iolo System Mechanic 5 Professional review
Iolo has been something of a big secret over the years, picking up business pretty much by word of mouth alone thanks to techie users in the US. Now the secret is out, and with the release of System Mechanic 5 Professional, iolo might just break into the mainstream. Having said that, it’s the complete opposite of F-Secure, and often seems to be laying the ‘Danger Will Robinson’ stuff on a bit thick.
Advertised as everything you need to keep your PC safe, fast and error-free, the onus is certainly on the latter two of that trio. Not that security is sold short: you get anti-virus and firewall protection courtesy of Kaspersky and spyware from iolo’s own Spython application. System Shield Professional handles identity theft protection and personal privacy. There’s also a rogue-dialler block, secure file-deletion utility and DriveScrubber Professional for permanent data removal from any hard disk. But over and above this you also get disk defraggers, click-trail cleaners, pop-up blockers, Registry repairers and dozens more utilities. It’s like Norton SystemWorks on steroids. However, what’s more interesting is what iolo left out: anti-spam and parental control.
But the biggest problem is that Kaspersky Anti-Hacker just isn’t up to the job as it comes out of the box. The defaults are set too low and, in keeping with the ‘this is for techies’ feel, needs plenty of tweaking to get the defences shored up to where they should be. This was evidenced by its failure at both the PC Flanks stealth tests, which revealed each of the five common port-scanning techniques had success in finding an ‘unstealthed’ system.
While this isn’t dangerous per se, it does mean that the person on the other end of the scan knows you’re there, albeit with closed ports. And that means you’re a possible target for further probing. And if they had done, as we did, they’d have discovered no less than 12 of the first series of 1,056 ports merely ‘closed’, giving further food for thought and mischief making. Most depressingly though, all of this occurred despite our ticking the prominent checkbox on the Anti-Hacker control panel saying Stealth Mode. Interestingly, the last time we tested Anti-Hacker as a standalone product it performed much better, so there may be a problem with it in this combined-utility version.
You couldn’t get a bigger contrast when it comes to Kaspersky Anti-Virus. This is very well regarded, and rightly so. Taking over from Panda Anti-Virus Platinum in System Mechanic 4, it does a superb job without the need for tweaking. Kaspersky Labs is one of the leading lights of virus detection, and the anti-virus solution in ‘Personal’ guise here provides real-time scanning for fully integrated email protection as well as on-demand scans when required. We thought the default of every hour for the automated update downloads was a bit over the top, but at least you stand more of a chance to be covered than with a product that updates only when you remember to hit the relevant button. Equally over the top, but in a good way, is the sheer speed of the scanner – not only was it the quickest to complete our test by some margin, it also had the least impact upon system resources.
Also new in System Mechanic 5 is the Startup Guard, which acts as a kind of proactive firewall purely for the Windows startup process. By maintaining a list of those programs that shouldn’t be running automatically, monitoring for rogue and malware apps, and giving the user the option to easily stop anything trying to configure itself to run at startup, you get a very effective block indeed. It isn’t unique by any means – a similar function can be found in the Web Sweeper spyware utility, for example – but it’s welcome nonetheless.