PC health referral

Don't let this free "checkup" steer you toward overpriced system cleaners.

The rap on AOL used to be that it was "the Internet on training wheels," yet many solid Netizens cut their i-teeth on its superfriendly apps. AOL Computer Checkup Lite continues AOL's tradition of making things as easy as possible for inexperienced users, with an ultrasimple interface asking simple questions about your PC experience. Not to worry; it doesn't actually do anything but make recommendations about your system's health. That's when you should start to worry.

AOL's interface consists of four check boxes and a Scan button. The boxes are associated with questions, and you check all that apply to your system: 1) Frequent pop-ups or other problems prevent me from browsing the Internet; 2) My PC recently became much slower or is too slow to use; 3) I am often warned of a virus infection or I am asked to pay for virus removal; and 4) My PC frequently crashes. None of them applied to our test machine, but we selected all four anyway and clicked Scan My PC. AOL Computer Checkup Lite returned a Health Report with the three categories of Performance, Security, and System. Some of the recommendations were vague, such as "AntiVirus is not optimal" (it was) or "Parental Controls should be disabled" (they were), but all in all the report offered useful information.

So, what's the point? Well, we clicked Recommendations, and we were shocked--shocked!--to learn that our PC was in a very bad way and that we should sign up for Support.com, provided by AOL for $19.99 a month, with a six-month commitment, with an extra fiver per month for McAfee. Ouch! Strange, we ran Support.com's own premium system cleaner and optimizer before running AOL, and it didn't identify any urgent issues; neither did a scan by some highly rated freeware. AOL Computer Checkup Lite won't hurt your PC, but an expensive monthly fee will hurt your wallet. Much better tools are available for much less, including freeware.

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