Use utilities to tune up your Win95 machine
by Alan Zisman (c)
published in Computer Player (Vancouver), January 1997. Also appeared
in Toronto Computes
Symantec Norton Utilities, $150
Symantec Norton AntiVirus, $70; Symantec
Corporation; 1-800-441-7234; http://www.symantec.com
Microsoft Plus!, $60
Microsoft PowerToys, free; Microsoft Corporation;
Hurricane Helix, $xx; Helix Software;
McAfee VirusScan, $65; McAfee Associates;
If an operating system like Windows 95, OS/2, or the
Mac OS are like
the engine that determines how your computer runs, then using utilities
are like getting the oil changed, the engine tuned, and having an
Association membership, with someone to call if the darn thing just
And like with a car, some of us will want to spend a
lot of time fussing
with-getting it to look, feel, and run just the way we want. Others
be happy with it just the way it came from the factory, and will want
do the minimum, just as long as it keeps running.
Windows 95 celebrated its first birthday last August
for users to find the strengths of the operating system, along with the
areas needing improvement, and for software companies to release
to try and fill their ideas of the gaps. In fact, with a number of
products now into their second generation of releases, it's a good time
to take a look at some of what's available.
What's in the box?
Like earlier versions of DOS and Windows, Win95
includes several utilities,
right in the package. DriveSpace 2 lets users compress their hard
Defrag optimizes disks, improving performance by putting fragmented
back together. Scandisk checks for file system and physical errors.
While they all work as advertised, they are pretty
basic versions (If
you have nothing better, by all means, use them... in fact, use Defrag
and Scandisk regularly). And unlike DOS 6, for example, no anti-virus
Norton Utilities for ultimate peace of mind
Symantec's Norton Utilities package has, for years,
strength tools, first for DOS, then for Windows. Their Win95 version
just been released as a new version 2.0, which supports Microsoft's new
FAT32 for hard disks larger than 2 gigabytes. It continues to provide a
strong set of replacements for many of the core Win95 utilities.
in particular, is much more functional than Microsoft's Defrag,
users to sort folders and files for example, and by optimizing the swap
file, improves performance. I'm not convinced, however, that Norton
Doctor is much of an improvement over Win95's built-in Scandisk. Norton
beefs up Recycle Bin for users who delete files from the DOS prompt-the
standard Recycle Bin does not provide any protection for those files.
DOS versions of many utilities provide protection against the
that Win95 just won't start. While many users won't need to use most of
this package regularly, its major benefit is to provide peace of
that its protection is on hand in case anything major goes wrong.
Microsoft's Plus!... or is that a minus?
Released at the same time as the core Win95 package,
Package includes an odd mix of useful bits and fluff. DriveSpace 3 lets
users create compressed partitions as big as 2 gigs, compared to the
meg limit for the standard DriveSpace. It can also be used to minimize
drive space lost to cluster slack. But with big, cheap hard disks,
compression is much less necessary. System Agent runs in the
automatically running other utilities such as ScanDisk or Defrag, at
times when the computer is otherwise idle. But aside from that, Plus!
of cute frills-desktop themes that provide sets of sounds, icons, and
A nice pinball game. An obsolete version of Internet Explorer web
(the current version can be obtained for free from www.microsoft.com).
For most users, not a must-buy.
Every Win95 user, however, should get a copy of
Microsoft's free PowerToys.
This collection of mini-utilities is available at
and was written by Win95 programmers in their, no doubt, copious free
The TweakUI utility is, perhaps, the most useful-it adds itself to the
Control Panel, and allows users to tweak the Win95 desktop and boot
The SendTo utility makes copying and moving files with Explorer or My
much more efficient.
While at Microsoft's Web site, go to
and check for the latest patches and updates. Some are only needed with
obscure hardware combinations-but they're well described-- if any look
useful, get them and apply them.
Double your memory, double your fun?
Microsoft claims that Win95 can run on a machine with
as little as 4
megs of memory (RAM). That's true. Sort of. It will install, and will
up, but 'run'?. 8 megs starts to be usable, and 16 megs allows fairly
performance. Even with the recent drop in RAM prices, many users still
have 8 megs installed, and many notebook users are stuck with machines
that remain difficult or expensive to upgrade.
Ram compression software has been popular, and
on the Macintosh platform for several years-and several such products
released late in 1994 for Windows 3.1 and then Win95. Many users felt
the products did not perform as promised, however. In fact, market
SoftRam 95 was taken off the shelves, after impartial reviews suggested
that it did little or nothing.
Helix Hurricane doesn't promise to 'double your
RAM'. It does,
however, use compression technology to effectively increase Windows
(both Win 3.1 and Win95 versions are included in the package). It does
this by finding little-used pieces of memory (on your video card, for
and using these for a compressed-RAM cache used prior to the swap disk
on your hard drive. Normally, when it runs low on RAM, Windows uses the
swap disk space-but this is much slower than real RAM. By using its
first, Hurricane provides more effective RAM with better performance.
Win95 users with 8 megs of standard RAM will be better
off simply buying
more RAM before prices rise again; notebook users, faced with higher
may want to give this product a look.
It's flu season-even on your computer
Computer viruses are back-in a new form. Macro
viruses, originally affecting
Microsoft Word documents, but now in varieties for Microsoft Excel and
other products, are accounting for increasing proportions of
Unlike traditional viruses, these can infect your system simply by
an infected document... and some forms can be spread between Macs and
For that reason, it's more important than ever to get
a virus checker,
and to ensure that it's frequently updated to cope with the latest
Last year's model simply isn't very useful.
The new version 2.0 of Symantec's Norton
AntiVirus (NAV) for Win95
(also available in Windows 3.1, Win NT, and Macintosh versions) has a
feature (shared with the latest Norton Utilities). With Live Update, a
single-click logs onto Symantec's BBS or Web site, checks for any new
definitions, downloads, and installs the update. By making it easier to
keep the utility up to date, it makes virus infections more unlikely.
Despite this big plus, it's difficult to recommend NAV
Competitor McAfee, creator of the popular shareware VirusScan
in DOS, Win 3.1, and Win95 versions) has taken Symantec to court.
suggests that Symantec advertising, claiming that NAV recognizes and
the most macro viruses, is misleading... that, in fact, independent
show that VirusScan removes more of the viruses that are actually found
'in the wild'.
Some people wear both belts and suspenders. With
viruses, there's no
such thing as too safe-get several products, use them regularly, and
We haven't covered anywhere near all available
products-there are at
least 200 Win95 utility packages. We haven't even mentioned all product
categories, not even what's available in the Win 95 box. We will be
additional reviews of other utilities products in upcoming issues.