any of these item.

Here is what you can do to ensure your system runs well:

  • Install Updates. If you software shows you an update, install as soon as possible. Updates fix software flaws that may allow your computer to be exploited
  • Get Paid Protection for your systems like Emsisoft Anti-malware. Buy the better Emsisoft Anti-malware & Don’t Get Infected ($59 for 3 pc/year). I used to tell people free AV worked well enough but the crooks have evolved.  Will you run Malwarebytes scans manually to help your Avast Free or AVG Free deal with things they cannot?  Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) hasn’t passed an AV Comparatives’ Malware Tests in over 2 years.  My best customers run MSE and McAffee.  Do you want to be my best customer?
  • Develop a method to create separate pass-phrases for every web site login & email account. To make a pass-phrase, take a song lyric or line in book or poem and choose a letter from each word to assemble into your password.  Dictionary words are too easy for the hacking programs to guess. A 8 character password is cracked in 1 second.  You need to use 14 character passwords to be truly safe.  The extra length passwords make the math problem too big for current consumer computers.  Hackers have factored in common misspellings & elite-speak, replacing vowels with numbers like 3 for E or 1 for I.
  • Use a password manager like Sticky Password or One Password to remember your passwords for you. These programs can re-enter your password when you return to your favorite web pages & sync to your phone/tablet or another computer.
  • Search results shows too many alternate sites. If you are downloading Java, it should be from Oracle’s java.com.  When you search, there are paid ads  shown to direct you to install from the wrong website.  Why do they need to pay to get they site shown above the software vendor’s site?  They have something for you!
  • Download Managers that Bundle: You search for a program you need.  You click on the link go to the page.  You click on the DOWNLOAD button and a suggestion that you to use a convenient download manager to download & install the software for you. You click next a couple time and then begin to download.  Next thing, some other program is installing itself too.  When a site forces a download manager, it often changes your browser home page & installs software you didn’t want.  Open the control panel named programs and features.  Click on the date column to sort by the install date & see what was recently installed.

One last tip today: Backup any files you might want if a truck ran over your computer.  You are the IT person for your computers.  You have access to the system so only you can make a backup of your stuff for just in case.

A few weeks ago, I worked on a computer all day but could not fix the windows problems caused by Malware.   The client makes a FULL IMAGE BACKUP with Acronis every Sunday. I restored his backup from the previous Sunday morning as he had prepared for.  He had to change his flight by a day but was able to take all of his work with him because he makes regular image backups.

What is your plan for when the s*it hits the fan?  Where do you backup?  If you backup to a USB drive, you are at risk to the Cryptolocker/Cryptowall family of Ransomware. Encrypting Viruses will attack your computer & any attached drives will also be encrypted.  If you can buy a bitcoin to pay the ransom, will you get your files back?  The alternative is an offsite backup service.  A good offsite backup keeps every version of your files in case you need the spreadsheet the way it looked three updates ago.