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article imageReview: Tech for Christmas (part 3)

By Jack Kapica     Nov 25, 2012 in Technology
Keeping your machine happy: Getting your computer cleaned up and running like it did when you first got it is important, as is your ability to keep it free of viruses and other evils that lurk online
Over the years all sorts of companies have been selling system utilities to make Windows run better and faster. But every three years or so they have to overhaul their products completely as Microsoft changes Windows, and fixes some of the problems these third-party utilities addressed.
Tuneup Utilities 2013 has consistently out-performed most of the competition, though Windows 8 is still too new to tell with any degree of confidence how much the 30 TUU 2013 (the latest version) tools will improve it. Windows 8 starts and closes faster than any previous version, and hardly needs TUU 2013’s help. But there are other features Windows 8 can really use.
Two major features that TUU 2013 offers that Windows doesn’t have are Program Deactivator, which disables programs you use rarely until you need them, and Economy Mode, which improves battery life for laptop users, which is a slight improvement over Microsoft’s similar tool.
Another welcome feature is its one-step fix-everything tool called 1-Click Maintenance. This scans the computer for temporary files to delete, cleaning and defragmenting the registry, deleting broken shortcuts, optimizing system startup and shutdown, and defragmenting hard drives. You don’t have to accept all the recommended actions, which is nice if you know what you’re doing. It also lets you create a profile that tells the program what your maintenance preferences are. It also has other options, including Economy Mode (for conserving battery power) and Turbo Mode, which shuts down just about every program except the one you’re using so you can speed it up. This latter feature is great for memory-intensive activities, such as video editing or gaming.
TuneUp Utilities also recommends browser and display settings to reduce performance-hogging processes — this is nicer than trying to read up on the specifics on your own.
TUU 2013 is compatible with Windows 8, 7, Vista, and XP PCs, and costs $29.95, a small price to pay for system cleanliness.
The registry-cleaning module quickly deletes program residue and data clutter (from lazy programmers) has been improved and speeded up, and the Process Manager helps identify all those applications that gobble system resources and slow down PC performance.
The new Browser Cleaner protects your privacy by removing traces left by Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Opera, Safari, Firefox and other browsers. Also improved is the TuneUp Live Optimization system, which provides performance boosts by recalling which programs slow down your PC and allowing you switch these to "Standby" mode.
New in this version is a TuneUp Styler optimized for Windows 8, and the ability to get access to the most-used modules through a taskbar icon context menu.
The only real disadvantage is that you are allowed to install TUU 2013 ($59.99) on three machines in the home or office before you need to buy a new licence. (Iolo System Mechanics 11, and the free Comodo System Utilities, TUU’s main competitors, let users install them on an unlimited number of PCs). TUU also has a Business Edition for up to five PCs ($83.95) or for 10 PCs ($159.95).
Microsoft s Security Essentials has been rated very highly
Microsoft's Security Essentials has been rated very highly
Microsoft Corp.
I’ll tell anyone who asks me to recommend an antivirus program and I’ll recommend Microsoft Security Essentials. It’s not only free, but the online security industry has been rating it as one of the best — I’ve seen some competitors grudgingly agree. Microsoft decided to bet the farm on it after getting numerous black eyes for the security holes in its Windows XP and Vista operating systems.
But the success of MSE has forced antivirus makers to add new features to their products to make them competitive. But adding features usually means adding things that chew up system resources and slow your computer down. I have received unasked-for warnings from various computer stores about many antivirus products, including McAfee but especially Symantec’s Norton Antivirus, which might be good but chew up system resources like candy.
Kaspersky s Antivirus 2013
Kaspersky's Antivirus 2013
Kaspersky
Kaspersky, however, has found a nice balance between speed and efficiency. (AV-Test.org, an independent testing agency, ranked Kaspersky’s AV engine consistently high in tests carried out with last year’s version, essentially the same product as this one, but without some of the new features.) The company has a series of products including Anti-Virus 2013 ($59.95), One Security Suite ($50), Pure 2.o Total Security ($45) and Internet Security 2013 ($40), all build on Kaspersky’s AV engine. The company also offers products for small offices, mobile devices, tablets and Apple Macintosh computers.
The 2013 product not merely defends against viruses, but also spyware, Trojans, rootkits and other threats. It detects new, emerging and unknown threats (based on suspicious activity using the new Automatic Exploit Prevention blocking engine), it identifies suspicious websites and phishing websites, prevents malware from exploiting vulnerabilities on your PC and has automatic download, update and installation features. It still includes parental controls.
The 2013 version also introduces an exploit prevention engine as part of the security suite, and a Safe Money banking protection tool — Kaspersky claims its exploit prevention engine stops the vast majority of exploit kits. Another new tool, Safe Money, detects banking Web as that you visit and opens them in “sandboxed” browsers that keep your transactions safe should you try to open a forged site. There’s also a Cloud Protection feature that was introduced in the 2012 version. Competitors who have also incorporated cloud-based detection, Kaspersky also lets you opt out of anonymously contributing your data without making yourself less safe.
If you do not do online banking, or use the cloud much, you might consider not installing them — your machine does take a performance hit.
It also has a virtual secure keyboard for protecting personal data when you type with a physical keyboard, and it works with more sites than before. And Kaspersky has expanded its browser compatibility to include Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer and Opera.
The system also includes a File Advisor, which is a Windows Explorer context menu option for checking out a file's reputation without having to go through the main Kaspersky program; and a Roll Back feature that can undo damage caused by any malware that does slip through. There is also a Network Monitor that displays real-time traffic to and from your computer.
While Microsoft Security Essentials is an install-it-and-forget-it product, Kaspersky’s is a much more hands-on system, tweakable to suit individual needs.
More about Tuneup, Utilities, 2013
 
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