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ISSUE 579: Zisman- Nov 28 2000

The high-tech office


Symantec utilities worth the price for peace of mind

Last week, I wrote about Symantec's Norton AntiVirus utility and how some people suggest that software companies and the media over-hype the threat of virus in-

Perhaps coincidentally, a day after sending in that column, Norton AntiVirus announced that it had "quarantined" a file sent to my computer as an e-mail attachment. The file, appearing to be a JPEG graphic, was actually a Visual Basic Script file, generated by the VBS.Plan.A virus. It came from the computer of a public relations firm, without the owner's knowledge. The virus had hijacked his e-mail software's address book.

Because Norton AntiVirus automatically checks all e-mail attachments as they are received and, most importantly, be-
cause I have the utility set to keep its virus definitions up to date, the software caught this virus before it had a chance to infect my sys-
tem. I was able to inform the sender so that he could clean up his system and in-
form others who may have been infected.

So while software companies and the media may spread hysteria about individual viruses, the odds of being infected with one (or more!) of the many viruses that are out there are actually quite high. I strongly recommend that readers use an anti-virus utility and that they keep its virus definition files up to date. (One of the reasons I recommend Norton AntiVirus is the ease of updating it.)

Along with Norton AntiVirus, Symantec has also updated its other key utility product, Norton Utilities, to a new 2001 version ($93). While I believe every computer user needs to install anti-virus software (and I personally prefer Norton AntiVirus), the latest generation of the classic Norton Utilities line is less of a must-have.

It does offer a collection of features to optimize your computer's performance, find and fix problems and keep your system tuned up. But if you purchased last year's Norton Utilities 2000 package, what's new? What do you get for the $53 to order the downloadable upgrade? Not much.

The new version supports Micro-
's new Windows ME operating system and includes what was previously a separate product for NT and Windows 2000 users. (NT and Win 2000 users should note that they don't get all the features available to Win9x users.) But users of Windows 95 or 98 will find this year's model identical to last year's in a new box.

That's not necessarily a bad thing. The product, whether sold as a 2000 or 2001 version, offers a lot. The Norton Disk Doctor and Speed Disk programs offer more options and better features than the bare bones equivalents (ScanDisk and Defrag) that ship with Windows. The Norton Protected Recycle Bin makes it possible to (sometimes) retrieve deleted files, even after you "empty the trash." WinDoctor is one
of my favourite features, finding and mostly fixing a host of minor glitches on my systems.

The RescueDisk option is a powerful tool that may save your bacon if your system won't boot up at all. And it still includes the classic set of DOS-only tools that most of us will never use, but in the right hands can be powerful emergency (computer) lifesavers.

By default, the program's setup wants to load the System Doctor, which loads a bunch of gauges on-screen which are continually monitoring your system, warning you if you're low on disk space, high on file fragmentation, and more. This takes up a bunch of valuable screen space and continually running all these tests saps system performance -- though the estimated 10 - 15 per cent performance hit is less than older versions.

If you choose the custom installation option, you can opt to not have System Doctor running all the time, but can still load it when you want to.

Norton Utilities is also available together with the AntiVirus program and more as part of the $127.99 SystemWorks 2001 suite.

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