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<b>Disk repair utilities: a special report<br>

Disk repair utilities: a special report

MacTools Pro, Norton Utilities, DiskEssentials, and MicroMat's forthcoming utility Our report last time about MacTools repairing certain problems that Norton Utilities is unable to solve generated some heated email about Symantec. The general complaint is that Symantec has created a virtual monopoly of the repair utility market by buying out its competition. For those upset about this, there is good news. One company has just released a new Norton competitor and another has one planned for early 1998. But before we get to that, let's take a brief look at the history of repair utilities at Symantec:

Symantec's acquisition history Symantec's first entry into the disk repair utility market was a product called Symantec Utilities for Macintosh (or SUM) - which was itself largely derived from a previous non-Symantec product called MacZap. Soon after, it acquired Peter Norton Software, thereby gaining Norton Utilities for Macintosh (NUM) and a few other products. It eventually dumped SUM (after adding some of its components to NUM), leaving Norton Utilities as its premier product. This situation remained stable for awhile - until Fifth Generation came out with Public Utilities - another Norton competitor. Not too long after this, Symantec acquired Fifth Generation (gaining DiskDoubler and Suitcase as well as Public Utilities). Public Utilities was then dropped, once again leaving NUM as Symantec's sole repair utility. Finally, Symantec acquired Central Point, the company behind NUM's longest and strongest rival: MacTools Pro. As a sidelight, Central Point itself had just previously acquired MAXA's excellent Snooper (a hardware diagnostic utility) and Alert! (a software diagnostic utility). So Symantec got these as well. Snooper and Alert died a quick and painless death. MacTools Pro was marketed for another year or so and then it too was dropped. None of the significant advantages of MacTools have yet to be incorporated into NUM. In fact, it now seems likely that this will never occur. For example, one reader writes: "An engineering friend of mine who works at Symantec's Mac Division told me that development of NUM 4.0 will not include any of the cool/good/needed features of MacTools Pro. He said the development team is confident they can forward the progress of NUM without help from MacTools Pro."

Another side issue to all of this is that DiskDoubler Pro is not compatible with Mac OS 8 and Symantec has announced that it does not intend to upgrade it, leaving yet another product to die on the vine. Don Crabb has expressed his feelings about this in a MacWEEK column (thanks, Ernie Franic).

The result is that Symantec has acquired many excellent products (such as MacTools, Snooper and DiskDoubler) only to have them disappear or languish. Even when other companies have offered to purchase these abandoned programs, Symantec has refused.

New competition emerges: Total Recall and MicroMat There may be something of a happy ending (happy at least for those who would like some competition for NUM). Just this week Total Recall has announced the release of DiskEssentials for Mac. Its press release states: "People who have a problem with their Mac disks will now benefit from new, cutting edge repair technology, as well as DiskEssentials' advanced recovery and backup features." I hope to evalauate this product soon and see for myself.

And, although details remain vague for now, MicroMat's Jeff Baudin informs me that MicroMat is working on a Norton competitor, scheduled for release in 1998.

Using MacTools in Mac OS 8: a follow-up Finally, after noting last time that MacTools Pro 4.0.2 or earlier works with Mac OS 8, but versions 4.0.3 or later do not, several readers who currently own 4.0.4 have asked how they can acquire 4.0.2. I have begun to investigate this but have not yet found an answer. In the meantime, if anyone has figured out how to use ResEdit to modify version 4..0.4 so that it works in Mac OS 8, please let me know.