Norton Utilities 2002 is the latest in a long line of system maintenance software produced by Symantec. According to the back of the box, it ‘combines industry-leading technology with one-button simplicity’ and ‘finds and fixes hardware and software problems quickly, safely, and easily’. Sounds good, huh? Well, it is good. Installation =========== It installs easily off of the CD – as with any other Windows program it leads you through the process pretty gently. There’s an optional registration section where a few harmless details are sent off to Symantec over the Internet, which I feel you may as well fill in and send off. I haven’t had any junk mail or email spam from them since. What do you get? ============== Once you’ve installed and rebooted, you’ll get a new icon on the right of your taskbar that looks like a traffic light. This is Norton System Doctor, which consists of a number of real-time sensors that monitor your computer for problems. You can add or remove these as you like (and there are lots of them) to customise the sort of things you want to monitor for. You also get Norton Utilities Integrator. This is the pretty, easy-to-use Windows front end for the bulk of the programs you get with Norton Utilities. Within this control panel, there are four sections: 1) Optimise performance This is pretty straightforward, does-what-it-says-on-the-tin stuff. There are two programs here, Speed Disk and Optimisation Wizard. Speed Disk is much the same as Windows defragmenting, but is much more thorough and powerful. The first time you run it, it will literally take hours, even on a fast machine, but you will notice a significant performance increase. Optimisation Wizard covers a few other areas – it makes sure your swap file (don’t worry if you don’t know what this is) is in the right place for optimum performance, and it also op
timises your Registry (again, don’t worry if you don’t know what that is). 2) Find and fix problems There is a lot here. First off is Norton System Doctor, which I’ve covered earlier. Next is the Un-erase Wizard, a handy little utility that lets you recover deleted files, even if they’ve been emptied from the recycle bin. Don’t rely on it, as it only works until the bit of the disk is written over again, but it’s useful if you ever accidentally delete something you wanted to hang on to. Norton Disk Doctor is a program that keeps your hard disks nice and healthy. It checks everything from the disk’s partition table to its actual physical surface for problems. Again, this is a very time-consuming process, but it’s not something you need to run very often. Much the same as Windows ScanDisk. WinDoctor does much the same thing; only it checks Windows for any problems. Depending on how much you know, you can look at each problem it finds and deal with it yourself, or you can just let WinDoctor take care of everything automatically. It’s quite amazing how many problems it finds at first – the first time I ran this it came up with about 150! These tend to just be little things that make your system a bit slower and less stable, so sorting them out is a good thing. Finally is the big one, Norton System Check. This is the one I use most regularly, as it does everything in one go. Brilliant. You can even schedule it to run at a particular time every week, month, or whatever. 3) System maintenance System Information – this section quite simply tells you pretty much everything you will ever need to know about your computer. Your graphics card capabilities, your printer properties, your memory usage, and so on. The thing that I find most useful is being able to see exactly what you’ve got loaded into memory, what program each thing belongs to, and how muc
h memory it takes up. But it’s generally for advanced users. Wipe Info – for deleting sensitive files, and making sure they are un-recoverable. Can either do a standard wipe, or a more potent government wipe, which conforms to Department Of Defence specifications. So if you delete something with this, there’s basically no getting it back, not even with the Un-erase Wizard. Use with care! Image – takes a snapshot of all the important bits of your hard disk, so that if everything gets stuffed up, you can use this information to try to recover your information. Never had to use it, thankfully, but I’m glad it’s there. Norton File Compare - lets you track changes made to text documents, see what’s changed between versions, and selectively undo the changes. Can compare any text files, such as *.ini files, programming source code, HTML files, and the Windows registry. 4) Registry Management This is for serious users only. If you don’t know what the registry is, don’t even look at it! The registry is basically where Windows stores the settings for EVERYTHING, so if you play around with it, you can cause really nasty problems. Anyway, in here you get two things, the Registry Editor and the Registry Tracker. The Registry Editor, erm, lets you edit the registry, much like the Windows one. The Norton version has a useful bookmark feature for those of you who spend a lot of time in your registry, though. The Registry Tracker (as long as you tell it to) monitors the registry for any changes, and lets you revert back to a previous version if the changes cause problems. So if you’re not sure what you’re doing with the registry, but are going to fiddle with it anyway, use the Registry Tracker before you delve in (oh, and make a backup first)! Anything else? ============= Yeah, you get Norton Rescue, which is a utility that creates a recovery disk for
you that lets you get things started again if your system dies horribly, and you get the standard Norton LiveUpdate program, which will prompt you every so often to check for an update for your software. These don’t come along very often, and are pretty small to download, so keeping current is no great hassle. Is Norton Utilities worth getting? ================================ I think so, yes, with maybe a few provisos. If you are a ‘serious user’, then it’s probably worth getting. It’ll keep your system running at peak performance, and sort out any problems you get when you try and be smart but screw things up (yes, I’ve done it too!). If you’re a computer novice, but are keen to learn, it’ll also give you more of an insight into the background goings-on of your computer; plus some peace of mind, in that if things go horribly wrong you’ve got some powerful software that should sort you out. Just try not to go over-the-top and optimise your hard disk every day or anything! The only people I’d really advise not to buy this are those that are terrified of their computers (like my long-suffering mate’s parents. They get upset when he changes the desktop resolution…). Norton Utilities is easy to use, and you even get a nice friendly little panel that explains what each program is for, but the fact is you probably don’t stretch your computers capabilities enough to make this sort of software necessary. Is it worth upgrading if you’ve already got a previous version? ===================================================== Well, that depends. If you are running, or intend to upgrade to, Windows XP, then yes, you will need this version, as it is the only one that is XP-compatible. Otherwise, I’m not sure, to be honest. I was running Norton Utilities 4 before this one, way back from the days before they introduced Microsoft-style year-b
ased version numbers. And yes, there is a big improvement from that version - it’s a lot more stable and effective. On the other hand if you’ve got, say, NU 2001, and aren’t looking to upgrade to Windows XP, well I’d recommend you save your money. In Conclusion ============ Norton Utilities 2002 is a brilliant suite of software that will keep your computer running in tip-top condition, and is well worth the asking price. To be recommended to almost everyone. The only real gripe is that Windows is surely big enough and ugly enough to be able to look after itself!