The award winners

Our group test told us what we already suspected: most optimisation software doesn't actually do a great deal. Of the eight we tested, only one was able to boost our Windows start times significantly. None gave us consistently good results across the board, either - they would boost Half-Life 2's start times, but let us down in the LibreOffice loading times, or vice-versa.

That's not to say system optimisers aren't useful though. The majority did offer a selection of decent quality tools on top of the conventional Registry tidiers and disk defragmenters, like Ashampoo's ability to alter USB polling and Magix's netbook settings.

CCleaner is our favourite because of its powerful operation and back-to-basics approach, but if you simply must part with cash we'd recommend Iolo for its multitude of features and impressive performance.

Editors choice - Iolo System Mechanic

Iolo's System Mechanic promises a lot, and despite our initial reservations it delivered on the majority of its features. It may cost a little more than other tune-up software, but there's bags of value here.

Extra features includes the wittily-titled CRUDD scanner, which removes redundant programs, and whole family licensing so it can be installed on numerous PCs. It performed admirably too, delivering decent results in everything apart from system start-up time.

Verdict: 4/5

Value award - Piriform CCleaner

We love CCleaner's nuts-and-bolts approach, and it's by far the best option when it comes to optimising your PC.

It didn't drag our system down at all, and its run-once system feels a lot better than being constantly nagged and reminded that the software is there. It feels solid and reliable too, and because it's free to use, you don't have to invest anything to find out if it works. Do your PC a favour and try it.

Verdict: 5/5