About 20 months ago we wrote about our struggle against Winrot, which we described as “the creeping, pernicious degradation of the integrity of Windows systems to the point where they run slowly, behave erratically, stop working altogether or all of the above.”

In that column we asked what you do to address Winrot. The answers ranged from “bite the bullet and rebuild” through to “we don’t use Windows, ha-ha-ha!”

It turns out that rebuilding is usually the best choice, but sometimes when the wind is coming from the right direction and the moon is full, some tools will circumvent or at least defer the need to reinstall everything. Such tools can be found in the latest release of Raxco Software’s Perfect Disk Rx Suite for Windows 2000, XP and Vista.

The features included are disk optimisation (otherwise called defragging, which is Raxco’s particular strength); Windows registry cleaning (removing dead entries and other cruft); reclaiming free space on disk (emptying the trash, deleting temporary files, finding duplicate files and so forth — it also displays how space is used); a privacy assurance utility called Erase All Traces (this deletes cookies, browsing history, most recently used lists, and cached content for Internet Explorer, Firefox and Opera); and Tweaks (setting or unsetting various Windows system options).

Installation is trivial. But the user interface is sadly uninspiring, with lots of such non-functional space in overly large title and footer areas (the latter displays four non-functional icons for no good reason). That said, on startup it does check drive fragmentation, registry integrity and so forth, and displays a useful summary of system “health.”

The first thing we did was run the registry cleaner, and it discovered a total of 249 problems. We allowed Perfect Disk Rx Suite to fix them and then rebooted, and the results look promising. For example, the time it takes to click on a URL in an HTML mail and see a browser window open has decreased to perhaps one-fifth of the time it was taking.

We did find a couple of problems after this exercise: an excellent keyboard macro utility called KeyText that we had been using for some time suddenly thought that it had just been installed; and the driver for a multi-standard memory card reader failed. Other than those issues, everything appears to be working fine. We’ve also used the reclaimed disk space feature (we got about a 10 per cent gain) and defragged our boot drive, which seems to have improved input/output performance by at least 20 per cent.

Defragging with Perfect Disk Rx Suite is very slick, because it arranges files on a drive according to usage and will operate in the background (it modifies its processor demand according to the loading of other processes). Even better, once defragging is complete, Perfect Disk Rx Suite will operate in the background and continually optimise your drives.

The Tweaks section of Perfect Disk Rx Suite is OK but weak: when you consider that there are literally hundreds of Windows settings you can change, Raxco’s list of 16 tweaks is pathetic. Had Raxco asked us we would have suggested either leaving them out altogether or hooking up with the likes of our favourite, Tweak Manager from PC Tools, which includes around 1,000 tweaks.

So, with the assistance of Perfect Disk Rx Suite, Winrot is being kept at bay and we have been able to skip the ineffable pleasure of rebuilding our Windows desktop machine. Yet again. A single-user Perfect Disk Rx Suite licence is priced at $30, which is a better value than the company’s stand-alone version of the disk defragger, priced at $40.

We have a final issue that we wonder if you have any thoughts about: when we used Process Explorer we kept noticing a process named “bwgo - - - - - .exe” (the dashes are alphanumeric values that change). It appears that this process — which is really called BackWeb — is installed by Logitech software to update various applications. That’s all well and good, except it seems to go out of its way to tell you whose software it is, and you can’t kill the damn thing off as it seems to do a weird, stealth type, re-creation. Anyone got any idea how this cruft actually operates?