Advanced SystemCare Ultimate 6 review

Advanced SystemCare Ultimate 6 combines decent antivirus protection with a huge collection of tools for system optimization and cleanup. Tech-heads will love it; others can hide the tools to keep it simple.
Photo of Advanced SystemCare Ultimate 6

Antivirus tools and other security products used to have a deservedly bad reputation for slowing down system performance. These days you don’t see much performance impact from security software, but wouldn’t it be great if your antivirus could actually improve system performance? That’s the promise of Advanced SystemCare Ultimate 6, which combines a full-scale antivirus with a dazzling array of utilities to clean up and tune up your PC.

This product is designed to be used by experts and novices alike. In its default Simplified Mode, the main screen includes a big security status indicator, a big button that launches an antivirus scan, and very little more. If you don’t like the glowing blue on black color scheme, you can choose a white-background skin, or set the main window to any degree of transparency. Switching to Expert Mode enables a ton of additional features; I’ll discuss those later on.

Easy Install, One Failure
On eleven of my twelve malware-infested test systems, Advanced SystemCare installed and updated without incident. The desktop is unavailable on the remaining system due to a ransomware sample taking over, so I couldn’t install the product. My IObit contact suggested scanning with avast! or AVG, but of course doing so would still require access to the desktop.

In the end, I just couldn’t get the product installed on this system. That earns it one star, out of a possible five, for ease of installation. An even lower rating, no stars, can be awarded if malware cleanup permanently disables any of the test systems. To get five stars, a product must install smoothly on all twelve infested systems with little or no advice from tech support. Emsisoft Anti-Malware 7.0, TrustPort Antivirus 2013, and Ad-Aware Free Antivirus+ 10.5 are the most recent products to earn five stars for easy installation.

Better Detection than Cleanup
I ran Advanced SystemCare’s full scan on the eleven test systems where it installed correctly. Only after completing those test runs did I notice that the setting called “Enable Full Detection” is turned off by default. The description for this setting says, “Detects and remove the deepest infections and protects your PC against various potential spyware, adware, Trojans, keyloggers, bots, worms, and hijackers.”

That sounded important, so for each test system I enabled it and ran another full scan. The repeat scan discovered more malware traces on every system; on one system it found 1,178 additional traces. However, the second scan didn’t raise the product’s malware removal scores by a lot, because the vast majority of the newly-found traces resided in System Restore points created after the product’s installation.

Advanced SystemCare detected 67 percent of the malware samples, the same as ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus + Firewall 2013. However, it scored just 4.2 points while ZoneAlarm earned 5.3 points. Why? Because it left behind executable traces for quite a few malware samples, some of them still running. The detection rate for G Data AntiVirus 2014 was quite a bit less, 58 percent, but due to better cleanup G Data took 4.3 points.

The top score for products tested using this same malware collection goes to Kaspersky PURE 3.0 Total Security. This mega-suite detected 78 percent of the samples and scored 6.0 of 10 possible points. At the other end of the spectrum, IObit Malware Fighter 2, from the same vendor as Advanced SystemCare, scored an unprecedentedly low 0.8 points.

Tested with my previous collection of malware samples, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware 1.70 topped the field with 7.1 points. Norton AntiVirus (2013) and Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus 2013 both earned 6.6 points in that test.

The chart below lays out test results for current products. To understand how I derive these numbers, see How We Test Malware Removal.

Advanced SystemCare Ultimate 6 malware removal chart

Better at Blocking
When I first installed Advanced SystemCare on my standard clean test system, something surprising happened. It immediately started detecting and repairing the malware samples that I keep on hand for testing. Usually that doesn’t happen until I open the folder or until there’s some other form of file access. Was I seeing an unusually effective on-access scanner?

Alas, it turned out that my copy of the Advanced SystemCare installer had somehow been corrupted by a virus; upon installing the antivirus, I also installed the virus. The file access activity that triggered the antivirus’s real-time protection was caused by the active virus infecting those files. I wiped the virtual machine and started over with a fresh download of the installer. This time it installed calmly, with no surprises.

When I opened the folder containing my current malware collection, Advanced SystemCare went right to work. Within a few minutes it had eliminated 78 percent of the samples. Next I tried another folder containing hand-modified versions of the same collection. It did miss one of the tweaked files, but that’s better than many. What surprised me was that the antivirus detected two files that I had modified but missed the unmodified version of those same files. I can’t explain that. Remember, too, that on-access scanning is just one layer of protection.

I launched all of the files that survived the initial shootout and recorded how the antivirus handled them. Some managed to install without detection. Others got caught during the install process, but a couple of those managed to place executable files on the test system despite having installation interrupted. In all, Advanced SystemCare detected 92 percent of the samples and scored 8.8 points. G Data also detected 92 percent but managed 9.0 points. TrustPort earned 9.0 points, like G Data, but with 94 percent detection.

The best blocking scores among products tested with my current malware collection go to Ad-Aware, with 94 percent detection and 9.4 points. With 100 percent detection and 9.9 points, Webroot beat out all other products tested using my previous malware collection. For a full explanation of how I conduct this test, see How We Test Malware Blocking.

Advanced SystemCare Ultimate 6 malware blocking chart

I wish I could share test results for this product from the independent testing labs. Alas, none of them include IObit’s products in their test lineups.

