The Ultimate Troubleshooter is a fine tool for mobile workers and IT managers to cut system memory use, trim processor utilisation and stop annoying, attention-seeking processes constantly popping up and irritating users.
Simple to use; good recommendations given on how to delete annoying tasks, services and startups.
Only supports 32-bit Windows operating systems.
Launched in August, version 4.68 of AnswersThatWork.com’s (ATW) The Ultimate Troubleshooter (TUT) is more than just an inexpensive system utility for keeping Windows systems free of memory and CPU-sapping processes.
The software can actually enhance performance and delay the day when you need to upgrade your PC/laptop or even delay you needing to replace the entire system. It could also prove a useful tool for IT administrators to optimise system images before rolling them out for new PC or laptop deployments.
The software took under five minutes to install, and registering for the regular updates is a requirement to receive information on any new system/application processes you might encounter in the future.
Most Windows systems under Microsoft’s public assisted support were tested. That included Windows XP Home and Professional editions, Vista Home Premium, Enterprise and Ultimate, and Windows 2000 Server and Windows Server 2003.
We also looked at operating systems still under extended support, such as Windows 2000 Professional and Windows 2000 Server with SP4 installed. Currently 64-bit systems are not supported.
First we looked at freshly-imaged Windows 2000 Professional, Windows XP Professional and Vista Ultimate operating systems, fully patched as of 8 September 2008. The capacity for system improvements here are minimal and the software delivers its best efforts on systems already loaded with applications.
Some users may experience problems getting TUT to run, but ATW have put up a web page devoted to the most common reasons why TUT may experience problems.
We experienced some problems during our testing, due to XP's Data Execution Prevention (DEP) feature being enabled, although it was a simple matter to add TUT to DEP's list of programs whose execution it should allow.
Other problems documented on ATW's web page did not trouble us, mainly because we did not have the programs installed such as System Mechanic 7 or some of CA's security programs, which are known to interfere with TUT running properly.
Firing up TUT after an initial install, it first checks to see if there have been any updated database entries and if there are, it downloads them. The initial screen is relatively unfussy and has real-time CPU and memory utilisation graphs at the top right. The main window has four tabs for tasks, services, startup items and system information. The two smaller windows below the main window show details about TUT's findings and its recommendations.
The bottom-most window through which TUT gives its recommendations on what to do with the highlighted Task, Service or Startup entry, is what sets TUT apart from many system utilities.
Other utilities inform users about rogue tasks or processes, but leave it to the user to remove the errant problem, whilst TUT informs users exactly how to disable or remove the problem.
As an example, we installed TUT 4.68 under a full administrator account on a Dell M50 workstation which had a 2.4GHz Intel Pentium IV processor, 768MB of memory and was fully patched as of 8 September 2008. Firing up the program for the first time, we saw 567MB of memory free out of a total of 768MB.
Three tasks were flagged through TUT's traffic light system as not OK (red). These were an nVidia driver helper service, a pctvoice MFC application and Microsoft's Windows Security Center Notification application.
We took TUT's advice on all three and removed nVidia's helper service and stopped the pctvoice.exe task from starting. Microsoft's Windows Security Center Notification application can be made to stop ceaselessly generating popups by unclicking the boxes in the Security Center application which lets XP keep alerting users.
Next we clicked on the services tab to check what TUT said were extraneous services. Only one came up, the Microsoft Error Reporting service. TUT's recommendation was to remove it - "For 98 per cent of users, this is as useless a service as there can be".
Rebooting XP now gave 609MB of system memory free, a saving of 42MB. Similar system memory gains can be made across all Windows operating systems, especially if a large amount of applications have been installed. Aside from conserving system memory, and improving processor utilisation, TUT also saves users time by not being constantly bothered and irritated by attention-seeking system processes.
TUT users can also access services such as the Windows Event Viewer and the registry editing tool RegEdit directly from TUT, as well as useful network programs suc as TCP/IP configuration, Name Server Lookup, Ping, Traceroute and Whois.
Users can also email ATW with information about any unidentified processes they find, together with their own comments on what they think the processes are, or are doing.