V-com SystemSuite 4.0
Easy installation and access
A single setup program installs all of SystemSuite's utilities, although you can easily pick and choose which ones you want during installation. Once installed, SystemSuite places an icon in your system tray. You can right-click the icon to access commonly used utilities, such as FileUndeleter or Scheduler, or double-click to launch the SystemSuite console. SystemSuite organizes itself for maximum benefit; its two-paned interface offers utility categories on the left (Firewall, Antivirus, Optimize And Maintain, Diagnose, Fix, Recover, Uninstall, Cleanup, and Zip). When you click a category, SystemSuite displays icons for its available utilities on the right. It's a snap to find just the tool you need.
Covers all the bases and then some
We could list all of SystemSuite's features, but it would take up the entire review, so we'll stick to our favorites. The best of the bunch include DataEraser, which creates a bootable floppy you can use to completely wipe a hard drive's contents--a handy tool for IT staff preparing a PC for recycling or transferring to another user, for example. The highly customizable and straightforward Uninstall tool not only deletes installed applications, it also archives them, moves them within a system, or transports them to a different system. Cleanup also offers tools for examining and deleting unwanted Internet files such as cookies, space-hogging temporary files, and extraneous Registry entries. FileUndeleter scans your hard drive, finding hidden or deleted files to recover, a lifesaver if you accidentally delete an important doc. PCDiagnostics runs an array of tests to determine whether your PC hardware is functioning correctly.
New but incomplete security measures
By far, though, SystemSuite's biggest and best addition is NetDefense, a personal firewall that protects your PC from intruders and lets you restrict outgoing traffic, prompting you each time a new application attempts to access the Internet. This keeps unknown programs or spyware from sending data over the Internet without your knowledge.
Overall, SystemSuite's antivirus and firewall utilities performed adequately in our
In this age of online-only documentation, we were thrilled with SystemSuite's 200-page printed manual. This tome details all of the software's features with helpful diagrams and step-by-step instructions. The company provides phone tech support Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. MT, as well as e-mail support. Though V-com's Web site provides extensive help files and FAQs, most of them referred to previous versions of the software, which we found confusing.
Cheap, reliable, and chock-full of tools
The bottom line: if you're looking for a complete set of system tools and don't want to spend a lot of money, V-com offers a compelling solution. Even if you take advantage of only a fraction of its many features, the retail price of $59.95 makes it a bargain. Compared to the $70 Norton SystemWorks 2002, which doesn't include personal firewall software, the bargain is obvious. Still, if you're more worried about absolute protection than saving money, Norton AntiVirus 2002 is a safer bet.