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Manage your home network better with Network Magic 5.0

Cisco's first release of network magic makes it easier for home users to manage their networks.

Dong Ngo/CNET Networks

Cisco announced on Thursday Network Magic 5.0, a suite of network management software. This is the first product released by Cisco since its acquisition of Pure Networks earlier this year.

The suite provides an array of tools for people to visualize, manage, and get a variety of network tasks done. These tasks include: connecting and sharing computers' content or printer, controlling how computers on the network access the Internet, repairing connection and performance problems, optimizing performance and reliability, and so on.

I tried the software briefly and really liked the Network Map function where all devices that connect to your network are revealed, regardless if they are printers, computers, handheld, or any other types of network devices. The software even shows a message each time a new device connects to your network. Other information such as the detailed status and network advisory can also come in handy.

One thing to keep in mind, though, the software installs a few items that run by themselves in the background each time you start the computer, including Pure Network Platform and the Network Magic front-end software. These can potentially slow down your computer.

Network Magic comes in two commercial versions. The Network Magic Essentials ($29.99) (download free trial) is built for users who only require the basic functionality of the software, such as connecting two or three PCs to share a network connection, files, or a printer. Network Magic Pro ($49.99) provides a broader set of capabilities for managing and securing the network. The Pro version supports a Mac Add-On client ($25) that allows for getting a Mac managed the way a PC would be via the network.

All of these versions offer a seven-day free trial time, and I really think they are worth a try.