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Norton Utilities review

Norton Utilities


There's simply no good reason to pay this much for such a flimsy collection of tools

Review Date: 18 Dec 2009

Reviewed By: Darien Graham-Smith

Price when reviewed: £34 (£39 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
2 stars out of 6

Features & Design
2 stars out of 6

Value for Money
1 stars out of 6

Ease of Use
3 stars out of 6

Symantec relaunched Norton Utilities last spring with a promise to breathe new life into old PCs; but the reality fell far short of the rhetoric (see Utilities 14). This update adds Windows 7 compatibility, but little else. The main focus of the package is still the various automated "optimisation" processes you can run, such as disabling unnecessary services, fixing registry references to missing files and keys, compacting your registry files, defragmenting your hard disk and clearing out browser histories.

On a Core i7-based test machine loaded with software trials and desktop extensions, these tools did knock three seconds off our total startup time. But with Norton Utilities installed our available memory dropped by 113MB.

Norton Utilities

That's probably down to the always-running Registry Monitor, which alerts you when (for example) your Add/Remove Programs list has been changed a certain number of times. Note though that it can't roll the changes back: the alert is just for information.

One manually-operated feature that could significantly boost your PC's performance is the Startup Manager, which helps you disable unneeded processes that may be hogging system resources. Advanced users don't need this help, though, while inexperienced users will rightly fear to tinker, since Norton gives no guidance as to which items can be safely removed and which could be important.

There's also a one-click "Optimize" button, which tweaks a few settings to make the system feel more responsive: for example, it sets Windows to automatically kill running applications and services as soon as you click to shut the system down, and reduces the time delay before menus appear. It does nothing for application performance, though.

Finally, there's a licensed edition of the PassMark PerformanceTest benchmark suite, which tests your system speed, drive efficiency and so forth (so you can see just how little Norton Utilities has done for you); and a collection of "Windows Tools", giving access to standard system features such as Windows Update and the Device Manager from within the Norton interface. You almost have to laugh at Symantec's chutzpah.

But in truth there's nothing funny about Norton Utilities. PerformanceTest has a certain value (it sells on its own for around £13), but everything else here is either next to useless or easily achievable with built-in Windows tools and freeware utilities. There's simply no way this package is worth anywhere near £34.

Author: Darien Graham-Smith

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User comments

Good brand, not so good product.

First thing I noticed is the almost identical interface as that used by PC Tools Registry Mechanic. Anyone know if Symantec and PC Tools have gone into partnership?!! This software is not worth the money as I have found the freeware Glary Utilies and SmartDefrag does the same tasks as Norton Utilies. Some things are worth the money, this software is not worth paying a penny for!

By KlingonBatleth on 18 Dec 2009

Funny you should say that...

For now at least, though, the two companies are being maintained as separate brands, with separate premises and personnel.

By DarienGS on 18 Dec 2009

Norton often causes problems

Whenever I'm asked to investigate a struggling PC, I hope not to find Norton on it but more often than not it's there, not protecting, stealing massive system resources and generally it's the first thing I ask permission to remove. It shows how powerful the 30 day trial pre-install approach is but it's reputation is VERY over-rated. Thank you DGS for pointing this out.

By robinhow on 22 Dec 2009

Why does this even exist?

I don't see the point of packages like this. Enthusiast/Professional users already know how to use the built-in windows tools to manage start-up programs, services, etc. They already know about Disk Defragmenter and how to use it, and they already know how to use Disk Cleanup (come on, it's not exactly hard!).

Casual PC users would just find this package confusing ("what's a service?"). What a waste of money!

By theloz1 on 24 Dec 2009

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