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Symantec Norton SystemWorks 2002 review:

Symantec Norton SystemWorks 2002

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The Good Compatible with Windows XP; solid repair and maintenance tools; includes GoBack, a first-rate system restoration utility.

The Bad Doesn't work on Windows 95; runs slowly unless your PC has loads of memory or a fast processor; not enough new features to tempt 2001 owners to upgrade.

The Bottom Line Don't think twice about getting SystemWorks if you're migrating to Windows XP, but if you already have 2001, pass on 2002.

CNET Editors' Rating

8.0 Overall

If you're moving to Windows XP, pack along Norton SystemWorks 2002, a suite stuffed with top-notch tools for protecting and repairing your PC. The first and, so far, only utility suite compatible with Windows XP, SystemWorks monitors your PC's health, fixes errors, protects against viruses, and purges unwanted applications. So, if you're upgrading your OS or don't have a utility toolkit already, SystemWorks 2002 is a steal at $70. However, Windows 95 users are completely in the cold, and 2002 has so few new features, SystemWorks 2001 vets shouldn't bother with the $40 upgrade.

Disclaimer: SystemWorks 2002 includes Extra Features, which we did not review. One of these extra Web services is powered by CNET CatchUp.com.If you're moving to Windows XP, pack along Norton SystemWorks 2002, a suite stuffed with top-notch tools for protecting and repairing your PC. The first and, so far, only utility suite compatible with Windows XP, SystemWorks monitors your PC's health, fixes errors, protects against viruses, and purges unwanted applications. So, if you're upgrading your OS or don't have a utility toolkit already, SystemWorks 2002 is a steal at $70. However, Windows 95 users are completely in the cold, and 2002 has so few new features, SystemWorks 2001 vets shouldn't bother with the $40 upgrade.

Disclaimer: SystemWorks 2002 includes Extra Features, which we did not review. One of these extra Web services is powered by CNET CatchUp.com.

One-click checkup
Symantec hasn't messed with the SystemWorks interface, and all of its key tools still fit under a launch pad interface, a simple window with links to each of the major tools: Norton Utilities, Norton AntiVirus, and Norton CleanSweep. The utilities have a consistent look and feel, although AntiVirus 2002 now sports an idiot-proof panel of self-explanatory indicators that tell you whether your antivirus definitions are up-to-date and the date of your last full virus scan. This streamlined package is easy to use and leads you unerringly through each successive step.

SystemWorks' components are as savvy as utilities get in the PC universe. The suite includes Norton Utilities, a collection of PC revival and repair programs, and a full copy of Norton AntiVirus 2002, the best virus killer we've used. Meanwhile, CleanSweep, though easily the least-important part of SystemWorks (Windows has a credible substitute, the Add/Remove Programs applet in the Control Panel), thoroughly eradicates unwanted applications and does an excellent job of clearing out unnecessary files, including temp files created when you install software.

We were especially impressed by SystemWorks' One Button Checkup tool, which runs seven of the most important SystemWorks tools, scans the Registry, and verifies that AntiVirus is on task--all with just a single click from the first screen you see after launching the suite. And you can create rescue disks that let you boot Windows 98 and Me in an emergency or boot with the SystemWorks CD itself (if your PC supports bootable CDs, as most newer models do).

XP yes, 95 no
SystemWorks 2002 is yet another in a long line of Symantec utility suites, and other than its support for brand-new Windows XP--it's the first utility suite to offer XP-compatible tools, such as an antivirus app, a disk defragmenter, and a Registry cleaner--there's not enough here to get our pulses racing. And what Symantec gives, Symantec takes away: SystemWorks doesn't work with Windows 95. So, if you're stuck with that ancient OS, too bad.

SystemWorks has changed in a few other ways, too. It's missing some of 2001's bits and pieces but has plugged in plenty of others to take their place. Among the cuts, count Norton Zip Rescue as the only one we'll truly miss; that tool let us boot from an emergency Zip disk in case our hard drive was toasted. But Symantec added WipeInfo, the superscrubber that wipes data from your drive so that no one can reconstitute erased files, and it now works on Windows NT/2000/XP systems as well as 98 and Me machines. You'll also find a stripped version of GoBack, a system recovery utility. Windows Me or XP users won't need GoBack, though, since those operating systems already have built-in system restore utilities that work just as well.

Still the champ
SystemWorks 2002's new features didn't blow us away, but that doesn't mean we don't love the top-to-bottom protection it provides. It's still the tops among PC fix-it tools. (However, there is no Mac 2002 version; the last Mac edition of SystemWorks was released in 2000.) Norton Utilities stands proud as one of the suite's two pillars of strength (AntiVirus is the other) and includes utilities such as Speed Disk, which defrags hard drives much faster than the simpleton Disk Defragmenter that's included in Windows; UnErase, a Lazarus-like wizard that resurrects deleted files; and System Doctor, Symantec's veteran status control panel, which shows your PC's condition at a glance.

Norton Utilities' Disk Doctor, which repairs disk errors, and WinDoctor, which diagnoses and fixes Registry problems, are still the utility's two top tools. The latter is a crucial part of any PC toolkit, since no version of Windows bundles an adequate Registry repair tool. Windows 98 and Me have something called Registry Checker (it's buried here: Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Registry Checker) that only cleans and backs up the Registry. And Windows 2000/NT/XP don't even have this kind of tool. WinDoctor cured all but one error in our four Windows test machines, and the error it couldn't find was due to a missing file that we had to dig out of our Windows 2000 installation CD.

Small footprint
On older PCs, SystemWorks runs as slow as a slug, which is to be expected. But when we stuck the suite on a two-year-old Pentium II-233 laptop with 32MB of RAM (specs, by the way, that meet SystemWorks' minimum requirements to run under Windows Me), dialogs opened slowly and utilities ran even slower. Lame. Of course, on a quick-footed Pentium III-800 with 128MB of RAM, the program flies, as it should.

SystemWorks won't eat up all of your PC's resources. On a Windows Me system, for example, SystemWorks 2002 consumed a measly 4 percent of system resources.

Support for SystemWorks 2002 is standard for Symantec: online help is excellent, but offline assistance via phone costs plenty. A call to tech support will set you back $35 per problem or $3 per minute.

XP users and those considering XP who want a desktop tool suite should get SystemWorks. Ditto for anyone sans a utility suite or an antivirus app. At $70, this program is good insurance against a catastrophe. If you have SystemWorks 2001, however, there's just not enough here to merit the $40 upgrade cost.

SystemWorks quickly diagnoses common problems, such as Registry errors and out-of-date virus definitions, with one click.

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