More security for Windows and DOS users?

by Alan Zisman (c) 1994. First published in Our Computer Player, July 1994

Symantec's Norton Utilities ver 8.0 and Norton DiskLock

list price      $179 US for Norton Utilities
                $99 for Norton DiskLock
Symantec Corporation

Just because you delete it, that doesn't mean it's gone.

That observation started it all... Peter Norton was able to turn that
discovery into the start of the Norton Utilities, now vastly expanded
from the original ancestor of all undelete programs.

(Legend has it that this same observation was used to catch Irangate
fall-guy Oliver North, when US Congressional investigators confiscated
his computers... hard drives full of deleted correspondance and other
incriminating evidence).

The Norton Utilities quickly grew from that original inspiration into
a whole collection that helps users recover data and improve
performance. It's now up to version 8.0, and for the first time,
offers Norton's Windows utilities in the same package with the
traditional DOS versions.

(While Windows versions were offered as part of the Norton Desktop for
Windows package, these tended to lag a version behind the DOS
utilities in the Norton Utilities product).

In particular, users can now optimize their hard disk, using the
Windows version of Norton Speedisk, in the background, while
continuing to work. Similarly, the Windows version of Disk Doctor can
automatically run a surface test on your disk, repairing any errors
found, all in the background. Both these programs even let you use
your modem and transfer files-- they will skip any open files.

Windows for Workgroups users take note, however... the Windows
versions won't work if you have that version's 32-bit File Access
turned on. With the version that I received, you'd have to turn 32-bit
File Access off and restart Windows (or use the DOS versions) to use those utilities.

32-bit Disk Access, which is included with the regular Windows 3.1, is
not a problem. As well, Symantec has made a patch available on their
BBS, which allows these programs to work properly even with 32-bit
File Access. You may not get it in the shrink-wrapped box, but it is
available (as is a similar patch for PC Tools for Windows, reviewed in
the last issue).

Both DOS and Windows versions of these (and other Norton Utilities)
recognize and work with compressed disks... Stacker, DoubleSpace, and
SuperStor. The new Stacker version 4.0 compression is not recognized,
however. Norton's main competition, Central Point's PC Tools will only
work on DoubleSpaced compressed drives.

Another new utility aimed at Windows users is INI Tracker. This keeps a
log of the contents of your INI files and directories, letting it be
used to show what modifications have been made by a program's
installation. INI Tuner shows the various possible settings for the
variety of main INI files... it doesn't automatically make changes to
your files, like PC Tools' System Consultant; instead, it opens up an
editor, with the appropriate section of your INI file highlighted,
allowing you to make changes manually. (Perhaps just as well... after
System Consultant made its changes to my INI files, my Windows for
Workgroups setup would no longer run!)

System Watch monitors disk space, along with free memory and system
resources... you can set minimum limits; the program will warn you if
you pass them.

Most of the DOS utilities remain unchanged from the high standards set
with version 7. The IRQ tests in the Diagnostics module have been
beefed up, however. As well, File Fix recognizes, and repairs Word
Perfect 6.0 files. The System Information benchmarks now add Pentium
CPUs to the standard comparisons. And compressed drive users can now
make use of the File Wipe utility, the program Ollie North wishes he'd

As before, you also get the NDOS replacement (a version of
the shareware 4-DOS), the NCache disk cache, the powerful Disk Editor,
and a whole host of utilities. If you're like me, many of these will
remain unused.

However, Speedisk disk optimizer is much faster than DOS 6's
Defrag (licensed from Symantec--- obviously they kept the good stuff
to themselves), especially for users of compressed hard drives. And
you only have to use Norton Disk Doctor once to rescue a non-
functioning, but vital hard drive to realize the value of this
product. Get it for the peace of mind-- any other benefit is extra.

(Late breaking news... Symantec, makers of the Norton Utilities, and
rival Central Point, makers of PC Tools have announced intention to
merge, pending approval of US anti-trust authorities. It's too soon to
say what effect this will have, but the competition between these two
has tended to benefit consumers with ever-more powerful products at
affordable prices).

Many users, and not just Oliver North, are justifiably concerned with
how secure their data is on their PC. The Norton Utilities provide a
few, security-related features-- notably the WipeFile and WipeDisk
utilities, making it impossible to read data from supposed deleted

The Norton DiskLock program, now in version 3.0, goes much further. It
provides three levels of security. First, after installation, users
must log onto their PC, complete with name and password. The primary
user has full access. Up to five secondary user accounts can be set up
with various access levels. Finally, 'guest' users can sign on, but
have only limited access.

The program supports file-locking, allowing only users with the
correct access level to read locked files, or even become aware of
their existence through directory listings.

On a more secure (but more time-consuming level), files can be
encrypted, either with a relatively secure (but relatively quick)
proprietary protection, or with US-government approved DES encryption
for maximum security, at the cost of slowest performance.

No matter what type of security you opt for, don't forget your
password!!! But don't choose an easy to guess password either; the
manual includes suggestions for good password practice.

If you think about your computer use, many of us may be surprised to
realize that we DO need to be aware of security issues... as a
teacher, for example, I've started to lock those data files with my
students grades that sit on a computer out in the open in my

Like the Norton Utilities, Norton Disklock may be worth the purchase
price for increased peace of mind.

(Note from the year 2003): The above article was originally published in 1994, as a review. A decade or so later, I've gotten a series of emails from  fans hoping that I could sell them a copy of this software or direct them to a place where it is still available. While I have reviewed software since 1991, I am not a vendor of r any products. I suggest to everyone looking for copies of older software to check at eBay or at you check on my Files webpages, you'll find links to a number of (mostly freeware) downloadable software, some of which may be good replacements for older programs.
-- AZ (September 15, 2003)

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan