Optimize 2.0 Review

Reviewed by: Jack Reikel, November 2008
Published by: PC Pitstop
Requires: An Internet connection, Microsoft Windows XP or Vista, 10MB of available hard disk space
MSRP: US$29.99 (1 year subscription)

PC Pitstop Optimize 2.0 is designed to remove useless data files and cached web browser files to free up disk space, adjust Internet settings in the Windows registry file for better performance, remove invalid registry keys, and adjust several other registry settings which affect overall system and Internet connection performance. We reviewed Optimize 2.0 on a variety of Windows XP Home, XP Professional, Vista Basic, Vista Business and Vista Ultimate systems over a period of several months in order to determine short term system and connection optimization effectiveness, and to determine if Optimize (over the longer term) was using any tricks that might cause system instabilities over time.

Have you looked at the software shelves at your local computer store (or for that matter places like Best Buy)? Not much there. With the exception of specialized, high-end digital imaging software, operating systems and Microsoft Office, the traditional retail software business is terrible and has been that way for quite a while. It's not getting any better. So software vendors, including PC Pitstop, have begun to compete online. The transition began in 2001 and hasn't abated. One of the ways to sustain a connection with the customer whom you finally convince to purchase your product is to design your software to operate through a web browser that connects to you.


That connection also provides a vehicle with which to annualize the software license by means of a recurring renewal fee. If the customer doesn't pay for a renewal, after a grace period, the software stops working. I'm not crazy about this because of the inherent lack of value in renewals and updates of utility software which isn't used very often. If people come to rely abnormally on collections of subscription software utilities, annual renewals can quickly amount to far more that the products are intrinsically or substantially worth, even if the people using them have been marketed into thinking otherwise. Optimize 2.0 is a subscription-based system utility which uses secure servers at PC Pitstop in order to ensure the software functions effectively for tens of thousands of customers. The cost of maintaining product servers and the resultant annual subscription fees for the products that depend on them are a bit of a snare. But we'll overlook lots of different kinds of snares as long as the associated products work as advertised. Optimize 2.0 seems to work well — but with a catch.

The catch . . . is that your PC has to be burdened with a significant amount of junk files, cached files and dead registry settings in order for Optimize 2.0 to effect a noticeable improvement in system and Internet connection performance. The reality for Optimize 2.0 is that there are likely currently tens of millions of PCs which are heavily burdened with semi-corrupt registries, enormous browser caches, thousands of browser cookies, hundreds of zero-byte and useless temporary files and who-knows-what-else dragging their Pentium 4, DualCore, Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad systems to a crawl. I have frequently sat down to diagnose and solve problems on friends' PCs only to find that the biggest problem of all is the high load that Windows is trying to sort out. Insane, multi-gigabyte browser cache size settings frequently force a browser to sort through an enormous number of items merely to execute simple tasks. Programs installed then uninstalled often leave behind registry settings which don't point to anything but still burden the operating system with dead-ends that suck up processing cycles. A poorly written program installer or uninstaller can load a registry with junk quite easily. It's one of the ongoing problems with Windows that the longer you use it without performing regular system maintenance (Registry maintenance in particular), the slower it gets. The situation is largely attributable to the fact that Windows does not automatically or fully track program installations and therefore has no way of telling if a poorly written uninstaller has made a mess and consequently also has no way of cleaning up. Optimize 2.0 is designed to root around and remove all sorts of burdensome junk.

Optimize 2.0 analyzes four main areas. The Windows Recycle Bin is emptied, which reduces the number of files the operating system has to track and maintain. The Internet Explorer web browser creates lots of cached temporary files that are not needed after you finished surfing, so Optimize 2.0 roots out all of that junk and deletes it including backup caches not normally deleted when you do a clean up using the tools provided in Internet Explorer itself. Windows and installed programs create various Temporary Files that are not needed after the program is closed or Windows is shut down, and which are unfortunately left to clutter your hard drive because either the operating system or an installed program doesn't properly clean up after itself. Optimize 2.0 locates and removes all such files. The Windows Registry is a large database of information about every single hardware and software component in your system. Optimize 2.0 scans the registry looking for entries which are no longer associated with anything (because of unistallations, hardware changes and so on). As well, Optimize compares your current Internet connection data control settings in the registry in order to to determine if any changes are appropriate.

