Although Symantec bought GoBack from Roxio several years ago, Norton GoBack 4.0 is the first new version of the app since 2001. In the intervening years, Microsoft added its System Restore feature to Windows XP, eliminating some of GoBack's uniqueness. Nonetheless, this software still has merit. For its latest version, Symantec enhanced GoBack with plenty of new features, including the ability to revert to old versions of individual files--rather than what System Restore does, which is restore the entire Windows operating system to its state before a change was made. This once again makes GoBack a vital utility for all PC users. While GoBack might seem pricey, it could easily save you a tech-support call and hours of troubleshooting. The standalone utility is also available as part of Norton SystemWorks 2005, which is a much better deal given the extra utilities included. When installed, Norton GoBack 4.0 consumes a fair amount of disk space, but otherwise, its system requirements are minimal. For Windows XP users, Symantec suggests you have a 300MHz or higher processor, 128MB of RAM, and at least 200MB of free hard disk space. To be most effective, however, you'll also need to reserve 10 percent of your disk space for GoBack to use storing system backups. With many hard drives offering 200GB or more, setting aside 20GB shouldn't be too taxing.
It took us 15 minutes to install GoBack on a 40GB hard drive half-filled with data files. If you have a larger hard drive, expect the process to take longer if more data needs to be stored.
GoBack's clean, simple interface makes it easy to reverse software woes, displaying various times when the app has saved snapshots of your entire system. Rather than manually editing registry files, adjusting network settings, or troubleshooting drivers yourself, simply choose the last time your system worked and restore your system to that time--be it one day, one week, or one month ago.In Norton GoBack 4.0, Symantec has taken the original concept of snapshot system recovery and made it more granular: You can now also choose to restore the entire hard drive or just one individual file. The previous version, on the other hand, saved only strategic system files. By restoring your entire drive, the system is restored to a previously saved date, byte for byte. This is different from the System Restore feature in Windows XP, which restores most system files but leaves your personal files alone. GoBack's latest version can restore as much as 8GB of data.
To restore individual files, right-click any file in Windows Explorer, and a pop-up window displays a list of GoBack-saved versions of the file. This setup is great news for anyone who has forgotten to save changes to a Word document or an Excel spreadsheet. The software also offers options for managing and moving previous versions of files. For example, whenever you see previous versions listed in a pop-up window, you can drag them directly onto your desktop for use. GoBack 4.0 also lets you search compressed archive files to find a particular file you want to restore. And GoBack 4.0 now offers a simplified way to try new software. Suppose you want to download the latest and greatest P2P file-sharing application, but you aren't sure it's the most stable piece of code. Another feature, SafeTry Mode, lets you download new software, see how it affects your system, and, if it's buggy, eliminate it with a single click.
Because GoBack 4.0 works in the background, storing old copies of your files as you go about your work, you might expect it to hurt system performance. In our tests, although we could often hear the hard drive writing data during what ordinarily would be unused processing times, we experienced no discernible system slowdowns. We were able to run multiple Office-type applications and cruise the Internet without hindrance.
Recovering previous versions of individual documents takes but a few seconds. Restoring your entire drive to a point earlier in the day takes a few minutes and requires a reboot--an acceptable amount of time lost compared to the alternative.Symantec prides itself on providing excellent support for its products, but telephone support is very expensive. The company charges $29.95 per incident (6 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT, Monday through Friday), although the technicians can waive the fee if they determine a flaw in one of its products caused the problem.
Before you pick up the phone, however, you should visit the Symantec Web site. The company's knowledge base is more robust than most and lets you search by the specific product you are using. Although GoBack 4.0 was available for only a few weeks at the time of this review, we found several knowledge base entries for the product. The Symantec Web site also offers an automated support assistant that is supposed to check your system for Symantec software and direct you to solutions to common problems. Unfortunately, when we tried the automated assistant, it could not detect that we had GoBack 4.0 installed.