Norton Utilities 4.0 brings PC safeguards to Macs

Norton Utilities 4.0 for the Apple Macintosh is the latest incarnation
of a disk utility set that has been around almost as long as personal computers. I suspect
Symantec Corp. is airbrushing Peter Norton’s face a bit on the box, though his
on-screen icon looks as good as ever.

The Mac version of the suite has never had as many tools as its PC cousin, nor does
Version 4.0. What it does have tends to work well except for CrashGuard, which may do more
harm than good.

Version 4.0 gives Mac users six tools to keep their computers humming: Norton Disk
Doctor, Speed Disk, CrashGuard, FileSaver, UnErase and Volume Recover. Norton Disk Doctor
is the second most helpful tool in the bunch.

The Mac is fairly fragile when shut down improperly. Files have a tendency to get lost
in a power failure or system crash that requires a cold boot, and thereafter they may
cause errors or more crashes.

Disk Doctor can usually fix the broken files and assign them to the right places. It
also can detect and delete files that are no longer in use and may not even exist but
still are assigned space on the hard drive. Version 4.0’s Disk Doctor is as powerful
as the PC version but has a slightly friendlier interface.

Speed Disk is probably going to be the most-used and most valuable program in the lot.
I tested it with one of the new Apple iMacs.

Apparently my test unit had been in the reviewing pool for a while because, after I had
run Speed Disk, the system defragmented itself enough to score three points better on
Norton’s internal benchmark. I then studied the erased files on the drive and saw how
someone else had previously poked and prodded my test unit.

Speed Disk on the Mac is a lot more colorful than on the PC. As the machine processes
files, the layout of the their locations on the drive appears in orange, green, yellow,
blue and rose-colored stripes. It’s trippy but functional and fast nonetheless.

The UnErase tool was more impressive than it even claimed to be. My test iMac had had
more than 300 files erased before it arrived at the GCN Lab. A lot of the files were so
far gone that UnErase gave itself a zero chance of recovering them, but it proceeded to
recover them anyhow.

My main criticism of this version of Norton Utilities, besides the presence of only six
tools in the arsenal, concerns CrashGuard. The utility is supposed to watch over your
system and protect it against crash-prone activities. Unfortunately, CrashGuard was so
stingy with system memory, it caused more problems than it solved.

I ran a graphically intense program several times, watching it crash and burn with
CrashGuard activated. The CrashGuard icon would pop up, warning me that a crash was
imminent and asking whether I would like to fix the problem.

No matter what selection I chose, the system would die. I could not even warm-boot and
had to resort to pulling the plug to restart the iMac. This was a great test of Norton
Disk Doctor, which promptly fixed all the lost files. But repairing a problem you yourself
caused is a hollow victory.

Once I had deactivated CrashGuard, the heavy graphics program worked fine. As on the
PC, CrashGuard is supposed to be activated only when you work with a program you suspect
might crash. Unfortunately, CrashGuard defaults to active mode when the suite is
installed, causing users to wonder why their systems have suddenly become unstable.

FileSaver runs in background and tracks deleted files. It adds a few seconds to the
shutdown routine, but its excellence at tracking shows why the UnErase tool works so well.

Volume Recover, the ultimate in disk rescue utilities, can recover whole disks that
have been initialized or accidentally erased.

Norton Utilities 4.0 for the Mac gives Mac users some of the same tools PC users have
had for years, though not as many. Even the old version of Norton Utilities on the PC had
extras such as live Web updates. There are two more tools in the Mac suite, one that wipes
information permanently off a disk and another that acts as a disk editor. The two are
hidden in the Utilities folder and not on the main menu.

The tools that do come in the package work well, except for CrashGuard. Think of the
suite as a fairly basic life insurance policy that can bring your Mac back from the dead.

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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