After each and every system scan, Optimize displays list of files and settings which you can then select for deletion or optimization or, if you prefer, just ignore. This important step in the clean up and optimization process is really what sets Optimize apart from some of its heavy-duty, professional system maintenance brethren. While there may be a number of more powerful system clean up utilities on the market, they are also much more expensive and require much more technical knowledge to effectively use. Optimize doesn't get as deeply into your registry as some other, dedicated registry utilities, but it also doesn't present you with any difficult decisions about what to eliminate, change or keep.

After scanning your system, Optimize gives you the option to review the files that it found and to select which files should be deleted or simply accept the recommendations. We found a few products, including Microsoft Visio 2000 & 2003 and Microsoft Project 2000 & 2003 (widely distributed versions in use right now), which store their serial numbers in non-standard locations within the registry. Optimize deleted what it thought were dead registry entries, but the result was a few programs that wouldn't run in anything but demo mode unless we re-entered the serial numbers (after which all was fine).

The Optimize 2.0 hard disk cleanup routine permanently removes files and can't be undone without the use of a specialized file undelete utility. On the other hand, just about every other clean up and optimization action can be undone. Note that Optimize performs a backup of the Windows Registry before making any changes, which means that if something gets messed up, you can restore the previous registry.

Cons: The software won't tell you to do so, but make sure you reboot after the each of the first few optimization runs. Fail to do so and you'll wonder why your system is running slowly. Rebooting allows Windows to re-address the Registry and function with the new values set by Optimize. Normally maintained office network PCs with typically limited browser cache sizes and other usage restrictions won't benefit at all from Optimize 2.0. The utility choked badly on a Windows XP Pro Dell Vostro 1410 laptop (a May 2008 build), ending up actually slowing the thing down about 15%. We're still trying to figure out what went wrong, but evidence seems to point to some sort of incompatibility with System Suite 2008 which was running during the Optimize 2.0 installation. Based on two instances of faulty installations which occured on the Vostro and on a Core 2 Quad Windows Vista Ultimate machine running Symantec Internet Security Suite 2008, we strongly advise everyone to shut down all antivirus, antispam and firewall software when installing Optimize 2.0 (just don't forget to turn it all on again). The utility permanently deletes the contents of your Recycle Bin, so make sure you review its contents ahead of time and pull out anything you still need. Microsoft Internet Explorer users are well-served, but Optimize 2.0 seems to ignore Firefox and Opera. As with any sort of browser maintenance, make sure you have a secure record of any web site user names and passwords that were being automatically input by Internet Explorer, because when Optimize 2.0 gets through with them they'll be deleted along with the site cookies in which they were temporarily contained. Optimize 2.0 seems to be designed primarily to use Internet Explorer as its access browser and we found a number of instabilities in systems which defaulted to any release of Firefox 2 or 3 or Opera 8 or 9.

Pros: It works quite well on an enormous variety of Windows XP and Vista computers. Optimize 2.0 will definitely clean up and speed up typically polluted home and small office/SOHO desktop and laptop PCs. As a matter of fact, we were hard pressed to find a such a system which didn't benefit significantly from an Optimize run. That's a testament to either smart thinking at PC Pitstop or the pathetic state of PC maintenance in general. Call it a combination of the two as far as we're concerned. The Optimize 2.0 user interface is easy to use and is obviously designed to communicate with non-technical (or at least less technical) users. The interface provides lots of text guidance and explanations as you use the software. Because a lot of the Optimize functionality depends on PC Pitstop's remote product servers, the program installation is small and quick. If you're sloppy or inconsistent about PC maintenance or simply procrastinate endlessly about doing PC maintenance, Optimize 2.0 is an effective utility which eases the pain of regular PC housekeeping. Recommended.

KSN Product Rating:



© Copyright 2000-2008 kickstartnews.com. All rights reserved. legal notice
home | previous reviews | hot news | about us | search | store | subscribe


The latest in tech news and information Find a product review on KSN Home Previous Reviews About Us Store Subscribe