Everyone who runs Windows - especially the dire Windows ME as I do - should get a copy of this programme. It will save you time, data loss and a lot of problems.
Basically there are two sides to Norton Utilities: Software to fix problems with your computer and make it more reliable, and software to improve the speed of your computer and make it more efficient, Since installing and running this programme on my computer I have noticed significant improvements in both, more than enough to justify the selling price.
The collection of utilities are held together in a single integrated core from which you can run individual programmes, schedule others to run at certain times and update the software over the Internet. The selection of 14 programmes are divided into "Optimise Performance", "Find And Fix Problems", "System Maintenance" and "Registry Management":
The 'Speed Disk' utility is a disk defragmentor, which organises the order in which data is stored on the hard drive so that it can be accessed more quickly by the computer. A disk defragmentor is included with Windows, but the Norton version is far more powerful and effective, and the results, especially on computers with very full hard drives, are instantly noticeable.
I have found the Windows disk defragmentor to be far less useful, and often conflicts with another Windows utility, Scandisk, claiming it cannot run until Scandisk has (Scandisk, in return, blames Disk Defragmentor). The Norton Utilities system does away with this frustrating Windows problem by simply giving you a programme that is more powerful and actually works.
'Norton Optimisation Wizard' performs two tasks: First, it reconfigures the size of your swap file in accordance with your other settings so that it can be used more efficiently by the computer. Second, it optimises the method by which data is stored in the Registry, again to improve efficiency. Here the speed gains are not as remarkable as with 'Speed Disk'.
Find And Fix Problems
'Norton System Doctor' runs by default in the background of Windows, monitoring how your system behaves and tracking problems. A number of graphic displays can be set by the user to examine Processor occupancy, use of RAM, hard drive space and many others. This is a simple tool which you and the Norton Utilities system can use to monitor your system for problems.
The 'UnErase Wizard' is an extremely useful tool for those prone to accidentally deleting important files. It works in conjunction with the Recycle Bin, which is managed by Norton Utilities, to attempt to rescue deleted files even after they have been emptied from the Recycle Bin. I ran a few tests with it which produced remarkable results, and showed the considerable depth and power of this utility. Its success is less when attempting to recover files lost before the installation of the Norton Protection system, but that is understandable. A useful utility to fall back on, especially for those with children prone to deleting things by accident (or overzealous desktop-cleaners).
The 'Disk Doctor' is an extremely useful tool and one which I have now used many times as a replacement for Windows comparatively useless Scandisk. 'Disk Doctor' diagnoses all manner of faults with hard disks and other disks and very often can repair them with no loss of data.
'WinDoctor' does the same for Windows, running a number of checks to rectify any problem from faulty shortcuts to registry errors and driver problems. Some of these are problems which can be fixed manually but they tend to be extremely time-consuming and not the sort of thing most people can be bothered wasting their time with. Problems can either be fixed automatically, or those which can be solved in a number of ways can be managed by the user through the logical and well designed Norton interface.
'System Check' simply amalgamates the problem fixing utilities to allow you to solve any Windows issues in a single, easy programme.
The "System Information" section is where I have to raise my only major complaint about Norton Utilities - there are a couple of programmes here which seem a little redundant. 'System Information' is certainly handy in providing a more detailed analysis of your computers' contents than Windows does, but is not really of very much use. Also, I cannot imagine what on earth I could use 'File Compare' for, which looks for differences between two copies of what may or may not be the same file. If anyone can think of a use for this, please leave a comment.
'Norton Diagnostics' checks and proffers solutions to hardware conflicts and generally does so very well, although I would rather it didn't insist on printing a self-test page as it does so.
'Image' creates an impression of your hard drive's structure, improving the accuracy of the 'UnErase Wizard' and making it more straightforward to reconstruct damaged essential files.
Finally, 'WipeInfo' is a most intriguing utility. It appears to be a straightforward tool for permanent file deletion, but offers varying levels of depth including one called the 'Government Wipe' which is so thorough that it is approved for use by the United States Department of Defence!
Two utilities are included for managing the Windows registry - the crucial system settings which record practically everything regarding how your computer is set up and functions. It is not advisable for those without a fairly detailed knowledge of how computers work to tamper with the registry, but the Norton programmes allow you to edit the registry with ease ('Norton Registry Editor') and restore any alterations made ('Norton Registry Tracker').
In addition to this powerful suite of programmes there is also a system recovery facility which allows you to boot the computer from a rescue disk and use Norton Utilities to correct any problem that is preventing your computer from starting properly.
Norton Utilities covers ever potential problem you might have to complete, perhaps even unnecessary lengths. This programme has everything in it you could want and no doubt a few tools that will be completely useless to you as well. It does, however, allow you to maintain your computer and optimise its performance in vital errors, correcting the numerous flaws left by Windows and other programmes. I highly recommend this programme.
Symantec Norton Utilties costs £34.99 from Special Reserve, or can be bought as a double-pack with Norton AntiVirus 2001 for only £39.99 from Game. The larger Norton System Works 2001 also contains Utiltiies 2001 plus a number of other programmes, and costs £57.99 from Special Reserve.
I would recommend taking advantage of the free trial download of this product from the Symantec website, or the trial copy usually available on most copies of the magazine "PC Format".
Minimum system requirements:
Windows 95 v2 / Windows 98 - 486DX/66 Processor with 32Mb RAM, 50Mb hard disk space (90Mb for full installation) and a CD-ROM drive.
Windows ME - P150 processor, rest as above.