Norton keeps systems, staff humming
In many government organizations, information systems managers not only
support critical agency applications — they must also handle routine software
maintenance, data backup and user support. These everyday fix-and-rescue
requests sap IS workers' time. Nevertheless, ignoring PC problems can have
even more serious consequences, including system crashes or data loss.
To help end users defend against computer problems — and get IS groups
back doing their primary job — agencies often deploy utility software. These
packages include Network Associates Inc.'s McAfee Office 2000, Ontrack Data
International Inc.'s SystemSuite 2000, Cybermedia's FirstAid 2000 or Symantec
Corp.'s Norton SystemWorks.
Of this group, Norton SystemWorks 2001 provides additional utilities
compared with the others, covers more operating systems, is easier for novice
users to operate, and did a better job during testing of finding and solving
problems. Therefore, it's our first choice when you need to protect, tune
and rescue ailing PCs.
No Need to Mix and Match
Norton SystemWorks 2001 isn't a bundle of disparate utilities stuck
together or a "lite" version that you must upgrade later. Rather, you receive
a single product that integrates the full Norton Utilities (finds problems),
Norton CleanSweep (removes stale files), Norton AntiVirus and Norton Web
Services (a free Internet portal for extended support, such as hardware
driver and software updates).
Foremost, a streamlined interface contributes to easy learning and operation.
For example, One Button Checkup scanned our Windows NT 4.0 system for registry
corruption, disk fragmentation, up-to-date virus protection, and low disk
space. Of some 200 problems identified (such as invalid file associations
and debris left from failed software installations), Norton SystemWorks
2001 only missed repairing one problem: a file deleted long before testing.
After this step, we ran the Norton Utilities' System Doctor in the background
to monitor system performance and disk integrity. By setting alarms, we
received alerts when new problems surfaced so they could be immediately
corrected. Alternately, we had the software repair errors without intervention.
We also appreciated Norton Speed Disk, which defragments and optimizes
hard disks. Besides moving frequently accessed files at the front of the
disk, the software added extra space between often- and infrequently used
files. This gave each file group space to expand, which helped avoid future
The companion Optimization Wizard improves the efficiency of the Windows
registry and swap file. After this step, our registry was smaller and the
swap file reset to a more appropriate size (and moved to the beginning of
the hard disk). The result was a noticeable improvement in the speed that
We've used Norton AntiVirus for a long time and can attest to its reliable
protection. Still, new features improve security and ease of use. Now, when
a user is online, LiveUpdate detects the Internet connection, then retrieves
and automatically installs any new virus definitions or software patches.
We purposely introduced a virus to our system to test the new AntiVirus
2001 Repair Wizard. We were pleased how easily it guided us through the
process of cleaning the virus off the computer.
For performing in-depth repairs by support technicians, SystemWorks
2001 offers updated tools for editing the registry, comparing files and
diagnosing hardware problems. About the only quibble we have with the SystemWorks
packaging is that you must purchase the Professional Edition ($100) to get
Norton Ghost, which saves and restores images of entire hard disks. As such,
agencies managing numerous systems will be best served by purchasing the
basic edition we tested. You might then consider Norton Ghost 6.5 Enterprise
Edition to quickly install a common configuration on many desktop PCs. Although
some maintenance functions ship with Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 98, Windows
Millennium Edition (Me) and Windows 2000, Norton SystemWorks 2001's implementation
is more complete. If you support Windows 95 or Windows NT, SystemWorks adds
essential tools, making it an even more justifiable purchase.
Mike Heck is an InfoWorld contributing editor
and manager of electronic promotions at Unisys Corp. in Blue Bell, Pa.