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Turn down this tune-up

Look elsewhere than this all-or-nothing shareware for system maintenance.

TuneUp360 is like many utilities that promise to clean, boost, and protect your system. Its all-in-one (or all-or-nothing) approach is aimed at novice users who are likely to be intimidated by similar software that requires you to make decisions about what actions to take. Like many such tools, it will scan your system and identify "dangerous" conditions, whether they really are or not, to persuade you to run its "fixes." However, to fix any of the problems the scan finds, you must buy the software. And, again as with so many of these products, what happens when you run the fixes isn't always what's advertised or what you'd expect.

We downloaded and installed TuneUp360, which promptly initiated a Blue Screen of Death, Safe Mode, and System Restore: not an auspicious start. We reinstalled it, and it opened normally. TuneUp360's interface is typical of the class, generally attractive with prominent buttons for its few controls and text in large, bold fonts so that when its scans find a problem with your system you'll know it's DANGEROUS and must be fixed. We looked around for some options, settings, or properties, or any access to features like the promised Startup Manager, which supposedly lets you manage the Start file, yet we could find nothing like that, nor a Help file, just links to the product Web page and the opportunity to submit questions to the developers. Not exactly helpful. TuneUp360 has a system tray icon, but all it does is open and close the program. Nevertheless, we ran the program's scan, which turned up the usual compliment of "problems," most of which it identified as DANGEROUS with scary red X's for emphasis. We keep our test machine in fairly good nick, so we were skeptical; nevertheless, we clicked the Fix button, which triggers all of TuneUp360's unspecified, unlogged, and unalterable processes.

One of the first effects we noticed after rebooting was that TuneUp360 had restored our browser's default settings, which is not exactly what we wanted but is apparently part of the service. We ran our usual system checker and discovered that not only had TuneUp360 missed some things--par for the course with such tools--but it had apparently made some changes that required undoing. Ironically, when we'd fixed the "fixes," we reran TuneUp360, which promptly reidentified the same problems we'd just fixed as DANGEROUS and urged us to fix them immediately.

If you're looking for a comprehensive system-maintenance and "boosting" tool, we recommend starting with some that at least let you try before you buy. The less sure you are about your system's innards, the more sure you should be of the software you trust to monkey around in there. TuneUp360 just isn't up to the job.

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