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Technology Untangled: Use caution with PC speed-up software

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technology-bourIt seems like just about everyone feels like their PC is running slowly, or it is slowing down compared to when it was new. It doesn’t really matter how fast your newest PC is, the desire for faster and smoother operation is a common thread of complaint. Software vendors are well aware of this.

Several PC optimization TV advertisements caught my attention recently. These were not low-cost late-night commercials. These commercials aired during prime time on several of the news and politics channels. The two products were DoubleMySpeed.com and PCMatic.com. The ads for these “one click fixes” are attractive. However, based on my recent experiences, caution is advised.

There are many reasons why your computer slows down after you buy it, and optimization programs include a wide set of tools to address these issues. Disk defragmentation, registry cleaning, device driver updates, junk file removal, virus and malware removal, removal of unnecessary startup applications, security tweaks… the list goes on and on. The problem is that these blanket fixes throw so many changes at your computer all at once that they are likely to do as much harm as good. And since so many changes are made during an optimization run, it becomes difficult to identify what one or two “fixes” should perhaps be undone or avoided altogether.

Here is the account of some of my recent frustration with PCMatic. I hope you can learn something from my troubles.

Last winter, one of my computers was badly locking up. It was late at night, so running it to a computer repair place was not possible. Out of desperation, I downloaded PCMatic so I could perhaps get things fixed up enough to get some work done. I had little to lose, either the download would help or I would be taking the machine in the next morning. I clicked the “auto fix” button and hoped for the best. The process took over an hour. When the computer rebooted, it was functioning somewhat better. I never did learn what the specific problem was, I was just glad that things were now functional; however, several new and very annoying problems surfaced due to the “fix.”

First, the video display defaulted to a basic mode with a very poor resolution. It turns out that PCMatic incorrectly updated the driver for the video card. It took quite a while to identify this problem and reload my original driver software. Second, the program identified my GoToMyPC remote access program as malicious software and completely removed it. That program had to be reinstalled from scratch. I found this out days later when tech support finally answered my angry e-mail, as there is no support for immediate help with problems.

An important lesson was that you could, in fact, fine-tune the optimization process instead of clicking “auto fix.” When I more recently ran PCMatic, I knew to turn off the driver update feature and to advise it not to remove GoToMyPC, but if you have to start plucking around in the options and sub-option screens, it defeats the “automatic” allure of programs like PCMatic.

Because of the commercial, I remembered that the software license I bought was for one year and good for up to five computers all for $49.95. I thought I would again try PCMatic on several slowing but not disabled computers with the hope of speeding them up a bit. The results were very negative. Both computers became noticeably slower, with extremely long reboot time – 20 minutes or more! An odd problem appeared when powering down my monitor at night to save power. In the morning it would not come back on, insisting that no video signal was coming from the computer. The only solution was to reboot the computer (long reboot) and never power down the monitor again.

The next lesson was about restore points. Windows keeps snapshots of previous settings that worked so you can restore your computer to an earlier date. To learn more, type “Restore Wizard” at the Windows “help” screen. I went to undo the damage that PCMatic had caused, only to learn it had erased all but my most recent restore point! It did this automatically in order to save me hard drive space, as data for multiple restore points can use a fair amount of hard drive. You can deselect this action in the options and sub-option menus of PCMatic, if you know to do it in advance. PCMatic does have its own “undo” feature, but it does not undo all the damage nearly as well as Restore Wizard. So be sure to specifically make and save a new restore point before invoking optimization software (or any new software for that matter).

I do not recommend using an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink optimization program like PCMatic. Next time I have a need, I will take my computer to a shop, or perhaps even try the tune-up services offered at places like Office Depot, though, for all I know, they may be using a similar type of program on site. At least if something goes wrong there, you have someone else to complain to and blame.•

Stephen Bour (bourtech@iquest.net) is an engineer and legal technology consultant in Indianapolis. His company, the Alliance for Litigation Support Inc., includes Bour Technical Services and Alliance Court Reporting. Areas of service include legal videography, tape analysis, document scanning to CD, and courtroom presentation support. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s.

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  1. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  2. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  3. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  4. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  5. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

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