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  • (01. January 2010., 10:27:49)

Author Topic: Microsoft Launches PC Advisor Repair Utility. Going After Apple Next?  (Read 2822 times)

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This weekend, Microsoft quietly rolled out a preview release of the Microsoft PC Advisor to select members of the Windows Feedback Program.  (Members of the Windows Feedback Program agree to let Microsoft monitor their machines closely, and Microsoft uses that data to determine what types of problems real users experience.) The invitation to try out the PC Advisor made some intriguing promises—the app will monitor our PC for problems and give solutions in real time and it will monitor system settings for potential pitfalls. The survey that preceded our download was even more interesting, it hinted that Microsoft's ultimate goal for the new app is complete Apple domination.

Before we get into the nitty gritty of how PC Advisor works, it’s worth talking about the signup process. Before we could download and install the app, we had to fill out a brief, ten-minute survey. That’s not unusual in and of itself, but the questions we were asked were definitely non-standard. In addition to the typical “What kind of computer do you have?” and “What’s your expertise level?” questions that usually precede entry into Microsoft software betas, this survey asked a bevy of questions about our Linux and OS X predilections. Questions included “How many Apple computers do we own?” “How likely we are to recommend PCs running Windows, OS X, and Linux?” and “How do Windows and OS X make you feel?” Additionally, the PC Advisor preview only works with Vista. It seems like the PC Advisor may be part of Microsoft’s master plan to improve PC users’ confidence in Windows as a platform.

On to the software. The invitation email we received said that the Microsoft PC Advisor will:

  • Monitor your PC for problems and give you solutions in real-time to fix them.
    Keep your PC running smoothly with important software and driver updates
    Optimize your Windows experience with useful tips and tutorials
    Optimize your PC by monitoring and updating settings

To these points, the PC Advisor includes five main sections: PC Checkup, Toolbox, Offers, Tutorials, and Online Help. We’ll go over each one separately.

PC Checkup

The centerpiece of the PC Advisor app is the PC Checkup tool. It scans for common (and not so common) problems. We tested the Checkup tool on three machines, and most of the “problems” it found weren’t really problems—disabling UAC is the solution to a problem and switching the power profile doesn’t impact game performance on most desktop machines. Other suggestions were to empty the temporary Internet files (Firefox is the primary browser, so this is a non-tip), enable the Phishing filter in IE (ditto), and turn the Windows Firewall. It didn’t find the simple fix for a game crash that’s plagued us recently—our videocard drivers were two revisions out of date. After we manually updated them from Nvidia’s website, our crashes disappeared.  While we do appreciate the app pointing out that the shortcut for the Disk Cleanup Wizard points to the wrong version on our install of 64-bit Vista, this isn’t a problem that keeps us up at night.

When you choose to fix a problem that the PC Checkup tool finds, you click the Fix button, the app downloads the fix from the Internet, and automatically applies it, without any additional input from the user. Don’t want to install an update? Simple enough—click the trashcan icon, and you won’t be bothered again.

The user experience is a definite improvement over some of the repair tools built into Vista, but the actual fixes are of pretty low value. It bodes well for the future of helpdesk staff and PC repairmen everywhere, but we’ve never actually seen a PC repair application that will solve anything more than the most insignificant problems. We wouldn’t expect a simple mass-market application to troubleshoot overclocking problems, but we do expect it to notify us that our drivers are out of date.


Every nerd loves digging into a Toolbox, right? We usually do, but not in this case. The PC Advisor’s toolbox is nothing more than a list of shortcuts to convenient and frequently accessed areas of your PC’s Control Panel. We didn’t have enough ways to access the Display settings Control Panel, did we? Hopefully, the relatively useless links here are simply a placeholder for something more useful.


As of Sunday afternoon, there aren’t any offers. We’re not sure exactly what kind of offers we’d expect in an app like this, but we’ll report back when something pops up.


The tutorials section seems to be another interface to expose users to content that’s already hidden on their PCs. The tutorials here cover everything from updating Firewall settings to removing redeye using Windows Photo Gallery. Most of these tutorials are also found by going through the traditional help menus in the relevant apps.

Online Help

Another placeholder, but the online help section contains but a single link to the

The Upshot

Like we said in the beginning, the sole reason to install this app is the PC Checkup tool. The rest of the menu options are either pointers to existing applications, control panels, or help content, or mere placeholders. While the PC Checkup functionality could deliver some interesting functionality, especially if it develops the ability to suss out real PC problems, right now it just offers the kind of non-fixes for non-problems that all other “PC Repair” utilities we’ve tested do. Of course, for eligible testers, this app is free—most of those apps cost $30-$50 and do the exact same thing: nothing.

Editor's Note: We added "(Quietly)" to the headline, because we were concerned that readers might inadvertently believe that this is a public release of a new application, instead of a "Preview" release for members of the Windows Experience Project.


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