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Norton SystemWorks 2004 review: Norton SystemWorks 2004

  • 1

The Good A strong set of user-configurable options; easy-to-navigate interface.

The Bad Can be hard to install; expensive technical support.

The Bottom Line Norton SystemWorks 2004 is a fine set of useful hard drive utilities, but advanced users will want Iolo Technologies' System Mechanic instead.

6.3 Overall
  • Setup 5
  • Features 8
  • Support 6

Review summary

This year, Norton SystemWorks has added a few new components, including Norton Password Manager 2004 and a new spy/adware component within Norton's antivirus app, Norton AntiVirus 2004. Because it also includes Norton Utilities, new users won't go wrong with SystemWorks 2004 as their basic utility package. But if you already own SystemWorks, this year's improvements just aren't enough to justify the $40 upgrade price, given that much of the package remains unchanged. And more-advanced users should instead buy Iolo Technologies' System Mechanic 4.0 Professional for tools that really get under the hood within Windows OSs without draining your system resources. Installing or reinstalling Norton SystemWorks 2004 isn't easy and could be time-consuming. We first tried to upgrade from SystemWorks 2003 and lost all of our previous settings in the process. Next, we removed SystemWorks completely and chose the full installation. The SystemWorks uninstall worked without a problem; however, when we tried to create a profile name in the new Norton Password Manager utility, the program insisted that the name--the same used during our partial installation--was a duplicate. After consulting Symantec, we edited the system Registry to remove the prior installation information not removed during the standard SystemWorks uninstall process.

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Norton's system of hierarchical menus makes it easy to understand what each tool does.

The main SystemWorks menu, which lets you choose among disk cleanup and repair utilities, is easy to navigate. A separate Options menu lets you control which utilities run in the background upon start-up and how each of these utilities behaves. Unfortunately, even after turning off all memory-resident utilities (Password Manager, Virus Auto-Protect, Smart Sweep, and so on), we found that SystemWorks continued to load several memory-hogging executables at start-up. To turn these off, we had to access the Startup file under Windows' System Configuration. Even then, one executable, SYMLCSVC, continues to run in the background whenever you boot your system. SYMLCSVC is part of a central licensing service designed to prevent software piracy. It serves no other purpose and can't be turned off unless you use a third-party memory manager.

Finally, SystemWorks 2004 loads perceptibly slower than its predecessors. On several different computers and operating systems we tested informally, our loading times (without any of the package's utilities running in the background) were two to three times longer than SystemWorks 2003's.
SystemWorks continues to provide antivirus, disk-defragmentation, Registry-repair, backup, and file-cleanup tools in its latest version. New to SystemWorks is Norton AntiVirus (NAV) 2004's ability to detect potential viral threats in compressed Windows 2000 and XP file archives--a welcome development. In addition, NAV now treats spyware and adware as it does viruses, allowing these programs to be quarantined or deleted. We're glad Norton has chosen to include this feature, but we find its implementation lacking. Some shareware applications come with a small spyware element, and utilities such as Lavasoft's Ad-aware let you quarantine individual elements while running the main program. NAV doesn't, meaning your shareware simply won't run.

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Quick Fill in the Password Manager adds personalized information to online forms at the click of a button.

This time around, SystemWorks also includes Norton Password Manager (NPM) 2004, which stores address and credit card-related information. The utility automatically detects field types while browsing online and offers the personal information you've filled out in advance. For example, NPM stores and retrieves username and password fields used in applications and on Web sites and supplies them the next time you access the application or Web site. But, unlike other password managers, NPM caches usernames and passwords only as you enter them; these fields cannot be edited. NPM stores its information under a series of user-defined, password-protected profiles. Phone support for SystemWorks remains excessively expensive: $29.95 per call or $2.95 per minute. As there's no weekend phone technical support, you'll have to plan all of your technical problems to occur between 5 a.m. and 6 p.m. PT, Monday through Friday. The online support is a little better: Symantec's support Web site supplies a host of free information about current viruses. Still, we think Symantec could afford to provide better support for its products.

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