Despite SystemWorks' lack of real updates, we still find many of its packaged utilities compelling. Disk Doctor is a safe, effective tool for the diagnosis and repair of a variety of file-related problems, such as bad clusters. WinDoctor, in turn, examines and repairs a host of Windows problems that show up in the Registry, including invalid entries and shortcuts. Other SystemWorks modules, however, are much less interesting, and some have long since outlived their usefulness. For example, take Rescue, which boots your system into DOS using data you have previously saved to multiple floppy disks; it doesn't offer you the option to record a CD-ROM. Still, many of these tools help when you want to remove cookies, get system information, or edit your Registry.
To put this suite to the test, we ran Norton SystemWorks 2003 on a computer with a Pentium 4 1.3 GHz processor and 256MB of RAM, with a dual partition set up to run Windows 98 and XP Professional. We repeatedly rebooted Windows while applications were open, added false Registry entries, misdirected program shortcuts for targeted executables, and installed and uninstalled software to produce a heavily fragmented 40GB hard drive. Throughout our tests, SystemWorks 2003 successfully sensed errors and diligently performed repairs.
SystemWorks 2003's help system is fairly comprehensive for basic advice but sparse at higher technical levels. For example, the WinDoctor help page has only general information and nothing to explain the specific scans that the program uses. While this omission is mostly just annoying, it makes you wonder why Symantec allows you to select which tests to run if you don't know their functions.
Symantec's online support site offers help for standard problems with each of the company's products. Phone support is very expensive: either $29.95 per call or $2.95 per minute. There is no weekend phone support, so be sure to "schedule" your problems to occur between 5 a.m. and 6 p.m. PT, Monday through Friday.
If you already have SystemWorks 2002, there isn't enough new in version 2003 to make the upgrade worthwhile. But if you don't have this utility suite on your computer or you rely on Windows' native applications to tune and repair your PC, this is must-have software. It remains an excellent collection of well-honed utilities that will keep your computer in optimal condition.