Buying a diagnostic utility for your computer is like buying health insurance for yourself: You may never experience the kind of emergency that justifies the cost, but the peace of mind makes it worthwhile. Norton SystemWorks for Mac 2.0 provides such comfort, and it's currently the best suite of diagnostic, antivirus, disk optimization, and other utilities available for OS X--although it suffers from weak tech support and can't repair many problems that it detects. Plus, it's easy enough for a beginner to use out of the box. Get SystemWorks if you want more tools than Drive 10.0 offers, but if your Mac is running smoothly, wait for the OS X version of the cheaper TechTool.
SystemWorks suffers from an overly complicated installation process. Because it ships with extra utilities not created by Symantec, such as DiskWarrior Recovery Edition and Aladdin Spring Cleaning, it can take several passes to install everything you need. We'd love to see an integrated installer that works for all Symantec and third-party apps.
The SystemWorks Chooser window lets you select from any of the primary SystemWorks utilities.
Once installed, the various utilities' interfaces are both good-looking and easy to use. Launch the main Norton SystemWorks application, and you'll get a window listing all the main tools, such as Disk Doctor, SpeedDisk, and UnErase, and you can click whichever one you want. (You can find all other utilities in the Applications folder.) However, this window closes after you make a selection--annoying, since you must reopen the Chooser window in order to click another tool.
Speed Disk, SystemWork's disk optimization utility, organizes your files' storage area to save space and improve drive performance.
SystemWorks has a tool for nearly everything that could go wrong with your Mac. Disk Doctor finds and fixes problems with the hard drive, similar to Drive 10.0, but it detects and solves many more problems. Norton AntiVirus checks for thousands of bugs and Trojan horses, and it's much faster and easier to use than the version of Virex included with Apple's .Mac membership. Plus, AntiVirus's included scheduler lets you automatically run a scan, an option that Virex is sadly missing. Norton FileSaver monitors your documents, in order to help you recover should a massive crash occur; and UnErase saves your bacon when you trash a document that you should have saved. Norton will even do much of your detective work itself. Its LiveUpdate feature makes sure that your tools are compatible with the latest OS upgrades, while Norton Scheduler ensures that utilities are run on whatever daily, weekly, or monthly schedule you choose.
Run LiveUpdate weekly to insure that your utilities and virus definitions are up-to-date.
SystemWorks also bundles helpful third-party utilities, including DiskWarrior Recover Edition--a watered-down version of DiskWarrior that helps you recover files should your drive crash. Retrospect Express Backup ensures that you'll never forget to back up your data, and Spring Cleaning saves disk space by whisking away useless files. No other package for the Mac includes such a comprehensive set of tools.
Norton Scheduler runs hard drive scans and virus checks automatically, at whatever interval you select.
In our testing, Norton SystemWorks performed well, but its repair skills need some, well, repairing. Disk Doctor and AntiVirus scans finished quickly and generated easy-to-read reports. Disk Doctor found two major problems with our test system that Drive 10.0, a more limited drive diagnostic tool, hadn't: one file showed an incorrect "data physical length," and one had an "incorrect child count." Unfortunately, Disk Doctor couldn't fix either problem, even when we ran the program off the boot disk. A technical-support person suggested we reinstall the operating system--an extremely severe remedy for what probably isn't a serious problem.
Disk Doctor found two major problems on our drive but couldn't repair either of them.
Disk Doctor also repeatedly flagged but failed to repair a set of files with bad modification dates. Even when we ran Disk Doctor twice in a row, it caught the same errors in the same files but couldn't fix the problem. Tech support told us that this glitch is common in systems that previously ran OS X 10.1.5 and that Disk Doctor's fixes weren't being recorded. To fix them for good, we had to run Disk Doctor with only specific tests working (Disk Doctor runs several different types of tests and handily lets you select which groups to run or to run them all, which is the default). That solved the problem, but we wouldn't have known it if we hadn't called.
While we like the thick manual and the online support options that Symantec offers, SystemWorks largely fails at tech support. There's no e-mail support and no free phone support--calls cost $29.95 per incident (and as noted above, we received distinctly unhelpful advice). In addition to the manual, Symantec offers a detailed online knowledge base, but it's not sufficient for such a complex program.