It's Microsoft, after all, that's responsible for
the frailties of Windows. Could I trust it to protect Windows when it
can't design Windows properly to start with?
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983
Microsoft Security Essentials and Iolo System Mechanic help keep Windows running smoothly
Nov. 8, 2009
By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2009, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2009, The
Windows needs protection and constant vigilance. And, and every now
and then, just like your car, Windows needs an "oil change" -- preventive maintenance through a fix-up utility.
This week I want to tell you about software that handles both chores well. The programs are Security
Essentials from Microsoft, a free suite of antivirus, intrusion-protection and antispyware programs, and System Mechanic 9 from
Iolo Technologies, a Windows-fixup program which lists for $50 but is heavily discounted. For more information, go to www.microsoft.com/security/portal for Security Essentials and
www.iolo.com for System Mechanic 9.
Security Essentials had a hurdle to jump over before I could even consider using it. It's Microsoft, after
all, that's responsible for the frailties of Windows. Could I trust it to protect Windows when it can't design Windows properly
to start with?
It turned out my worries were all baseless. Security Essentials is a first-rate anti-virus program with
outstanding spyware protection built in. This is exactly the kind of protection Windows needs, 24-7.
Readers of this column know that I've given high ratings to other antivirus and antispyware programs, and
still consider those products highly. But I'm placing Security Essentials at the head of the class for two important reasons:
-- Microsoft's suite of antivirus and antispyware programs is kept up-to-date and works very well behind
the scenes. You never feel the impact of the software's real-time scans.
-- All unnecessary decisions are kept away from the user. Security Essentials seems to have been programmed
by software engineers who know how to leave you alone. Security Essentials just plain works.
Iolo's System Mechanic 9 is the latest iteration of a veteran fix-it program, well respected among Windows
users. Like Security Essentials, System Mechanic 9 respects the user's need for comprehensive action without pestering for
approval at every step.
In fact, the first time I ran System Mechanic I thought I was doing things wrong. There was no dialog box
asking me to select something once System Mechanic had finished its Registry-repair scan. In essence, the Iolo software does the
right thing all on its own.
(I find this amazing. Software that doesn't pester you for choices? Iolo's programmers aren't playing by
The cost of System Mechanic 9 includes a year's subscription to data updates that help the software detect
problems. You can renew the subscription at any time, but the software will continue to work, without any further helpful
updates, after the first year is up. That sounds fair to me.