Pure Networks' Network Magic management software
Editors' note: This review and the editors' rating have been updated to reflect changes in the company's service and support policy.
As home networks become increasingly complicated, with clients and other devices scattered throughout the house, it's a full-time job for a home user to keep clients, printers, VoIP phones, network drives, and a variety of media devices on the network. Pure Networks' Network Magic software helps you keep everything connected and better distribute LAN resources with file and printer sharing. All told, this software is well worth its $50 price tag and is a great tool for novice networkers; however, it doesn't work with all routers, and it leaves non-Windows machines out in the cold.
Documentation for Network Magic is a mixed bag that includes a quick-start guide, online help, and a series of tips but no printed manual to peruse. The simple installation takes a few minutes, but the software works only with PCs, is limited to five client computers, and is compatible with merely about 100 of the most popular routers on the market. While 100 routers sounds like a lot, and Pure Networks plans to continually add more hardware support, Network Magic currently overlooks many smaller router brands, such as Hawking Technology, Trendware, and ViewSonic. To get the most out of Network Magic, you should load it on to every PC on your network. Those computers that don't or can't accept the app--including Mac and Linux systems--still show up, albeit with limited information and features.
The first thing you'll notice about the Network Magic interface is how simple and functional it is. At the top are large buttons labeled What's New, Network Map, Shared Folders, and Printer Manager. Network Map is the most interesting function because of its ability to visually track and detail any network device that has an IP address, including routers, PCs, PDAs, printers, media players, and even connected gaming consoles. Each device gets a simple, renameable icon in the Network Map pane. Network Magic quickly scanned our setup and found five connected PCs, four printers, a networked hard drive, a video camera, and a PS/2 console, but it missed a D-Link five-port switch that lacked an IP address. While Network Magic is great for LANs with a couple of PCs and printers, it can't accommodate networks with more than five PCs. Although you can scroll, a zoom feature would have been a great addition--with three or four PCs and a few peripherals, the network map won't fit on most screens. It would be great to be able to zoom out a little to see the whole landscape.