One of this product’s components is called Surfing Protection, so I figured it would block access to malicious sites. However, when I tried to download my current malware collection again it didn’t block a single one at the URL level. The standard on-access scanner caught 59 percent of the samples during the download process. Ad-Aware did much better, blocking 64 percent at the URL level and 28 percent during download, for an overall detection rate of 92 percent.

Smart Scan Optimization
In Simplified Mode, the main window offers two pages, one called Antivirus and one called Care. The Care page is just as sparse as the Antivirus one, with just a PC Health indicator and a great big button labeled Smart Scan.

Clicking the button launches a series of system cleanup and tuneup scans. It scans for malware, Registry errors, and traces of browsing and computer usage. It also seeks junk files, checks for settings that could boost your Internet speed, and flags shortcuts that don’t point to existing files.

On completing a scan, it reports your current system security level, performance level, and stability level, and offers to fix the problems it found. It’s an all-or-nothing choice; you can’t pick and choose what to fix. That makes sense, because the intended audience of Simplified Mode would not know enough to make an informed choice.

Expert Mode
Switching to Expert Mode drastically changes the appearance and function of this program. The Antivirus page now offers additional status information, a few simple on/off switches for components, and full access to antivirus settings. It also lets you choose between a full scan, a quick scan of likely malware hideouts, and a custom scan.

The Care page changes even more significantly. The big button, now called just Scan, gets shoved aside to make room for a list of twelve selectable scan tasks. In addition to the Simplified Mode tasks, you can choose to defragment the Registry, defragment your hard drives, check disks for trouble, and install any missing Windows updates.

I wasn’t sure what to make of the tasks titled Security Defense and System Optimization, so I launched a scan using just those two. System Optimization identifies Windows settings that could be changed to make the system run better and faster. Security Defense actively blocks known dangerous websites, Browser Helper Objects, and cookies. Could be useful!

Turbo Boost
The Turbo Boost feature, available only in Expert Mode, claims it will “optimize and speed up your computer,” though you have to configure it first. You can choose to optimize for work or for gaming, but whatever you do, look closely at the options. This is not the time to blindly check every box.

In the System Services area you can disable such features as file sharing and scheduled tasks, or disable support for printers, scanners, and cameras. Note that if you check “Disable theme manager,” your Windows desktop and programs will look different, possibly very different. On my test system, the Non-Windows Services page included just one item, Java Quick Starter. Disabling this seems like a good idea.

The Background Applications page lists processes that launch at startup, along with information about their CPU and memory usage. If you disable any of these, the change won’t take effect until you reboot. Like all other Turbo Boost changes, these are reversible. Choose whether to keep your existing power plan or switch to the program’s plan and you’re done configuring Turbo Boost.

I’m reviewing this product as an antivirus, so for me Turbo Boost is just a nice bonus feature. I didn’t put the system through the lengthy performance tests that I use to determine whether a security suite is slowing system performance.

Toolbox Bursting with Tools
Enabling Expert Mode also reveals the Toolbox page, with links to over two dozen useful utilities. To start, all of the components from the Care page can be launched individually here. I won’t describe all the rest here; I’ll just hit the high points.

Secure file deletion, or “shredding,” ensures that forensic experts can’t recover your sensitive files by reconstructing their data segments on disk. Advanced SystemCare lets you choose whether or not to use the Department of Defense algorithm—it’s more secure, but slower. You can shred any file or folder, or shred the contents of the Recycle Bin. I’m impressed that it offers the ability to overwrite all disk areas marked as unused. This has the effect of ex post facto shredding files you deleted before installing the product.

The Undelete tool is the precise opposite of the File Shredder. It will search your disks for deleted files and attempt to recover those that you select. Of course, if any of the file’s data segments have been recycle to store a new file’s data, the recovery attempt will fail.

You might be surprised at how much of your disk space is occupied by sets of identical duplicate files. The Cloned Files Scanner will find those for you and offer to delete all but one of the clones. You’ll want to carefully peruse the list before letting it take action, to make sure that it leaves the right file and deletes the others.

The Startup Manager lists all the files that launch at startup, identifying how much time it takes to launch each one. You can disable any that you just don’t need all the time, or set others to launch after a delay.

A number of the utilities duplicate features found in Windows, but with enhancements. For example, System Control gives you easy access to a ton of settings usually reached by pawing through various items within Control Panel. Process Explorer works much like Task Manager to help you manage running processes and services.

The list goes on and on. This full-to-bursting toolbox will delight the inveterate system tweaker. If that’s not you, just leave the product in Simplified Mode and you won’t have to think about all these tools.

Nice Tools, OK Antivirus
With Advanced SystemCare Ultimate 6 you get antivirus protection that’s good, but not great. It’s definitely better at fending off attacks than at scraping out malware that has already invaded. I wouldn’t rely on it to clean up an infested system.

On the other hand, if you can get it installed on a clean machine it will do a decent job of keeping you safe. In addition, you get an absolutely amazing assortment of utilities to clean up, tune up, and optimize your PC. For some, that will be reason enough to choose this product.

However, if your aim is to get the best antivirus, you’ll find your toolkit elsewhere and choose one of our Editors’ Choice products to handle antivirus protection. Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2013, Norton AntiVirus (2013), and Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus 2013 all share that honor.

Specifications
Tech Support Web-based support.
OS Compatibility Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 8
Type Personal

Verdict
Advanced SystemCare Ultimate 6 combines decent antivirus protection with a huge collection of tools for system optimization and cleanup. Tech-heads will love it; others can hide the tools to keep it simple.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc