I’m sure that there are good programs out there, but like you, I’m very skeptical. I definitely believe that “if it seems to good to be true, it probably is.”
As a result, I’ve never actually purchased such a program – instead, I’ve either tackled my problems head-on, lived with them, or if things are bad enough and unsolvable I’ve reformatted and re-installed.
But there are some ways to at least stack the deck in your favor if you do want to try one or more of these types of tools.
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Most “fix everything” tools are glorified registry cleaners. So one alternative is to simply start with exactly that, a registry cleaner. While I don’t use one often, I have been happy with Macecraft’s JV16 Power Tools. I discuss registry cleaners in more detail in my earlier article What’s the best registry cleaner?.
After that, I start using a process that I use to evaluate just about any program I run across: I search the net for stories and reviews.
One good sign is if you find recommendations or awards from recognizable sources. Sites like PC Magazine, c|net, and so forth all periodically review and rate software packages – and those packages that get good ratings are often quick to throw the associated logos and links to the reviews on their sites. Check those out, see what they have to say and how it might apply in your situation. Positive reviews from other tech support sites such as Ask Leo! are also a good sign.
The nice thing about a legitimate review is that it legitimizes the utility somewhat as well. If PC Magazine gives a utility a review – even if that review is less than stellar – chances are the utility, and the company, are legitimate. Unless of course the review says otherwise.
Beware of fake reviews. Anyone can publish anything that looks like a glowing review. They can even fake award banners and ratings – make sure to check out any claims along those lines, and make sure that you recognize the source.
Another thing I do is simply search for the product name on the internet and see what pops up. If it continually shows up in discussion forums or support sites with lots of negative comments, I’d beware. On the other hand if you find a lot of “this product saved my machine” types of comments, then things are looking up.
Once again you need to beware of planted comments and postings. I get them here on Ask Leo! all the time – individuals with a vested interest attempting to push a product will sometimes plant fake positive comments extolling its virtues. Particularly if you see exactly the same comment in several places, it’s time to get suspicious.
And with that very caveat, I’d love to hear from readers. If you have a favorite utility for repairing Windows issues, please post a comment. If nothing else, it might provide a good starting point for folks to investigate and evaluate.