Ashampoo WinOptimizer 4.0: Ultimate Optimization for Vista, XP and More

Race car, jet plane, ’76 Dodge Dart: If it has moving parts it will need regular maintenance.

For computers it’s called optimization, and one of the leading players in the field has just come out with a powerful new suite of tools to make it happen.

Long a respected name in optimization, Ashampoo’s WinOptimizer 4 comes with several new modules, a Vista-compatible version of the disk defragmenter and a slew of new tools for tweaking various aspects of your system.

Before we get to those, though, it makes sense to start with what is probably the defining characteristic of this software. To the delight of long-time customers, Ashampoo has maintained its highly regarded interface, at once sleek in appearance and extremely easy to use.

The lean One-Click Optimizer tool offers status bars and precious little else to take up your time and attention. The disk defragmenter, which offers lightning-fast operation, also is clean and simple to use. The main page offers eight tools for tuning, tweaking and cleaning. Bold tags and simple graphics steer you into the operations with minimal fuss.

These interfaces are worth noting. With their simplicity they can deliver ready access to a lot of disc-scrubbing muscle with just a very few mouse clicks. That ease of entry is one of the big selling points for this $50 package.

The One-Click Optimizer efficiently and effortlessly proceeds through the most common PC system cleaning tasks Beyond the graphics, the functionality is generally so simple that any beginner could get the job done. The one-click optimizer with default settings is all many people will ever need. For safety, the program will show which files are getting dumped, to ensure nothing goes overboard accidentally. More advanced customers in turn have the option of configuring settings for their particular needs.

When it comes to ease of use, Ashampoo is touting the fact that WinOptimizer 4 not only plays nice with older versions of Windows but also with the newly-arrived Windows Vista in both the 32- and 64-bit versions. The company promotes its Vista defragmenter as a chance to keep your Vista system clean from the start, because the junk starts to pile up right away.

Of course, your degree of excitement over this will depend in some measure on your eagerness to grab hold of Vista and run with it. Vista capability will hold few thrills for those not yet ready to embrace Gates’ new view. Still, the capability is there in Ashampoo, should you decide to open that Window.

New Features
WinOptimizer 4 takes a bold leap ahead of the previous version if only in terms of the sheer volume of functions available. Whether added or upgraded, the tools and tweaks contained in WinOptimizer 4 set a new standard in optimization versatility. The publishers say they have made it possible to adjust more than 450 Windows system settings. Sounds about right. We won’t count that high.

The File Wiper offers extensive options for irrevocably erasing confidential data

A good place to start is by finding out what you’ve got. The System Benchmark function tests your processor and memory performance against reference systems to show how your performance compares to the latest standards.

If things are not up to snuff, fix them with the Process Manager. When programs behave badly this manager delivers a simple list of all active processes along with process details, and makes it easy to kill processes manually. Also on the list of power tools is the new Vista-compatible disk defragmenter. Fast, fast, and fast, along with stellar ease-of-use.

Then there are the tweak and toys, a range of easy-to-use improvements that allow users the freedom to organize their systems from top to bottom.

Some people just can’t get enough of the visual whirl, constantly arranging their systems’ appearance to suit any day’s mood. Enter the Visual Styler, a single gateway to allow a range of changes. Replace system icons and apply transparency systems to diverse systems components. Too busy to tweak? The styler includes easy presets for common apps.

Tweak, Tweak, and Tweak Some More
Beyond these major-league managers, WinOptimizer 4.0 includes an avalanche of Tweaking Tools, too many to list but too cool to leave out.

WinOptimizer offers several tweaks keyed to specific apps. The Internet Explorer tool allows a user to customize security settings, search engines, window titles and so on, while the Windows Explorer tweak gives a user control of the toolbar background, video preview options and other functions.

It’s clear that Ashampoo has put a lot into the production of new tweaks, with piles of minor adjustments on hand that were not available in previous additions. Are the tweaks necessary? Frankly, no. They don’t “optimize” in the strictest sense of the work and a user looking to clean up a clunky system certainly could get the job done without these extras.

That said, this optimizer is so efficient and easy to use, it’s easy to see how users could be tempted into fiddling around on the fringes. Certainly these tweaks do offer temptations.

We like anything that enhances Windows Media Player, an app we always find a little thin. So kudos to the tweak that makes it easier to configure a range of options including privacy and security settings. For MS Office, a handy tweak manages attachments to be blocked or allowed by Outlook.

All very nice, granted, but we are here for the optimizing, right? On this score WinOptimizer has justly earned its reputation as being among the outstanding products in the field. What do you get for your $50? You get files that open faster, speedier saves, and quick closes. A healthy system will cough up fewer BSODs (blue screens of death) and other system errors, too, while ensuring that applications run without a hitch.

The new WinOptimizer release delivers on all these, along with its generous range of added tools and toys. It’s a smart, solid, easy-to-use program either for those times when performance is less than adequate, or for those occasions when ongoing maintenance seems the order of the day.

Pros: Clean, easy-to-use interface, handy One-Click Optimization tool, tons of tweaks and configuration settings for Windows
Cons: Price tag’s a bit on the high end, a few more tweaks than perhaps absolutely necessary

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