Symantec Norton SystemWorks 2005 Premier (NSW2005P) is an advanced computer utility package that takes the scattershot everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach to disk management. In addition to the basic utilities found in Norton SystemWorks 2005, such as pop-up-ad prevention, junk-file removal, antivirus and spyware detection and removal, confidential-file protection, memory defragmentation, data recovery, and Internet-speed optimization, Premier adds and Smith Micro Software's CheckIt Diagnostics. CheckIt is an advanced testing tool, intended not so much for the weekend technician as for computer pros who know how to read its extensive, technical reports. All things considered, we feel SystemWorks 2005 Premier doesn't pack the overall punch of , which includes several more utilities for about the same price. Nonetheless, current SystemWorks users may want to consider upgrading, if only for Norton Ghost. Norton SystemWorks 2005 Premier is available only as a boxed CD, in part because Norton Utilities, Norton GoBack, CheckIt Diagnostics, and Performance Test all require separate installations. Our experience loading these applications was fraught with difficulty. To test installation, we typically install, uninstall, and reinstall products, and NSW2005P failed on two out of four occasions. Unfortunately, each failure provided no insight into the cause; the software installer merely suggested we try again. One failure reported that NSW2005P was successfully installed when it clearly wasn't. When fully installed, NSW2005P consumed 260MB of our hard drive. By comparison, System Mechanic 5.0 Professional contains more features, yet needs only 60MB.
After installation, NSW2005P asks you to select either Norton Internet Worm Protection or Windows Firewall. The software recommends the former, which irks us a little. Our problem isn't with the recommendation--it's a good one--but with the lack of an explanation, a problem repeated throughout NSW2005P. We'd prefer to see the advantages of each choice before making this decision.
The NSW2005P interface is clean but not especially intuitive. Tabs along the left-hand side provide access to the package's separate components, such as One Button Checkup and Norton Utilities, which expand into individual utilities when you click on them. The tabs' organization could be better. For example, Extra Features is a useless catchall category, whose five programs could easily have been folded into existing areas of Norton Utilities. But they weren't, leaving us to guess their location. Norton SystemWorks 2005 Premier includes many tools for optimizing or repairing your PC, most of which are based on Norton Utilities and haven't changed much through the years. One new tool added to the SystemWorks 2005 series is System Optimizer, a collection of under-the-hood operating system tweaks that control appearance, security access, and other OS features. Unfortunately, some of the controls are blatantly redundant with those already present in Windows, such as mouse options that control click sensitivity. The System Optimizer collection is weak when compared with the Tweak Windows Settings feature found in System Mechanic 5.0 Professional.
The principal difference between Norton SystemWorks 2005 and Norton SystemWorks 2005 Premier is the addition of Norton Ghost, a leading backup and recovery tool, and Smith Micro Software's CheckIt Diagnostics, a native 32-bit diagnostics tool for Windows 98, Me, 2000, and XP operating systems. CheckIt performs tests on SCSI and USB interfaces, hard drives, CD-ROMs, and removable disks. It also calibrates video and examines CPU and memory. Although CheckIt Diagnostics is a reporting tool rather than a corrective utility, computer technicians can use it to easily pinpoint problem areas. Norton SystemWorks 2005 Premier lacks the support a serious computer diagnostic program requires. Its manual, printed in a minuscule, gray typeface, merely duplicates much of the brief but sketchy in-product help for Norton Utilities. There's nothing specific in the manual about Norton Ghost or CheckIt Diagnostics, save for a couple of passing references. Ghost's in-product help system is adequate, and CheckIt Diagnostics offers extensive, well-illustrated in-product help, but alas, no hotlinks to additional online support.
Symantec's Web site provides a good searchable knowledge base for common problems related to Norton SystemWorks 2005 Premier. Symantec recently increased its live telephone support to 24 hours a day, seven days a week; however, at $29.95 per incident, the price of each call remains prohibitively high.