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Rating: Very Good
I have been using Norton SystemWorks 2000 for Windows95/98 for some time now, and find it to be a very powerful suite of utilities that helps keep my PC running in top condition.
The main applications the suite includes are Norton Antivirus, Norton Utilities and Norton Cleansweep. Crashguard (eww!) is also included in the package, as well as several other applications in the bonus package, including WinFax Personal Edition (very nice!), Symantec Visual Page (an html editor) and Norton Secret Stuff (a handy little utility for making encrypted file archives). It also includes BIOSTEST, which tests your bios for Y2K compatibility and provides a small driver file called biosfix.sys to correct time problems on older PCs.
If you purchased the deluxe version, you also get Norton Ghost Personal Edition, which is in my opinion the best disk cloning/imaging utility out there, and Norton 2000 for testing Year 2000 Compatibility of various applications and data files, in addition to the BIOSTEST I mentioned above, but integrated with the application. (not that you couldn’t run it separately though)
Well, that’s a lot of software, but not all of it is desirable to install or use. If you go with a complete installation, and let it install all of the utilities and load all of it’s components at startup, expect your PC to be very ill (in fact on older systems with low memory, you might even have to boot into safe mode and stop some of the programs from loading before Windows will boot to your desktop, especially if you have other programs loading their components at startup). That is not how I install Norton SystemWorks 2000.
Put the Norton SystemWorks CD in the drive and let it autorun, or run NCDstart.exe. The installation menu pops up and you can choose to Install Norton SystemWorks (this is what you’ll want to do first), Install the Bonus Pack (the bonus pack programs are each separate installations), View Special Offers, Launch Norton Utilities from CD (handy if you only plan on using them occasionally and don’t wish to install NU) or Exit.
Choose Install Norton SystemWorks, and select Typical Installation. Just choose that and don’t worry about it, because we’re going to choose what components to install in the next step.
In the next dialog box, you will have the choice of major components to install. Uncheck Crashguard, which supposedly intercepts and allows recovery from software crashes (it is of very little use, do yourself a favor and don’t even install it) and uncheck Norton Web Services (unless you want to subscribe to that…I do not). Norton Web Services is a fee based service for locating drivers and updates. Select to install Norton Cleansweep (a powerful uninstaller program that you can use if an application’s uninstall mechanism gets broken, and also you can use it to log a program installation so it can be precisely removed at a later date), Norton Antivirus and Norton Utilities. Don’t proceed yet though, we need to choose which components of Norton Utilities to install.
Highlight Norton Utilities and click the Customize button. You’ll see a list of components that you can install. Some of them will have grayed out checkboxes, indicating that they are mandatory. Here is a list and summary of the components you will see in that dialogue:
- Norton Utilities Base Files – This one is mandatory for obvious reasons.
- Image – You should check this one to install it. It takes a snapshot of your disks’ critical data structures, like the FAT, boot records and the root directory file. Norton Disk Doctor uses these image files it creates, to repair file system damage. If Image has recently run and the information is current, NDD can fix just about any file system errors. One time while fooling around with my drives, something occurred that caused hundreds of megabytes of files and folders to disappear on my second hard drive. Coincidently, I had just run Image the night before and Norton Disk Doctor was able to recover them ALL. The only thing I had to do was rename the parent directories back to what they were, the subfolder names, structure and files were all intact.
- Norton Disk Doctor – This one is Mandatory. NDD is similar, but far superior to the Scandisk program. It’s faster, and is able to correct more errors. For example, if cross-linkage occurs, NDD is able to salvage both files, where Scandisk can only salvage one of them.
- Norton File Compare – I install this component, it’s handy for comparing two text files to see if any lines have changed. For example, you could compare two copies of a configuration file like system.ini.
- Norton Optimization Wizard – For some reason, this one is mandatory also, but you will want it installed anyway. When you run the wizard, you are given the option to optimize your swap file and optimize your registry. It sets a maximum for the swap file and moves it to the beginning of the drive and compacts the registry to remove wasted space occupied by deleted data.
