TuneUp Utilities 2010 - $49.95 (trial available)
Having been raised on DOS and defragging and refragging and registry cleanups and windows installs and manually reformatting PCs again and again and again and over and over and over to try and squeeze the last life out of the buggers, I've always been strangely sceptical of optimisation software. Which is stupid, because as I've just learned, they really take the pain out of it for you,
TuneUp Utilities 2010 is a ridiculously easy to use and powerful product, bringing together all the stuff you can do to make your PC run that much smoother in a slick and minimal UI. A quick and dirty analysis of your rig's shortcomings takes about a minute, and as soon as it's done you're presented with a bunch of options to make it run faster.
While many of the options presented to you won't be a surprise to those familiar with Windows, having them all in front of you and explained in laymens is a nice touch. I said "OK, whatever" to everything and let TuneUp get to it.
It took about a good five minutes to be through with. That's to say, it cleaned up my admittedly cluttered registry, defrag'd my registry, got rid of broken shortcuts, deleted cached and temp files I didn't want or need, boosted my system startup and shutdown by getting rid of crap that I manually closed every single time I booted up and defrag'd my hard drive. Again, all fairly obvious stuff to keep in mind, but the kind of thing I, and I suspect other PC users, get lazy about - I had recently doomed my laptop to the dangerous mindset of "It's borked. Oh well." My laptop is still borked, but it's borked a hell of a lot faster and runs really smoothly.
One feature I really dig about TuneUp 2010 is the 'Turbo Mode' - while conjuring up images of third-party joysticks from the Amiga days, it promises a lot more than you'd think it does. By putting turbo mode on, TuneUp disables or lowers the priority of all the other system processes in the background, meaning you can get along smoothly with whatever heavy-duty application you happen to be running at the time.