Alamo PC Organization: HOME > PC Alamode Magazine > Product Reviews

cat

 

Review of:
Essential Utilities 97
 
by Tym Myers, Alamo PC

One of the shortcomings of operating systems since the early days of DOS, has been that there is always something "missing" from the system. Shortly after a new release, there is a clamor that it certainly would have been nice if the program had been able to do this (whatever "this" is). Enter the third-party utilities makers. . .one of which is Quarterdeck

 Quarterdeck's offering for Windows95 is actually a four program CD. Included in the package are: Fix-It; Remove-It; Partition-It; and Zip-It. The first two programs (Fix-It and Remove-It) were both installed on a Dell P-90 with 16MB of RAM and Win95. The other two programs (Partition-It and Zip-It) were installed on a 486-80 machine with 16MB of RAM and Win95 as well. 
 
 

Fix-It.

This program is suppose to scan your hard drive and fix Win95 problems before they bring your system to a screeching halt. However, the program is a bit too aggressive in that it does not recognize that many programs have been installed with the "Custom" installation method and not the standard "Express" method. 

Almost all of the programs on my hard drive are not full installations — I only install the pieces that I will use. Therefore, the first problem I had was going through the seemingly endless list of "missing" elements of programs. The next problem it presented was in the hardware recognition section. Not only did it tell me the "problem" I have with my "Secondary Hard Disk Drive Controller Driver" (I have only one hard drive and only one controller), but it did not even recognize the modem that was set up on COM2. The good news was that it did report that my system was optimally set up — the same thing that Win95 has said for almost two years! 

At this point, I decided that my system would survive just fine without Fix-It on it and went to the Un-install icon to get rid of it. When that portion of the program finished, it stated that all traces of Fix-It were gone. Not to be. Even after using Remove-It (the next program to be reviewed), whenever they system boots up, a dialog box appears stating that the program "EXCCAT.EXE" cannot be found and do I want another program to be executed instead? Obviously a reference in either the win.ini or registry file had not been eliminated. 
 
 

Remove-It

This program was designed for Win95 and was suppose to pick up where the Add/Remove portion of Control Panel left off. Unless a program has Microsoft's seal of approval on it as a Windows95 program, you won't find it listed in the remove panel. Therefore how does one remove all of those "old" 3.1 Windows programs and (shudder) DOS programs that are still on your disk? 

One method is to manually remove them (via the recycle bin and Windows Explorer). But the original setup program may have scattered files across numerous directories and good luck in trying to find all of them. Having used it on a program that was already "partially" removed (Fix-It), I cannot really in all good faith say that it didn't do the job correctly. It tried (and even said that it had succeeded) and it failed. My dialog box still appears at bootup. 

The program scans the hard drive on all your files and lets you do the following: (1) remove any application with Remove-It; (2) remove fonts, orphaned files, etc. with Clean-It; (3) remove duplicate files with Find-It; (4) and remove unused files with Watch-It. The latter can also be used to show you what applications are infrequently used and let you delete them. All of these sub-programs can also archive these files if you so choose. 
 
 

Partition-It

This program is advertised to reconfigure your hard drive into smaller partitions and better efficiency (see Randy Waters article in the February ‘97 PC Alamode on Efficient use of large hard drives). My old 486 has a 810 MB hard drive on it and when I installed Win95 I had to leave it as one huge partition (don't ask me why, but Win95 refused to install on this machine with a partitioned hard drive). I had always wanted to go back and repartition it and now here I felt was my chance. 

Partition-It has some definite quirks about it. First, once I finally got all the partitions set up (I had to actually read the book to do this correctly), I noted that there was no consistency between the partitions. For example, partition D: was 127 MB and was using FAT 16. Partition E: was also 127 MB, but the program automatically set it up for FAT 12. When I manually changed E: to FAT 16, the amount of free space decreased below what was free in D:. 

Another problem was moving applications between the partitions once they were set up. Move-It would move some of the files of an application into the new partition, but not all of them. I do not know if this was because other applications used these files too or some other reason, but files were left behind. 
 
 

Zip-It

Zip-It is really the gem of this package. After having to once again read the book (boy do I hate having to do that to figure out how to run a program!), the program ran like a champ. This program creates compressed files (ZIP format) in several ways. The first method is having the program running, opening a folder, adding what files you want compressed into that folder, and then executing the compression. The other method is using Windows Explorer and dragging what files you want to compress into Zip-It. 

Once you have zipped a file, you are still able to execute them (I found this out by mistakenly double-clicking on a file that had been zipped and then watching it launch itself). You are also able to view a zipped file in its native application if it is on your machine, or via a Zip-It viewer. Extracting files was as easy as compressing them. Other capabilities of the program include a plug-in module for Netscape Navigator and being able to remotely view and extract zip files on the Internet. I did not try either of these functions. 
 
 

Conclusions

All four programs share something in common. Each left a sour taste during the installation. In each program, a dialog box prompt would request the serial number. Out would have to come the CD to see what it was because it was printed on the CD. Bad planning on Quarterdeck's part. Two of the programs I would use again. Zip-It, which ran as advertised, presented no problems in running. It was better than the three archive type programs I have used in the past. PKZIP and ARC, both shareware, were cumbersome at best in running because of the DOS-based "switches" that always had to be added to the DOS command line. The third, a commercial software product (WINZIP) has a lot of the same features that Zip-It uses, but I think Zip-It has moved to an "easier-to-use" level. I really did not get to put Remove-It through its paces and come to a final conclusion. The vote is still out on whether will make a good addition to your utilities programs, but I would use it again. 

 That, however, was not the case with the remaining programs. Partition-It has some hurdles to get over to be on a par with PowerQuest's Partition Magic (which I have used since using Partition-It and have had no problems with it). I have not used any other type of program than Fix-It, so I have nothing to compare it with. I can say that I would not recommend using either of these two as stand-alone programs. 

 Tym Myers daytime job is as a captain at one of the major airlines and his nighttime job is "playing" with computers — and has been doing so since ‘81 when he got his first Commodore. He can be reached at tymmyers@worldnet.att.net