Norton Utilities 14 review
An overpriced collection of optimisation tools that falls far short of its promise
Review Date: 16 Mar 2009
Reviewed By: Darien Graham-Smith
Price when reviewed: £35 (£40 inc VAT)
Norton Utilities was once an invaluable suite of tools for the technically proficient PC user. But after a six-year absence this new version arrives with a different spin. Under the strapline "your PC, good as new", it now focuses on helping inexperienced users improve the performance of an ageing system.
The actual suite of utilities is pretty mean. All you can do from the main 'optimise' section of the interface is clean and defragment your disks and registry and manage startup items and services. The disk cleanup utility does little that the standard Windows feature doesn't (though it's more configurable), and clicking on the defragmenter icon merely launches the native Windows tool.
To test the registry tools, we installed Norton Utilities on an XP system that had seen several years of heavy use, and which was now so bogged down it took 1min 10sec to boot even with a Core i7 CPU and 3GB of RAM. Norton found and repaired 907 errors in our registry, and the defragmenter then compacted its size by 3%. Afterwards we found our boot time had actually increased significantly, to 2min 12sec: not an encouraging result.
The Startup Manager is a good idea, but it doesn't help you identify what you can safely remove: it just shows the names and publishers of startup items. For the inexperienced users at whom the suite's aimed, that's likely to be intimidating. Those who do know what they're doing will be better off with SysInternals' Autoruns utility, which is free and digs more deeply into the registry.
Finally, with the Services Manager you can set non-essential services to manual rather than automatic invocation. This might speed up your boot time by a few seconds, and spare some RAM, but it won't breathe new life into a dying machine.
These uncertain tools are supported by a range of utilities for system monitoring and benchmarking, but as usual with suites like this they're almost all just clones of free tools or existing Windows features. Indeed, a whole section of the program is filled with shortcuts to Windows tools.
That this flimsy package costs £40 inc VAT only adds insult to injury - even the dismal Avanquest System Suite 9 is better value, since that suite at least includes basic virus protection. It all adds up to a travesty of a venerable brand that should have been left to rest in peace.
Author: Darien Graham-Smith
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