Expo Notes: TechTool Pro gets approachable

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Editor’s Note: All this week, Macworld editors will report from the Macworld Expo show floor on meetings with Mac developers, new product announcements, and anything else that catches their eye.

Micromat’s TechTool Pro is one of the most powerful Mac diagnostic programs out there. It includes a variety of tests for everything from memory to hard drives. It also includes a set of optimization tools, as well as the emergency eDrive bootable partition. All that power, however, has always come at something of a cost—the interface wasn’t the simplest thing to navigate, and the generated reports could be somewhat confusing to use.

In its Macworld Expo booth this year, Micromat is showing a preview of TechTool Pro 5 (in development now, without a known release date). The new version features a totally revamped interface, as well as changes to both how the tests are run and how you interact with their output.

But the really cool thing in this new version is a set of memory tests for Intel Macs that run in EFI mode. Memory tests are an important aspect of testing a troublesome Mac—in many cases, an otherwise-healthy Mac that crashes often but unpredictably will be found to have a defective RAM chip. Testing RAM, however, is difficult because some portion of it is always in use when the machine is running. TechTool Pro 5’s EFI memory tests actually reboot your Mac into EFI mode, which is about as bare bones as it gets.

As an example of just how bare bones it is, the text you see onscreen in the memory test mode are actually graphical characters placed on the screen, one letter at a time. But the advantage of running in EFI mode is that nearly all the RAM can be tested—I was told, in fact, that all but 100KB of the RAM on their Mac mini demo unit was being tested in EFI mode.

We’ll have more on TechTool Pro 5 once it begins shipping, of course. If you’re at the show, however, it’s worth a visit to the Micromat booth to check out the new interface and the EFI memory tests.

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