PC Utilities Roundup 1997
by Alan Zisman
(c) 1997. First
published in Toronto Computes,
Nuts and Bolts
Helix Software Co.
PC Medic 97
Way way back, just after dawn of personal computer
history, Peter Norton
discovered that deleted files weren't really gone-with the help of a
utility, they could often be recovered. With that discovery, both a
category-disk and file utilities, and a dynasty-Norton Utilities, was
Now, three competitive products are looking to become the new King of
Utilities Suites. We'll take a look at the contenders here.
All of these products share many features. Each offers
a program, similar
to Norton's new Crash Guard feature, that can lurk in the
protecting your system from crash-happy software. Each installs basic
against viruses. And each combines easy use for novices with
and depth for would-be power users.
Cybermedia First Aid 97
Cybermedia is a company on a roll. Their Windows
Uninstaller helps users
clean up their hard drives from the clutter left behind by unused
Oil Change provides an innovative method of automatically informing
of hardware driver and software updates-and offers to automatically
and install them. But it's their First Aid product that is challenging
the Norton Utilities, and appearing on software best-seller lists in
Recently upgraded to look for hardware conflicts as
well as software
problems, First Aid 97 includes a Knowledge Base full of solutions for
common hardware and software problems. One click, and the program gives
your computer a 'Check Up' making corrections for optimal performance.
If you prefer, you can call 'The Specialist' to focus on a specific
in more depth, or 'The Advisor' to access its Knowledge Base directly.
You can even update the Knowledge Base over the Internet.
The Windows Guardian intercepts crashes, and can
reactivate locked programs.
It can give warning in advance of potentially failing hardware. A basic
version of Dr. Solomon's AntiVirus program is included, as is a version
of CyberMedia's OilChange, limited to keeping FirstAid updated.
The Deluxe version adds "The Official Tech Support
Yellow Pages book",
and two multimedia tutorials- one for Windows 95, the other for the
The program does an exceptional job of integrating the
updating itself, to connecting to manufacturers' Web pages for
that isn't available in its Knowledge Base.
Helix Nuts and Bolts
Helix Software has, for years, produced DOS and
Windows memory management
products such as Helix Hurricane, which while never leading their
categories in sales have tended to include the most advanced technology
in their class.
Their new product, Nuts and Bolts, continues the
tradition, with a series
of utilities, each of which provides more features and ease of use than
the comparable Norton Utility.
Its 20 or so features are divided into four
groups-Repair & Recover,
Clean & Optimize, Prevent & Protect, and Secure & Manage.
example, R&R's DiskMinder resembles Microsoft's ScanDisk or
Disk Doctor, but finds and fixes more category of errors than either.
other two reviewed products simply automatically call on Win95's
to check for disk errors).
DiskTune, in the C&O group, similarly resembles
Defrag, or Norton's Speedisk, but smarter-it can optimize your disk so
the most frequently-accessed files are at the most easily-accessed
of the disk... if you so desire. As with all features in this software,
it's completely user-customizable.
Other tools locate duplicate files, clean and rebuild
and encrypt documents. There's even a low-level Disk Editor, enabling
users total low-level control of their hard disks... and more power
Norton's version. The single product installs on both Win 95 and Win
systems, and be run on systems with as little as 4 megs of ram.
McAfee PC Medic 97
McAfee Associates is best known for their Viruscan
with wide shareware distribution. PC Medic targets FirstAid 97 as its
competition. While it offers fewer features, it has a similar,
interface. While limited, its features, such as the Diagnosis module
more powerful, and faster than the competition's version.
Like CyberMedia's product, it uses a medical metaphor: Diagnosis can
check your machine to determine optimum multimedia settings-and offers
to make changes for you. And like FirstAid 97, it offers a broad
of information, in this case, referred to as 2nd Opinion.
The other features of this product are built on
McAfee's other software
offerings- it includes a strong backup module, which supports many tape
drives, as well as ZIP and JAZ drives, and rewritable CDs. It even
you to use a tape drive as a (very slow) hard disk, for easier reading
and writing. And its antivirus software is a limited-feature version of
its own well-known Viruscan.
PC Medic works along with BackWeb to use Internet push
automated updates. Subscribers to the MediCast channel will receive
of new versions, which can be downloaded in the background and easily
All three products successfully challenge the reigning
champion... FirstAid 97 for ease of use, Nuts and Bolts for its depth
features, and PC Medic 97 for its strong diagnosis, backup and