Repairs Made Easy
Reimage's PC Repair will likely prove more useful at home than at work, but it does offer some powerful analysis and repair capabilities.
Reimage PC Repair is a useful tool for fixing operating system errors. It can also repair computers that can't boot. The product, from Reimage, is easy to use and is geared toward users, not hard-core techies who want to know exactly how the tool works. It's designed to work with Windows XP and doesn't support Windows Vista, though Reimage officials say a Vista version is on its way. PC Repair isn't ideal for enterprise environments, but smaller businesses that have only a few PCs might find it useful. For this review, I decided to give the tool a test-drive on the family computer in my house, which typically locks up or crashes on a daily basis. After running PC Repair, I made some surprising discoveries about our family computer.
Installation and Analysis
Installation of the product was so easy that anyone who knows how to use the Web and can access www.reimage.com can quickly get started. One thing to note is that during the install, the company's Web site also prompts the user to install another product, PC Booster. I skipped the PC Booster install to see how PC Repair would stand on its own.
When the install was done, PC Repair immediately began analyzing my computer and scanning it for viruses. The informational screens that appear during the scan offer some interesting information in real time. They detail system configuration and hardware, available hard drive space, total hard disk drive size, total PC memory and Windows paging file size. PC Repair then compares these values to recommended- and worldwide-average values and displays the information in graphs that are easy to read.
In a hardware-analysis summary, it checks CPU power, free memory, hard disk speed in megabytes per second and CPU temperature. This display includes gauges, which are easy to read and accompany textual information.
After it completes its analysis, PC Repair gives the user a PC Analysis Summary based on the results it finds, also presented in easy-to-read bar graphs.
My results were as follows:
- Optimization Level: 64 percent. A general slowdown; applications load more slowly since I first purchased the computer.
- Stability Level: 62 percent. Applications sometimes crash due to system instability.
- Security Level: 100 percent. No malware found on the computer.
- Overall Level of the PC: 67 percent.
The analysis that produces these results takes about 15 minutes, and, up to this point, the product runs for free. I have to admit, I wasn't entirely sure how PC Repair returned some of the details about my computer.
Paying for Repairs
Once I saw that my computer wasn't 100 percent optimized, I decided to let Reimage repair it. Clicking the Start Repair button opens a screen in which the software charges the user for repairs. The cost of a one-time repair is $65 and is payable through a major credit-card, PayPal, electronic check, wire transfer, phone, fax, mailed check, money order or even bank transfer. PC Repair also offers bundles of three, five or unlimited repairs for a month for not much more than the cost of a one-time use. The company offers a 100 percent money-back guarantee.
The analyze-then-pay nature of PC Repair renders the product largely inappropriate for enterprise use. In fact, IT administrators at larger companies will likely want to prevent users from experimenting with it. However, PC Repair could be useful in small operations that have few or no IT pros with time on their hands to fix individual PCs.
The Repair Process
Like the analysis scan, the repair process shows the user a progress bar. In doing so, it reveals to the user that a repair can take up to an hour to complete. PC Repair then says it's going to download a "spare parts" package of about 80MB in size that will fix files that might be damaged, but it says it will do so by downloading only the parts necessary for a repair. At one point, I noticed the program had to download 11,361 files or fixes for my computer, which it downloaded in compressed packages.
The next step of the repair process removes faulty files and settings from the computer. PC Repair then cleans up the registry by modifying incorrect values and restoring them to the appropriate settings. The tool then installs missing files and settings to the computer. During this process, the installation of the 11,361 fixes took over my computer -- the interface froze for a few seconds, but I could tell that the hard drive was thrashing away.
While I was waiting for the repair process to finish, I wondered whether the product could work offline to repair a network connection. I decided to contact a support engineer. Two seconds after clicking the support button, I was online with a real engineer. He quickly confirmed my suspicion -- without Internet access, PC Repair can't download fix packages. That means it's impossible to fix networking issues without Internet access.
I also wondered how to repair a system that couldn't boot. The support engineer pointed me to a link on the company's Web site that explains how to create a free boot disk. This boot disk boots the computer up on a network and allows access to Internet Explorer. From there, users can go to the company's Web site and repair their computers.
At the end of the repair process, PC Repair requires a reboot of the computer. During the reboot process, a Reimage bootloader starts up before Windows fully loads. The bootloader finalizes the repair of exclusively locked files. This process takes one minute. Another nice feature of the software is that it provides an "undo" icon on the desktop that allows the user to roll back changes as necessary.
|REDMOND RATING |
Ease of use 20%
Key: 1: Virtually inoperable or nonexistent 5: Average, performs adequately 10: Exceptional
A Powerful, Non-Professional Tool
PC Repair is a great product for the user who doesn't know much about computer repair. One real concern I have about the product is that it's "black box," meaning it reveals little to the user about how it works. While this is great for the average user, the IT professional would want to know exactly what my 11,361 fixes actually were and how PC Repair was going to implement them. That's another reason why the product really wouldn't serve well as an enterprise tool.
Also, it's not possible to save or print the analysis report PC Repair provides. However, because the analysis is free, it's always possible to run the tool again and update the results of its analysis. Since running PC Repair on my home computer, I have yet to experience one of those daily crashes or lockups. While PC Repair isn't an ideal tool for the average IT professional, it's useful for home systems and might come in handy for smaller businesses or time- and resource-strapped small companies.
Brian Freedman, CISSP, MCSE, CCNA, has more than 15 years of professional IT experience. Currently he works for the U.S. Navy as the technical services lead supporting the enterprise information technology infrastructure of more than 100 sites worldwide.