POWER USER

SystemWorks 2001 can save you from the blue screen of death

John McCormick

I've been called a power curmudgeon by some because my focus has always been on end users. I object to companies bombarding us with new office suites every two years instead of perfecting a product and leaving it alone. Changes and enhancements would be better as optional plug-ins.

Nor would I mind waiting a year longer for a new operating system if it meant there wouldn't be a lot of patches coming out afterward.

Operating systems should stay out of a users' way.

No one except systems administrators and programmers should ever have to know more about an OS than its name and version.

But if computers were easy to use, you wouldn't need this column.

My tip to power users is to take a look at Norton SystemWorks 2001 from Symantec Corp. of Cupertino, Calif. It includes the latest editions of Norton AntiVirus, Norton Utilities and Norton CleanSweep, which all run under Windows 9x up through Windows 2000 Professional.

I have Win98 on my main Web surfing and writing computer, a year-old Compaq Presario Pentium III, which recently had begun crashing several times a day. The blue screen of death was showing up several times a week.

I was beginning to think I'd have to change to Windows 2000 Pro for all my work, not just software testing. Then, in the nick of time, a copy of SystemWorks arrived.

My decision to replace Win98's ScanDisk tool with a Norton utility proved wise. Although I was still forced to run the Microsoft utility several times a day when the system locked up, Norton performed a much more complete test. It found nearly 50 problems that had not been identified by ScanDisk. Fixing those problems cut the number of crashes I experienced in half.

A few days later when a bad crash occurred, SystemWorks automatically located and specified a number of disk errors at reboot, then fixed them quickly.

SystemWorks does a good job of maintaining a Windows system, better than Win98 does, especially when it comes to cleaning up all the loose Internet files that tend to clutter up a hard drive.

Most of the program's functions have good default settings, and a user can merely click on a button for a feature as needed.

The included Norton Utilities 2001 tool set monitors and fixes problems on the fly, as well as after a crash. It provides a lot of useful disaster recovery tools.

Of course, Windows can defeat nearly any attempt to fix or maintain it, and even SystemWorks 2001 did fail to rescue another of my computers that was running Win95.

SystemWorks managed to clean up the hard disk, but afterward the computer wouldn't boot.

I had been making up to a dozen reboot attempts each time to start it before I ran SystemWorks on the hard drive, and I don't for a moment believe the Norton software was to blame. It just couldn't cope with all the problems. Nor did it leave the system significantly worse off than before I ran it.

At least the old system is now ready for installation of a new OS, and that wasn't the situation before SystemWorks.

Best wishes at home and at work. May your system never crash before you make a backup, and may all your deadlines get extended.

John McCormick, a free-lance writer and computer consultant, has been working with computers since the early 1960s. E-mail him at poweruser@mail.usa.com.

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