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Iolo System Mechanic Ultimate Defense review
The difficult-to-pronounce service seeks to be a Jack of all trades when it comes to computer care. Does it succeed?
Depending on which version you buy, Iolo System Mechanic ranges from a computer optimiser through to a multifaceted service with antivirus and a password manager. Iolo sent me a key for the System Mechanic Ultimate Defense, which is the priciest version with the most features. Here’s how it fared after being put through its paces.
How much do iolo plans cost in Australia?
Out of the gate, it’s great to see a PC product that looks like it doesn’t have a subscription fee. Better yet, Iolo offers a range of currency options, including Australian dollars. Paying for Iolo System Mechanic Ultimate Defense costs around $120 initially if there isn’t a discount going. That’s not a no-brainer fee, but considering it covers performance optimisation, antivirus and antimalware, privacy and a password manager, there’s a decent amount of value tied up in that RRP.
The big catch, though, is while there’s only one initial fee, that won’t always be the case. Ultimate Defense has an expiry date for receiving updates and technical support, which can be updated for US$79.95 per year once it expires. The reality is, while it isn’t marketed as a subscription upfront, users will seemingly have to renew their subscription annuallyto have the most up-to-date protection.
Iolo System Mechanic Ultimate Defense antivirus and anti-malware
Whenever I put antivirus software through its paces, I lean heavily on the likes of AV-Comparatives and AV-Test. These two independent sites regularly put big-name antivirus products through their paces, testing them all with thousands of instances of the latest malware across a range of platforms. Unlike Kaspersky, Norton and McAfee, Iolo System Mechanic Ultimate Defense isn’t one of the antivirus services that’s tested by this trusted duo.
The only testing I could find was from six years ago. Considering the rankings changes on AV-Comparatives and AV-Test regular tests, it’s not worth factoring in. On the surface, the lack of real-world testing isn’t necessarily a negative. But it also makes it trickier to recommend when there are other competitors out there that receive regular independent testing.
I did run some basic antivirus tests. Iolo System Mechanic Ultimate Defense asks for Windows admin privileges whenever you try to access it. During my tests, the first hurdle was that Iolo System Mechanic Ultimate Defense didn’t play nice with Spybot – Search and Destroy. I had to uninstall Spybot to even activate real-time antivirus threat protection, even though the free version of Spybot isn’t a substitute for active antivirus.
Running an initial full system scan used up more Windows 11 resources than I was expecting, certainly in comparison to the minimal impact I’m used to from Windows Defender. For context, my Surface Laptop 4 fans were pumping during the entire scan. It was the same story for a quick scan. You should never use a real virus for antivirus testing, which is where the European Institute for Computer Antivirus Research (EICAR) dummy files stepped in to help.
This fake virus is a way to test antivirus. While Google Chrome does a good job of blocking it anyway, when I bypassed those protections, the files still failed to download, which tells me System Mechanic Ultimate Defense was doing its job.
Iolo System Mechanic Ultimate Defense system optimisation
Iolo System Mechanic Ultimate Defense’s main selling feature is system optimisation. This tab of the software looks eerily familiar to the antivirus section, and you’re initially encouraged to run a system scan. After a few seconds, you’ll be greeted with a system status, including issues and recommendations.
My Surface Laptop 4 scan had no major issues but there were two recommendations. Clicking on the number reveals the system recommendations, which can be reviewed for more detail or skipped. System Mechanic flagged one start-up item as “unnecessary or dangerous”. That’s a very dramatic dichotomy for what amounted to a recommendation to remove CCleaner Update from my start-up settings, which it flagged as unnecessary (and the community was 94% against this recommendation).
The other warning was for six “potentially unwanted start-up programs”. According to the included community metrics, only one of the entries had most people agreeing it should be disabled or delayed. To access additional optimisation features, there’s a drop-down menu. ‘Deepclean’ is a seven-step process of removing unnecessary files, cleaning up registry entries and freeing up system resources. I’d like it more if it didn’t prompt me at every step; CCleaner is a lot more user-friendly in this regard.
‘Toolbox’ has a range of file management and system management options. Some of these tools—like file recovery, bootable USB and a network scanner—are contextually useful, but not so frequently that they’re the kinds of things the average user will go searching for frequently. Ultimately, nice to have but not essential, especially when there’s no real outright purchase.
Finally, the ‘LiveBoost’ screen optimises system power allocation to help boost performance. All power tweaks are enabled by default, except for ‘AcceleWrite’, which minimises random data writes to storage. Alternatively, there’s a drop-down menu that lets you tune performance for gaming, video production, graphics rendering, programming, maximising battery life, office productivity and web browsing. Selecting any of these options doesn’t change any of the main power toggles. Again, this feels surplus to requirement for the average user.
Iolo ByePass Password Manager
Before diving into the password manager part of Iolo System Mechanic Ultimate Defense, there’s also a ‘Privacy’ tab. Choose from different levels of privacy protection, from minimal internet for apps and services to a strict setting that blocks access. This section is designed to control what Windows and third-parties can monitor and learn from your computing habits. There’s also more focused protection for installed web browsers, with the pledge that an Iolo ‘Digital Fingerprinting’ browser extension is on the way.
For context, these features offer more manual control than the typical ad-blocking add-ons for antivirus, anti-malware and certain virtual private network (VPN) services. While there’s a password manager tab in the Ultimate Defense software, you’ll be prompted to install ByePass as an extension on your supported browser of choice.
When creating an account, ByePass offers live feedback on the strength of your password, which is a nice touch. Once registered, you’ll be presented with a recovery key, that you can copy/paste save or download as part of a PDF. The browser extension installs, after which you’re prompted to add your first credentials.
I dipped straight into settings to import my data from an existing password manager. There are a bunch of options, but like most password manager import functions, this mostly involves uploading a CSV file with all stored credentials. Importing my credentials only took a few seconds, and ByePass defaults to automatically adding your username and password when you visit a login portal with saved credentials.
When I went to create an account, there was a mix of greyed-out and coloured ByePass logos for respective fields. The greyed-out options handily prompted me to add an identity to ByePass, albeit without a convenient link to the corresponding section. ByePass recommended a secure password, which I added with a single click. After the account was created, a pop-up prompted me to add the credentials with a single click.
Most of this is great news on the convenience front, but ByePass isn’t as fully featured as big-name password managers. For the best password managers, I strongly recommend starting comparisons with Dashlane, Bitwarden or 1Password.
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Is Iolo System Mechanic worth buying?
Iolo System Mechanic Ultimate Defense is a convenient way to roll a lot of separate tasks into a single spot. Instead of using CCleaner, Spybot, Windows Defender and Google Password Manager, you can just use Ultimate Defense. The bigger catch is Ultimate Defense has the appearance of an outright purchase but is ultimately a subscription service if you want ongoing protection.
How we review performance optimisation and security tools
Our top-level appraisal of performance optimisation and security tools is how much they cost relative to what they include. The convenience of replacing the functions of multiple pieces of software is great, but that also has to be backed by reasonable pricing and performance.
Big points for any software that’s available as an outright purchase these days, but the trend is towards subscription models if users want the most up-to-date protection. We then take note of how easy the software is to install, what platforms it supports and how well it holds your hand during setup.
Ideally, performance optimisation and security tools should be easy to use while working in the background without a massive performance impact. We then put the relevant optimisation and security tools through their paces, comparing them to our experience with alternatives and commenting on what they do and don’t do well.