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Norton SystemWorks 2004 Professional review: Norton SystemWorks 2004 Professional

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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 Professional 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 Professional has added a few new components, including a full edition of Norton Ghost 2004, a new benchmark and diagnostic tool, and a process viewer similar to the Windows Task Manager. Because it also includes Norton Utilities, new users won't go wrong with SystemWorks 2004 Professional 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 in Windows OSs without draining system resources.

Installing or reinstalling Norton SystemWorks 2004 Professional 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 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.

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 Professional 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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