The slogan on the Norton Utilities' (NU) box reads: "protect yourself, protect your investment." After a few months' using NT, you should err on the side of caution and make sure your investments are carefully protected from that blue screen with the binary wallpaper.
In the tradition of Norton, the program is designed so that it sits on your desktop away from your work, doing what it does very quietly and without eating up system resources. The program is fully 32-bit and gave the same results with both NTFS and FAT 16.
So what is it?
The System Doctor
As Symantec puts it, this is the heart of NU, sitting in the background ensuring everything runs smoothly and alerting you should anything go wrong. Essentially, the System Doctor is just a front end to the other programs that actually do the work. If, for example, your memory resources are getting critically low, it uses a traffic light metaphor to alert you to the issue and starts flashing red. At this point you can either click on the actual traffic light, which will send out an alert box telling you where the problem lies, or you can right click the mouse to launch the relevant program to sort it out.
Particularly useful is the feature that means you don't need to examine your computer with NU installed; it does everything for you. So if you're not sure why your system keeps crashing, NU will tell you and attempt to fix it.
If you belong to one of those organisations that, regardless of the environment, leave their computers on all night, NU will scan your machine around the clock. Alternatively, you can set the Doctor up to check specific areas of your computer when you want it to.
This rather nifty utility logs onto the Internet periodically to search through Symantec's database of software looking for new definitions. The LiveUpdate sensor keeps your program up-to-date and installs patches automatically for any part of the program that has been modernised.
The sensor works either with a network connection to the Web or with a modem and, although it can be a tad slow with the latter, this functionality is well worth the time investment.
Inside System Doctor
Virus definitions are pre-programmed with NU and Symantec provides good basic protection from some of the more common varieties of infectious nasties, but the elegance of NU is shown fully in this area of the program every time you log on. Because viruses are continually being written by hackers all over the world, updates that can deal with the new strains are constantly needed. Symantec deals with this by providing a direct link to its Web site every time you log on and then pumping down the very latest definitions from its anti-virus development team. This is a powerful anti-virus solution and definitely one of the best available for NT. A red light appears when something is wrong, usually to warn you that the virus definitions are out of date. To remedy this you simply log on and download the new ones (keeping your fingers crossed that you haven't been infected in the interim).
According to the manual, Disk Doctor detects and corrects almost any type of hard disk problem, from orphaned file-name entries (files that don't appear to have an associated program) to lost clusters (space marked as being used but not belonging to any file). Surprisingly, Disk Doctor not only scans and repairs problems on FAT and NTFS hard drives, but also on Zip drives; this is invaluable if you store files on this new type of removable media.
This is one of those programs you know you should have and wouldn't dream of being without once you have started using it - but until you are used to it, seems to smack of overkill. Essentially, NU sets up a recoverable recycle bin on the desktop which keeps track of all the programs and files you have erased and attempts to keep the file structures intact long enough for them to be brought back. But this is memory-intensive and if you do go to click on the bin expecting to see all the files you've erased over the past few weeks, you'll get more than you bargained for: the bin will send you a list of everything that has been through it since the last time you cleaned it - and that takes a long time. But that's just a minor gripe - the new bin provides an excellent way of reversing mistakes.
In addition to this, the Unerase Wizard can guide you through recovering files that weren't protected by either the recycle bin or Norton Protection, including files on network drives protected by Novell's Salvage. This is very clever, and in four separate tests only one HTML file that had been erased more than a week earlier was unrecoverable.
Norton is probably best known for its ability to take a dodgy hard drive riddled with lost sectors and surface errors, and fix it with very little fuss. Nothing changes and, with Speed Disk, you can check and rectify either the NTFS file structure or FAT 16.
Microsoft has said that the NTFS file system does not become fragmented but on a machine with a 4Gb drive that had been used as a Web server for six months, Speed Disk found 18% fragmentation. NT doesn't ship with a defragmenter, so Speed Disk is a necessity.
If you are concerned about the state of your hard drive you can either set NU to check it every time you start up or you can check it manually.
A screen appears showing an image of what the drive's guts look like.
If it's a mess the speed disk makes short work of it, reallocating lost clusters and arranging the file's structure so it can realise its full potential. The disk in question was particularly slow when dealing with graphics on Photoshop 4.0, taking about 14 seconds to download a 2.2 Mb file from the local drive. After Speed Disk had been run, the load time was cut to nine seconds.
This feature allows you to inspect your machine for virtually any information you need on memory, file use, network information and even multimedia components. There's a simple-to-use graphical metaphor which shows exactly how the system is constructed, complete with file trees and pie charts for disk usage, as well as a very useful memory chart. This chart offers advice on how best to set up your memory configuration.
NU is an excellent product for any system administrator who is using NT and isn't altogether comfortable with the facilities Microsoft has provided to ensure things go smoothly. But NU isn't perfect: in separate tests carried out with the Windows 95 version, PC Week discovered that not all the viruses found by Norton Anti Virus are discovered by NU even with the updates. Symantec admits that NU uses an older version of the virus-scanning technology and said it will bring the two into line in due course.
NU is a well-balanced product with an excellent range of functions that will work hard to ensure your NT machine is working smoothly. I would recommend it.
Price: u99.00 including VAT.
Contact Symantec, 0171 616 5600 or www.symantec.com
VERDICT: Norton Utilities
- Excellent user interface, very easy and intuitive to use.
- Good manual with extensive information all the features NU provides.
- The bin should be more easily customised thus preventing minutes of waiting to see what's in it, only to be greeted with a list of what you've erased in the past. Right clicking is not obvious.
- Virus engine - not as good as Anti Virus.
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