- Norton Registry Editor – I don’t install this, I just use the Windows registry editor, but this one has more advanced features, like “undo” and it’ll bookmark your place in the registry to get back there quickly next time. If you are into registry editing you might want to install this.
- Norton Registry Tracker – I don’t install this either, but what it does is track changes to your registry. The reason I don’t install it is, in order for it to be useful you have to add more branches and keys for it to track. It then becomes quite CPU and memory intensive when it’s creating a snapshot. Install it if you wish to, but don’t load it at startup. Only open it when you want to play with it.
- Norton System Check – This is just a console that integrates all the maintenance tasks. You can run them all consecutively with the click of one button. I don’t install this, I prefer to just do things manually as needed.
- Norton System Doctor – This is a system monitoring utility that also performs maintenance tasks on the fly. I don’t really like it, as it is quite intensive when it’s first checking all of it’s sensors. For example, it monitors disk health, checks for fragmentation, available disk space and other items. If you install this (I see no reason not to if you want to play with it), don’t load it at startup, only open it when you want to use it. There are a myriad of sensors you can add to it, from various categories. By default, it seems to load the most annoying sensors and I must immediately configure it.
- Norton Utilities Demos – Ok, these are just lame-o animations that show you how to use the Norton Utilities and they take up considerable disk space. I don’t install them, but you might want to if you like that kind of hand holding.
- Norton Utilities DOS Applications – Definitely install these. They can save your butt sometime if Windows won’t boot. Be careful with them though, in addition to a DOS version of Norton Disk doctor there is also a low level disk editing utility called Norton Disk Editor that can absolutely destroy your data if used incorrectly. It’s for highly advanced users only, that understand the structure of disks, filing systems and hexadecimal notation. There is also a very useful diagnostics program, ndiag.exe that you can use to test your hardware.
- Norton Windoctor – This one is mandatory for some reason. You want to install this one anyway though. It scans branches of the registry (first checking registry integrity) to look for disconnected values, for example values that point to files that don’t exist, and invalid activex/com entries (object linking and embedding). While this is a very good utility to show you problems deep in the registry, it’s not to be trusted implicitly. In most cases, it’s safe to say “fix all problems with the best known solution” but it’s best to make a decision on each item. If you don’t understand an item it wants to remove or an action it wants to take, it’s best to leave it alone. While it has an undo feature, undoing registry changes doesn’t always properly restore functionality, if it doesn’t synchronize properly. I’ve spent some pretty late nights as a result. Windoctor has improved greatly in this version since then though. I have many times just said “fix all” with no ill consequences. Keeping good Registry Backups is a must if you’re going to use this utility. It also checks for things like invalid shortcuts and broken uninstall paths. It is a very powerful utility.
- Rescue Disk – Definitely install this. It saves critical information to a bootable disk set. It saves your CMOS data, your partition tables, your file allocation tables, boot records, critical startup files and configuration files. If you have a Zip drive, you can make the Zip Rescue set which will boot Windows from a zip disk and launch the recovery routine where you can restore critical information AND Windows system files. It’s marvellous.
- Speed Start – This won’t even be an option unless you’re running Windows 95. It performs similar functionality to the Windows 98 applog mechanism, that logs program usage for the defragmenter optimization. Don’t install this, even if you have Windows 95. I have not seen this work correctly anyway (unless you’re using FAT32, which would imply Windows 95 B or greater) and it’s just another process that will have to load at startup and what’s worse, it triggers and writes to it’s log files pretty near every time you open a program.
- Speed Disk – Definitely install this. In my opinion, this utility makes Norton Utilities worthwhile to me. It’s a defragmenter that does the same program optimization as the Windows 98 defragmenter (reading the applog program usage data and arranging your files according to usage) in a fraction of the time. It does this by setting up virtual machines in memory to accomplish the reads and writes much faster. It also optimizes the swap file, placing it at the beginning of the drive. Once you’ve used Speed Disk you’ll never want to use the Windows defragmenter again!
- System Information – Definitely install this. It gives you valuable information about your hardware and software environment, in addition to benchmark tests.
