$50 utilities suite lets you be your PC's Felix Unger

$50 utilities suite lets you be your PC's Felix Unger

By John Breeden II

GCN Staff

I've been a Norton Utilities fan ever since I started fiddling with computers. Now I've found something better.

The Fix-It Utilities 99 suite from Mijenix Corp. is easy to use, powerful and, in all my tests, highly reliable. It runs just fine under Microsoft Windows 95, Windows 98 and Windows NT.

Most other suites require separate versions for 9x and NT.

The economic logic of separating the 9x from the NT utilities is that you are getting only one license, so the vendor wants you to buy separate programs.

Also, NT utilities differ slightly from others because of the operating system's strictures. Fix-It handles this well by installing slightly different versions of the suite de-pending on the system.

One of Windows' greatest annoyances has been that its registry does not accurately reflect program removal. After a few months' use, the registry file balloons with links to programs that no longer exist.

Utilities to fix the NT registry usually fall far short of users' needs. When I have tested registry fixer-upper components, sometimes my test system has crashed. Messing up the registry is an almost surefire way to slow or cripple a system.

For this review, my test system was about a year old, with a meticulously and manually cleaned registry. The utility took about a minute to scan the registry file. When the dust settled, Fix-It had located an astonishing 447 invalid entries. It found entries pointing to programs uninstalled long ago. But I was more impressed by its ability to locate entries for programs that had been upgraded yet still pointed to old locations.

Most of the time, Fix-It found the new locations of programs that had been upgraded. It did not automatically rewrite the registry but instead flagged the moved files so I could approve each change.

Under Win98, I tested another suite component that often causes trouble: the crash-guard utility. Instead of avoiding crashes, such Win98 utilities often cause extra grief. But the Fix-It crash-guard utility worked, managing to stop several crashes I induced.''

Box Score         

Fix-It Utilities 99

Mijenix Corp., Boulder, Colo.;

tel. 303-245-8000


Price: $49.95

Pros and cons:

+Registry fixer program especially good

+Excellent user interface

'Performance problems with disk defragmentation tool

Real-life requirements:

Windows 9x or NT, 8M of RAM for 9x or 16M for NT, 20M of free storage

Selective service

Unlike suites that throw everything on the hard drive during installation, the customizable Fix-It lets you choose whether and when to install components.

The suite also has a virus scanner, a hardware diagnostics tool and an error scanner for potential year 2000 glitches. But Fix-It gives only one year of virus updates for free. After that you must pay to continue receiving new virus profiles.

The suite's interface is one of the best I have seen in a utility suite. The menus briefly describe what each program does in a logical way. Users who have little experience with system utilities will be comfortable with the level of hand-holding, and veterans will not feel they are being treated like idiots.

I did encounter a few problems with the suite, however. Performance was noticeably slow with the disk defragmentation tool.

Defrag usually takes a few hours on large drives. But Fix-It required days for a 4G drive in a machine running NT. I started defragging in early afternoon, and it was only 54 percent finished after running almost 24 hours. The small speed boost achieved by defragging is not worth going computerless for so long. I had similar results running Fix-It on other computers. I'm not sure even a weekend would be long enough to defragment, say, a 14G drive.

Taken as a whole, this is the best utility suite I have seen. I suspect that once users try Fix-It, they'll be hooked.

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