Norton gives users the works

by Alan Zisman (c) 1999. First published in Vancouver Computes, January 1999

Symantec Norton SystemWorks
For Windows 9x PCs, 486-66 or better, 16 megs RAM, 95- 115 MB drive space
Approx: $150(CDN)
Symantec Canada: (416) 441-3676

Many computer users turn to utilities?programs to help them get the most performance possible from their PCs, or to protect their systems from viruses, file corruption, or system crashes.

Recently, the market has seen two software giants emerge (and neither with names starting ?Micro??), as a series of mergers has swept the field of a number of utilities providers. Left standing are Symantec and Network Associates. And each has released a ?greatest hits? suite?offering a wide range of utilities in a single box.

Network Associates sells McAfee Office, combining McAfee Viruscan along with the former Cybermedia?s First Aid, Oil Change, Guard Dog, and Uninstaller, and the former Helix Nuts and Bolts and Hurricane, and PGP Security and a number of other features.

Symantec has responded with Norton SystemWorks, packing the pride of its Norton series of products into a single box. Enclosed are Norton Utilities for Windows 9x, Norton Anti-Virus, Norton CrashGuard and a
six-month subscription to Norton Web Services. But with the competition promising ten products in their package, Symantec couldn?t stop there. A bonus pack is included, with additional products and features: Quarterdeck's Remove-it 98 and four of Symantec's popular communications and Internet products: Norton Mobile Essentials, Visual Page, WinFax Basic Edition and pcANYWHERE EXPRESS.

(Initially, Symantec had promised their Norton Uninstaller as a core component of SystemWorks, but that was removed after the company lost a court case where Cybermedia claimed that program code from their Uninstaller product had appeared in the Norton competition. Shortly thereafter, Symantec purchased Quarterdeck, allowing them to add the company?s Remove-it uninstaller).

Symantec claims that the core SystemWorks and Bonus Pack combined offer $500 worth of software for about $150(CDN).

While both utilities suites promise a wide range of functions in a single box, Symantec has done a better job then the competition in giving purchasers the feel that they are working with a single product. Unlike McAfee Office, the core SystemWorks package (i.e. not the Bonus Pack) loads from a single installation?McAfee Office requires users to install each component separately.

As well, when purchased individually, many of the components offer overlapping features?Norton Utilities includes limited virus scanning and a limited version of CrashGuard, for example. In the suite version, these redundancies are eliminated. A single icon is placed on the Desktop to call up the package (McAfee creates 10 icons if all features are installed).

Similarly, a single Rescue floppy is created, while in the past, users of Norton Utilities created one diskette and Norton AntiVirus created another. Potentially, McAfee Office users could end up with as many as five rescue diskettes, potentially confusing in an emergency situation.

With all core products coming from Symantec/Norton, there?s a reasonably consistent user interface. By contrast, McAfee Office?s products reflect their heritage, coming from a variety of sources with a variety of interfaces.

Symantec SystemWorks offers a lot of features for a relatively modest price. Loading them all, however, may be overkill for many users. As well, the core Norton Utilities version 3.0 had a shaky start on its release a year ago?it?s taken seven bug-fixes to become stable. For ease of use and peace of mind, however, this suite should prove popular with many computer users.

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