The Ultimate Troubleshooter
Answers That Work (love the name!) is a great resource for anyone who has ever wondered just what the heck is going on "behind the curtains" on their PC. The company has developed an inexpensive application called The Ultimate Troubleshooter ($20 for a single user license) that contains a vast database with entries for the invisible programs, tasks, and processes that may be robbing your PC of its potential performance.
I showed this application to my two radio show co-hosts yesterday and both were duly impressed. They agreed that this tool could solve many of the problems our listeners phone us about every week and that it does so in very clear language with specific recommendations about how to address the issues that may be caused by each background process.
When you consider that a service order on the typical PC these days costs twice what this program does (in hard currency or in wasted time navigating phone menus and script-reading low-level techs), it's pretty cheap insurance.
The program offers assistance with running processes, installed services, startup entries (in both the Start menu and the registry), and a very detailed lsiting of all installed hardware. Registered users can help contribute to the database by e-mailing information about currently "unknown" applications and processes from within the program. It's a busy, but well designed interface that presents a huge amount of information.
You can see a number of screen shots here. This is the introductory text from the program's home page:
A staggering 65% of problems which a PC encounters, whether in business or at home, are not caused by hardware problems, they are not caused by viruses, they are not caused by spam; they are caused by programs running in the background. We call them Tasks.
Yes ? Unbelievably, the majority of problems PC users experience in their lifetime are caused purely and simply by background tasks. While you are using Microsoft Word and Excel, or Internet Explorer, or Outlook Express, or when you are simply trying to start your PC, there are at all times programs running in the background, programs that you do not see an icon for on the Taskbar or on your Desktop, and which perform various tasks.
Many of those background tasks are useful, if not absolutely necessary; some are optional and only needed for specific users, while many could have been useful but are terribly ill-behaved towards other programs, and some are useless, harmful, or are only of use to advertisers rather than you the end-user.
Simply providing information about these invisible programs might be good enough. But The Ultimate Troubleshooter does more by actually letting you unload running processes, disable startup items, and change process priorities with a single right-click. Nice. I highly recommend this program for troubleshooting what might be ailing your system.
UPDATE: I'll be interviewing the developer of this fine tool on my radio show this weekend and will let you know here if there's any important new enhancements coming.