- Unerase Wizard – I don’t install this, but it works in conjunction with Norton Protected Recycle Bin to restore deleted files. It will work without Norton Protected Recycle Bin loaded, but not very well. It’s hit or miss without it. You should install this, just in case you want to use it sometime. It can save your butt if it’s able to recover a deleted file that you desperately need.
- WipeInfo – I always install this, it’s a file wipe utility that overwrites files as it deletes them. You can do a fast wipe on files, folders or free space, or a government wipe. Definitely a paranoia utility.
- Explorer Shell Extensions – This should be installed, it’s for right click menu items and similar shell integrations.
- Norton Diagnostics – Definitely install this, it’s entertaining and useful. It performs tests on your hardware in a really attractive graphical dialogue. I know you’ll love it.
Now that we’ve decided on what to install, proceed with setup. The next choice you need to make is Automatic Protection or Manual Protection. Please choose Manual Protection so that it doesn’t load all of its utilities at startup. The only program that will load at startup is Norton Antivirus Autoprotect. Continuing with the installation, you’ll be asked if you want to enable the Norton Antivirus E-mail scanner. Leave that unchecked, it’s nothing but trouble and unnecessary if you use Autoprotect and good common sense in dealing with email attachments.
It will also ask you if you want to scan for viruses after the computer restarts, select No for now. Also say No to running Live Update after the computer restarts. You can do that yourself when the time is right (soon!). When the registration screen appears, just click Cancel and say Yes to the “Are you sure you want to cancel registration?” prompt and register later (not mandatory, but a good idea if you want to call Symantec Technical Support). We don’t need to invoke dial-up networking to complete a registration procedure right now, we have more important things to do. When the installation completes, the computer must reboot to finish the installation, after which there will be some configuring to do.
First of all, open the Norton SystemWorks Integrator (You’ll have icons for it all over the place, on your desktop and start menu). First thing to do is to go to Options and choose Norton Systemworks. You’ll see various checkboxes that will alleviate annoyances like program splash screens, and the Tray Manager (you don’t need to load that). You can unload Norton Antivirus Autoprotect here, too. Next, go to Options of Norton Utilities and uncheck anything (e.g. Norton Protected Recycle Bin) that’s loading at startup. Go to Options of Norton Antivirus (if you haven’t already done it from the SystemWorks options) and under the Autoprotect section, unload Autoprotect for now. We’ll load these things after we update the software. Open Norton Cleansweep, go to Options and unload Internet Sweep/Smart Sweep so it doesn’t load at startup.
Reboot the machine now once more, then dial your Internet provider. Open the Norton SystemWorks Integrator again, and click the Live Update button. Get all available updates for the software. After it’s done and after the reboot, connect to the Internet again and run Live Update and get any available updates. Run Live Update again until it tells you “Live Update has determined that you already have the most recent updates”.
Finally, you’re ready to start using the utilities. First thing you should do now is go back to Norton Antivirus options and enable Norton Antivirus Autoprotect, so it will load again. This is the only component that I let load at startup. I highly recommend that you use it. Take some time exploring all of the software, reading the help menus and program splash screens (before you disable them). Read the book that comes with the software. Don’t be in a hurry to do things, take the time to understand what the utilities do.
Once you are finished exploring the utility suite, you should establish a regular pattern of maintenance. Run Norton Disk Doctor often (note that you don’t have to do a surface scan every time, you can disable that in the program’s options). Run Speed Disk weekly to keep your drives optimized, and also the more often you run it, the less time it will take. If you make major changes, for example moving files and directories around, you should run Image to update the image files. Speed Disk runs Image automatically after it completes, when you exit the program. Run Windoctor periodically as well, to check for unwanted registry detritus that may accumulate after installing and uninstalling software.
Use these programs wisely, and your computer should run trouble free, and perform well indefinitely. In addition, you will learn a little about the inner workings of your PC and Windows. I consider Norton SystemWorks 2000 to be a valuable investment and I wouldn’t run a Win9x computer without it.
Submitted by: Grogan