Classic utilities programs updated

by Alan Zisman (c) 1999. First published in Toronto Computes, May 1999

Utility software is big business. PC Computing recently published a graph suggesting that in 1998, the product category captured nearly 40% of total software sales in the business market. Clearly, people feel they need more than they?re getting in the package with their computers.

Here are three new versions of old stand-bys for PC and Mac.

  • Seagate Software?s latest Backup Exec Desktop 98 is aimed at Windows 95/98 users (other versions of the product are designed for NT or network backups). While both consumer versions of Windows include optional backup utilities, these are rather anemic. The Win95 product supports only a few tape drives, for example. The Win98 version, produced for Microsoft by Seagate, features better support?but both versions have a major problem. If you actually need to restore a crashed system, you?ll find you need to reinstall Win9x before being able to access your backup?a tedious and time-consuming process.

Backup Exec gets past this, allowing users to create an emergency floppy that can access your backup hardware and restore your system without needing to spend an hour or more getting Windows up and running first. And it really works. I know?I recently had to make use of it. Other useful features include automated scheduling of backups, and a file find catalogue, for fast restores of individual files. It supports CD-R, DVD-R, Jaz, Zip, and LS-120 drives, and most tape drives. US$99, or US$49 for Win98 owners.

  •  Powerquest?s Partition Magic 4.0 can seem like magic if you?re trying to install multiple operating systems or repartition a large hard drive. Since time immemorial, DOS and now Win9x has included the FDISK partition utility to control how a drive is partitioned into multiple units. The problem is that any changes made with FDISK destroy all existing files on a drive partition.

Partition Magic makes changes non-destructively. You can resize partitions to make room for a new operating system without having to start from scratch. You can change an existing partition from standard FAT to FAT32  or NT?s NTFS to minimize waste space, or switch back from FAT32 to standard FAT for compatibility between different operating systems. All the time leaving your precious data intact. Linux and OS/2 file systems are supported as well.

The new version adds FAT32 support for drives and partitions larger than 8 gigs. As well, it runs as a real Windows program?previous versions looked like Windows, but to make any changes, needed to be run from a DOS boot. Version 4 lets you run it from within Win9x, though to actually apply your desired changes, it automatically restarts your system, and runs a DOS batch file. A copy of Boot Magic is included, to simplify choosing between multiple operating systems at boot time.


  • Symantec Software offers the venerable Norton Utilities in both PC and Mac versions. Mac users have been waiting a long time for a new version, but 4.0 for Mac is finally here. The good news is that it supports new features of the Mac OS, such as the HFS+ file system with its classic Disk Doctor and Speed Disk utilities. Speed Disk is faster than before, and the program has been re-written in native Power PC code. Like the PC version, there?s a crash protection feature, and a flashy new interface.

While this is a major upgrade of a long-awaited product, its attractive new look includes a few warts:

While the FileSaver feature makes it easy to recover erased files, it can slow your system down when emptying the Trash or clearing a browser cache.

The core NDD (Norton Disk Doctor)?s support for disks formatted with non-Apple drivers is problematic?too often, in those cases, it ?fixes? non-existent problems, in some cases, leaving the disks inaccessible. Symantec has posted a patch supporting FWB?s Hard Disk ToolKit disks, but even with the patch, you may have problems with other non-Apple disks.

Finally, by moving to native PowerPC code for improved performance, owners of older Macs have, once
again, been left in the dust.


Search WWW Search

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