iObit's previous version of Advanced SystemCare was the second most downloaded program on Download.com in 2011, and there's little suprise why: the free Windows utility packs a bevy of optimization tools for cleaning out malware and junk files, along with an "Internet Boost" tool to configure your system based on how you are using it. Despite aggressive upselling of its Pro version, ASC and its comprehensive set of free features clearly impress Download.com users.
New version 6 promises improved performance, faster program launching, a lighter installation, and more efficient scanning, but the most obvious difference experienced users of Advanced SystemCare will notice is the interface. Sporting a looser, more free-flowing UI, version 6 breaks its tools into two views for two types of users.
The "Simple" screen features a big, can't-miss "Smart Scan" button in the middle of either a black or white background. Clicking said button will initiate: Malware Removal, Registry Fix, Privacy Sweep, Junk Files Clean, Internet Boost, and Shortcuts Fix; and hovering over the button will show the results of the last scan. A smiley (or not-so-smiley) face to the left of the big button offers a facial representation of your PC's health, as judged by ASC; a Quick Settings for customizing options sits at the bottom; a sponsored ad lies in the lower right corner; and, of course, the option to switch to Expert sits in a pull-down menu at the top.
The "Expert" menu offers quicker access to all the scans and tools in ASC, breaking out the individual scans from the Smart Scan and adding more like Disk Defragment, System Optimization, Security Defense (tracking cookie and BHO removal), and Vulnerability Fix. While v5 distinguished between "Quick Care" and "Deep Care," v6 throws all such scans into one "Care" module. The "Toolbox" remains mostly the same, and the tools themselves actually sport a much older interface than the portal screens.
Essentially, the Care menu includes all of the automated scans; the Toolbox lists all of the manually operated programs; and the Settings menu includes all of the real-time protection elements from before. Unfortunately, only two of the 11 real-time protection settings--Performance Monitor and Secure File Deletion--are available in the free version. Clicking on any of the rest spawns an Upgrade pop-up that most users will see again and again. It's also weird that the Settings menu opens a new window for ASC 6, rather than loading in a single interface.
How about those performance enhancements? Our results on the Smart Scan were a mixed bag. Malware scanning was quick and efficient, yet nothing special compared to standalone leaders in the security category. Registry Fix was very slow (we stopped it after 45 minutes), but we were working on a large machine that has tested oodles of software, so we're willing to cut some slack. The rest of the Simple components--Privacy Sweep, Junk Files Clean, Internet Boost, and Shortcuts Fix--all ran smoothly and quickly, though not demonstrably faster than v5. All of the additional Care scans in the Expert menu were speedy. A cursory test of a handful of apps in the toolbox revealed about the same performance as in v5, with no notable new features, and, as mentioned, outdated interfaces.
Advanced SystemCare is a fantastic tool for optimizing several different areas of your machine and clearing out the cruft. It works efficiently and reliably, and the aesthetic advances of v6 are welcome. We would have liked to see more new features for free users, and the combination of sponsored ads and aggressive upselling is annoying, but that's certainly a niggling complaint compared to the wealth of free services offered.