V-com SystemSuite 4.0 review: V-com SystemSuite 4.0

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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Impressive array of system utilities; easy to set up; excellent printed documentation; includes personal firewall.

The Bad Doesn't check outgoing e-mail for viruses; missed a few viruses in our Labs' tests.

The Bottom Line This well-designed system utility suite is the perfect catchall if you're looking for a staggering number of features at a low price.

7.0 Overall

If you don't want to pay for a master craftsman, a jack-of-all-trades may get the job done just as well. V-com SystemSuite 4.0 is just such a generalist, with an impressive array of system utilities that handle everything from antivirus protection to Registry maintenance and system monitoring to crash avoidance. The latest version tosses in the NetDefense personal firewall and scans your e-mail for viruses--both valuable additions. (By comparison, V-com's main competitor, Norton SystemWorks 2002, scans e-mail for viruses but doesn't include a firewall.) SystemSuite doesn't excel at any one task, but it's an excellent value if you're on a limited budget and want an extensive bag of tricks at your disposal. Norton boasts higher quality, but since its personal firewall costs $49.95, SystemSuite offers the most bang for your buck.If you don't want to pay for a master craftsman, a jack-of-all-trades may get the job done just as well. V-com SystemSuite 4.0 is just such a generalist, with an impressive array of system utilities that handle everything from antivirus protection to Registry maintenance and system monitoring to crash avoidance. The latest version tosses in the NetDefense personal firewall and scans your e-mail for viruses--both valuable additions. (By comparison, V-com's main competitor, Norton SystemWorks 2002, scans e-mail for viruses but doesn't include a firewall.) SystemSuite doesn't excel at any one task, but it's an excellent value if you're on a limited budget and want an extensive bag of tricks at your disposal. Norton boasts higher quality, but since its personal firewall costs $49.95, SystemSuite offers the most bang for your buck.

Easy installation and access
A single setup program installs all of SystemSuite's utilities, although you can easily pick and choose which ones you want during installation. Once installed, SystemSuite places an icon in your system tray. You can right-click the icon to access commonly used utilities, such as FileUndeleter or Scheduler, or double-click to launch the SystemSuite console. SystemSuite organizes itself for maximum benefit; its two-paned interface offers utility categories on the left (Firewall, Antivirus, Optimize And Maintain, Diagnose, Fix, Recover, Uninstall, Cleanup, and Zip). When you click a category, SystemSuite displays icons for its available utilities on the right. It's a snap to find just the tool you need.

Covers all the bases and then some
We could list all of SystemSuite's features, but it would take up the entire review, so we'll stick to our favorites. The best of the bunch include DataEraser, which creates a bootable floppy you can use to completely wipe a hard drive's contents--a handy tool for IT staff preparing a PC for recycling or transferring to another user, for example. The highly customizable and straightforward Uninstall tool not only deletes installed applications, it also archives them, moves them within a system, or transports them to a different system. Cleanup also offers tools for examining and deleting unwanted Internet files such as cookies, space-hogging temporary files, and extraneous Registry entries. FileUndeleter scans your hard drive, finding hidden or deleted files to recover, a lifesaver if you accidentally delete an important doc. PCDiagnostics runs an array of tests to determine whether your PC hardware is functioning correctly.

New but incomplete security measures
In addition to these old favorites, version 4.0 includes some key improvements over 3.0. It throws in, for example, the absolutely vital ability to scan incoming e-mail for viruses, and it works in almost any POP3 mail client, including Outlook Express, Netscape, Eudora, and even Microsoft Exchange clients such as Outlook. However, unlike Norton AntiVirus 2002, it doesn't scan outgoing e-mail to make sure you're not unwittingly sending out infected e-mail, and it can't check Web sites' JavaScript and ActiveX Controls for viruses. As e-mail-based worms and scripted attacks become ever more common, this could prove a serious chink in your security armor.

By far, though, SystemSuite's biggest and best addition is NetDefense, a personal firewall that protects your PC from intruders and lets you restrict outgoing traffic, prompting you each time a new application attempts to access the Internet. This keeps unknown programs or spyware from sending data over the Internet without your knowledge.

Overall, SystemSuite's antivirus and firewall utilities performed adequately in our lab testing, although the antivirus utility did miss a few viruses. Specifically, it failed to find simulated viruses in system memory and on the boot sector of a floppy disk, and it missed a virus attachment sent via e-mail. That performance is roughly comparable to Norton AntiVirus 2002's and McAfee VirusScan 6.0's, each of which missed a couple of viruses in our testing. SystemSuite managed a clean sweep of Internet security-testing site ShieldsUp's port probing, which is comparable to other firewalls we've tested.

Support aplenty
In this age of online-only documentation, we were thrilled with SystemSuite's 200-page printed manual. This tome details all of the software's features with helpful diagrams and step-by-step instructions. The company provides phone tech support Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. MT, as well as e-mail support. Though V-com's Web site provides extensive help files and FAQs, most of them referred to previous versions of the software, which we found confusing.

Cheap, reliable, and chock-full of tools
The bottom line: if you're looking for a complete set of system tools and don't want to spend a lot of money, V-com offers a compelling solution. Even if you take advantage of only a fraction of its many features, the retail price of $59.95 makes it a bargain. Compared to the $70 Norton SystemWorks 2002, which doesn't include personal firewall software, the bargain is obvious. Still, if you're more worried about absolute protection than saving money, Norton AntiVirus 2002 is a safer bet.

Read CNET Labs' test results

SystemSuite 4.0's console, which you can launch from an icon in the system tray, gives you easy access to its wide array of system utilities.

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