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Iolo System Mechanic Ultimate Defense review

Clean and secure

Iolo System Mechanic Ultimate Defense
(Image: © Iolo)

Our Verdict

Iolo has given its PC performance and security suite a total overhaul, and the results are impressive. Each component is effective and simple to use, and they combine to create a package that's even more than the sum of its parts.


  • Excellent value
  • Effective cleanup and security tools
  • Well designed and easy to use


  • Not all tools have one-click fixes

Update: A recent change to Iolo's checkout process means you will be automatically subscribed to a $19.99 (about £15 / AU$25) per month support package when you purchase a product. This is a very large extra charge, so make sure to double-check before entering your payment details.

Iolo System Mechanic Ultimate Defense is the new name for Iolo Phoenix 360 – the company’s all-in-one PC cleanup and security suite – but it’s received much more than just a new name since our 2018 review. It now has a new design that brings it in line with Iolo’s other software, plus new tools to tackle modern online threats

Whereas other versions of System Mechanic are chiefly focused on improving your PC’s performance, Ultimate Defense is also a fully-fledged security suite for protecting you from online threats.

In addition to Iolo’s PC cleanup tools (which we’ve rated highly in previous reviews), this software also includes antivirus, a secure password manager, a drive wiper, anti-tracking tools for your web browser, malware detection and removal, and a file recovery tool.

PC optimization

If you’ve used an Iolo System Mechanic product before, the interface will be immediately familiar, but packed with a lot more icons and options. System Mechanic’s home screen still puts system optimization front and center, prompting you to scan your PC for unnecessary files, broken registry entries and more.

The Quick Scan option checks for temporary files, and only takes a few seconds, while the Deep Scan also checks for unnecessary startup processes, registry issues and sub-optimal Windows settings.

Iolo System Mechanic Ultimate Defense

(Image credit: Iolo)

One of the things we like best about System Mechanic is the level of detail is provides about each scan result. You can drill right down to find information about each file, and why you should consider removing (or keeping) it. This even applies to startup programs, which are given a community rating to help you decide whether or not to allow them to run.

If you’re short of time or not too confident, System Mechanic can perform a cleanup automatically, only removing files and ending processes that won’t interfere with your daily PC use, but for more experienced users, the level of fine control is a real boon.

Privacy and security

When we reviewed Iolo Phoenix 360, one of our few complaints was that it felt like the Privacy Guardian element should be part of System Mechanic – and now it is. The tool no longer needs to be installed separately, and is only ever a click away. This is a welcome change that makes the software suite feel much more cohesive.

Privacy Guardian works by preventing fingerprinting. This is a technique that advertisers can use to track you around the web without access to any personal information like your email address. Instead, it uses your PC’s unique system configuration (which essentially works like a unique signature) to follow your browsing activity.

Some browsers (such as Firefox) now come with anti-fingerprinting built in, but it’s still far from mainstream, so a tool like Privacy Guardian is a very welcome one.

Privacy Guardian also identifies and deletes tracking cookies from your system, though you can choose to whitelist cookies from certain sites to avoid being logged out of your accounts.

Iolo System Mechanic Ultimate Defense

(Image credit: Iolo)

There’s also a quick shortcut for private searches using DuckDuckGo, but you might find it more convenient to add this to the list of search engines in your browser, or even make it your default if you’re trying to escape from Google.

Iolo’s password manager, ByePass, is available for Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Edge. It must be installed separately for each browser, but that’s not an issue.

It performs all the functions you’d expect from a premium password manager, storing your login details, generating strong passwords, allowing you to access your accounts from all your devices and – importantly – logging you out securely at the end of a browsing session.

Malware and virus protection

Malware Killer – which was a new addition when we reviewed Iolo Phoenix 360 last year – has received a major update, giving you more control over what happens to identified threats, set exclusions, and review the history of past scans. In our tests, it threw up some false ‘infections’ (including the homepage tied to our Firefox account), but didn’t flag them as malicious or recommend that we take action to purge them.

SystemShield – Iolo’s antivirus app – is refreshingly simple to use, with manually-triggered or scheduled scans. Like all good antivirus software, it uses heuristic analysis to detect new threats before they’ve been catalogued. A scan can take some time to complete, so it would be nice to have a checkbox to shut down the PC once it’s completed, but that’s a minor quibble.

Iolo System Mechanic Ultimate Defense

(Image credit: Iolo)

The file recovery and drive scrubber tools are equally straightforward, not overwhelming you with options like some standalone tools. They perform one task, and do it well – something that can be said for each of System Mechanic Ultimate Defense’s components and makes the suite much greater than the sum of those parts.

One thing that strikes us as a little strange is that, while each tool features a color-coded circle at the top of the dashboard to indicate how secure or well optimized your system is, not all have a one-click tool for resolving identified issues.

When you use the System Mechanic Pro tool, the central ‘Scan’ button turns into a ‘Repair’ one, but for other tools you’ll need to spend some time. However, to fix issues identified by Privacy Guardian, you’ll need to select each issue and correct it manually, down to the level of cookies in a specific browser. Otherwise, it’s hard to find fault with Iolo’s fully revamped all-in-one suite.

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