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Software Review of:
Norton SystemWorks 2003
A Powerful Group of Utility Programs

 

Larry Grosskopf, Ph.D., is a Clinical Psychologist at the San Antonio State Hospital. In him, exists a thirst to learn more about computers and technology. He and Marta, his wife, are lucky enough to have two wonderful children, Zoë is 9, and Jackson is now 7.

From the January 2003 issue of PC Alamode Magazine

Norton is a trusted name that has provided a quality antivirus product for many years. Symantec is the parent company that makes the Norton product line. SystemWorks 2003 is the newest entry into the long line of Norton utility programs. It combines several programs on a single CD-ROM. Later in the review, I will discuss what’s included but first; let me set the system parameters if you plan to use this software. 

Recommended and minimum requirements for this program vary depending on your operating system. Since I tested it on my computer with Windows XP Professional, I will report only those specifications. You will need an Intel 233 MHz Pentium processor or an AMD K6 / Athlon / Duron of at least the same speed; 128 MB of RAM; 150 MB available hard drive space; SVGA (800 x 600) video display; and a DVD-ROM or CD-ROM drive. Lest I forget, Internet Explorer 5.0 is needed with IE 5.5 recommended. Installation was quite simple on my system. More on this later, but one very nice feature of this program is that you can run the Norton AntiVirus program prior to installation, which assures you of a clean installation of the program. 

Utility programs integrated into this CD set range from the basic Norton AntiVirus and Norton Utilities to Norton CleanSweep and GoBack Personal Edition by Roxio. They are packaged as a suite to enhance marketability, since the purpose of SystemWorks 2003 is to protect and keep your computer running optimally. The suite differs somewhat from these programs if purchased separately. The One-Button Checkup option, Web Tools and Extra Features are an added bonus you would not get if you bought them separately. One-Button Checkup was indeed impressive and worked very smoothly. If you are having some problems with your system, this seems like a logical place to start. It provides you with a diagnosis of how your computer is functioning, and assesses operating system problems, performance and disk troubles and even virus susceptibilities. This is a useful and valuable feature. 

Although I have only evaluated and utilized this program for a few weeks, but I ran Live Update immediately after I installed the program and it obtained product updates from the Web automatically, installed them on my system and then discarded replaced files or other files that were no longer needed. It also keeps your virus protection files up to date. 

Norton AntiVirus proved useful even as I installed SystemWorks. As I mentioned earlier, you can boot from the CD-ROM and run Norton AntiVirus prior to installation. I selected this option and lo and behold, there was a Trojan horse sitting somewhere on my system. Norton AntiVirus found and quarantined it for me. Best Feature, by far, in my view is Auto-Protect, which automatically protects your system against all types of viruses, including macro, boot sector, and memory resident viruses, plus those sneaky, thorny Trojan horses, worms and other malicious computer code. It avoids viruses transmitted through the Internet by checking files downloaded from the Internet, even Java Applet and ActiveX control files. Auto-Protect keeps your system safe by running in the background and virus-checking the software programs, removable media, and active documents. Two other neat and nifty features are e-mail scanning capabilities and script blocking. First, e-mail scanning prevents your e-mail from receiving or passing along e-mail viruses. It is your option to set all e-mail for scanning, incoming or outgoing only or none. Second, Script Blocking can be turned on or off, but Symantec recommends it be left on because it will warn you when scripting code behaves maliciously. A Full-System Scan is recommended at least weekly and ensures that your computer remains healthy and virus-free. Finally, education is additional armor one can use in the fight against viruses. Norton AntiVirus includes an easy to access list of viruses, a virus encyclopedia Internet link an activity log and a report on quarantined items. If you are not sure, you can even submit suspected viruses to Symantec for analysis and you will receive a report within a week. 

Norton Utilities is a toolbox of programs that helps you maintain your computer. Norton WinDoctor can safely detect and fix many common Windows problems. It checks for the information and components that Windows requires to operate properly. In addition, it confirms the functionality of components needed by programs that run under Windows. Norton WinDoctor has a Wizard interface so you can pick which diagnostic tests you want it to perform. After running the tests, Norton WinDoctor exhibits a report on the problems it established. You can display the list according to name or current (repaired or not repaired) status. WinDoctor lets you determine how to repair the problems based on your specific needs. Fix some or all of the problems, or let Norton WinDoctor fix all the problems automatically. Not to worry, if you “fix” the wrong thing, or you are unhappy with the repair solution, simply undo it. To facilitate undo of previous repairs, there is even a Norton WinDoctor Repair History feature. Norton System Doctor is a system monitor to “big brother” how your computer functions. Unerase Wizard allows you to recover files even after you have deleted them. Norton Disk Doctor can diagnose and repair a multitude of disk problems. It conducts tests, checking everything from the partition table to the physical surface of the drive. Speed Disk is a disk optimization and defragmenting tool designed to make your system run more efficiently. Although, I cannot quantify my perception, I did feel that my computer performance was enhanced after it ran it on my system. Another useful maintenance feature is the Wipe Info procedure. If you have sensitive data or you are discarding or selling an older drive or system, you can permanently erase files. Using Wipe Info to erase the contents of a file ensures that the erased data is gone from the disk and cannot be recovered.

Norton CleanSweep helps you keep clutter out of your system and off of your hard drive. CleanUp has Uninstall Wizard to delete the programs you no longer want from your computer. Fast & Safe Cleanup finds and deletes orphaned and unnecessary files creating additional space on the selected drive. Next, the Internet section has several cleanup options consisting of Internet Cache Cleanup to erase Internet junk that can build up on your computer; Cookie Cleanup for excess Internet Cookies; Plug-in Cleanup to eradicate Web browser plug-ins; and ActiveX Cleanup to do away with unwanted ActiveX controls. Internet Uninstall is intended to get rid of programs that you downloaded and installed from the Internet. Finally, in Programs, there is a Backup and Restore Wizard that adds protection to the programs you have backed up with this utility.

Web Tools empties your Internet browsing history, Internet cookies and Internet temp files. Web Cleanup is the dominant feature in the Web Tools section; with it you can quickly and easily clean up the unnecessary files that Internet Explorer leaves on your system after you browse the Internet. A final bonus is worth mentioning for those with dialup connections to the Internet. Connection Keep Alive purportedly prevents your dialup connection from disconnecting you when you are inactive but want to stay connected by intermittently sending a signal to a pre-assigned Web site. This activity tricks your ISP into believing that you are actively using the Internet so they don’t automatically boot you off while you are reading your e-mail or when you step away for a few minutes. I did not personally try this feature since I have a cable modem Internet connection, but it does appear worthwhile.

My past experiences using similar such utilities suite programs have been less than stellar. SystemWorks 2003 so far, has passed the main functionality test. It works and does pretty much what it says it does with the additional quality of being robust but option-rich. On Symantec’s web site, it is listed for $69.95 but there is also a $30.00 upgrade rebate being offered there. The least expensive prices that I found were at an online discount software site for $29.95 and at Amazon.com for a final price of $12.86 after $50.00 in rebate offers. The AntiVirus program alone is worth that much.


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