Norton software has been around for a long time; since MS-DOS was king of the operating system world. Norton products have always been held in high regard for their protection value and easy to use interface. So why does Norton System Works 2003 have such a low rating? What went wrong with this package that preceding ones did right? Are the new Norton products to be expected to have the same issues?
First, I apologize for writing an article on software already three years old. I still have a copy of Norton System Works 2003 in use on one of my computers and I figure others may also. No, I have not paid for extended use. Why? Well, frankly because Norton System Works hosed my operating system twice and I had to install everything from scratch. When you do that, you start back at day 1 on your update license. Therefore I have never had my subscription run out yet.
Why did Norton System Works hose my operating system and how did it do that? There are several reasons but first, let me tell you about the software itself.
Norton System Works 2003
Norton System Works 2003 is a package of utility software including an antivirus, imaging software and disk utility software. It also incorporates a system monitoring program and a program to clear unneeded files and to reclaim free space on the hard drive. It is a basic software package that was the first actually designed for Windows XP alone (previous versions were designed for use with Windows 98 and ME also) and is somewhat incomplete as a system utility package. There is no firewall program, no anti-spyware software and no real security program in the package. To call this software System Works is stretching it a bit. It is a good basic utility package but it does have some issues.
Norton Antivirus B
Norton Antivirus is a decent virus protection program that updates its virus definitions by itself on a regular basis. It is not all inclusive and I know this because I have run virus scans with other software on my computers that have found viruses that Norton did not.
I have also had Norton find a virus and unsuccessfully try to remove it. Norton deleted the infected files but that did not fix the problem the virus caused. Other software I have used did fix the problem as well as remove the virus. One reason for this is the missing anti-spyware software. Without including spyware protection, Norton is only providing half-protection. Some spyware is actually a trigger for a virus, and other spyware opens ports for viruses to use. Other types of spyware can act as a delivery system for viruses while still other types work with viruses to change system settings like browser hijackers.
No antivirus software is fully effective without anti-spyware software. I installed Xoftspy on my computer along with the Norton Antivirus and have had great success in halting viruses and spyware. Norton Antivirus finds and quarantines the infected files while Xoftspy fixes the damage and removes associated spyware. This is a good combination; however you can get this same protection from other products without having to buy two titles.
Symantecs own Norton Internet Security 2006 is a good example for this. It protects the computer from viruses and spyware as well as spam. It even includes a firewall program, though it does not include the disc utilities that System Works does.
Norton Cleansweep C+
Cleansweep is a program that finds orphaned and unused files on the computer. It is relatively safe because it will list files that are safe to delete in green, files that are probably safe in yellow and files that are probably not safe to delete in red. It is also a good tool for archiving as it can package up a program and save it as a compressed file. This does not work for all programs though and requires you to know a little bit about how the program works in order to be successful.
Cleansweep can also clean the hard drive by removing Internet cache and temporary files that accumulate on the hard drive. This is a simple process that can be done manually so the benefit of this function is slightly helpful at best. However, if you are new to computers and the Internet, this can be a very useful program for keeping your disk clean.
One nice function of Cleansweep is its ability to clean the free space on the hard drive. This helps to lower the probability of a file becoming corrupted. What it does is it erases all left over ones and zeros in the free space and then writes all ones. Then it erases it again and writes all zeros. This reduces the chance that a file can get corrupted and makes the hard drive easier and faster to defrag. It also speeds up the time it takes the hard drive to locate requested data.
Norton Utilities C-
Norton Utilities is a collection of utility software that helps keep problems from developing and fixes certain types of registry problems. However it does not function as well as it should. Let me explain.
Norton WinDoctor is a part of the utilities package that is supposed to find and remove registry errors. For the most part it does pretty good at finding broken links in the registry for missing or deleted files and correcting minor errors. It does not fix all registry errors and sometimes can cause programs to stop functioning. Thankfully you can undo your last repair if you run into this problem. I had several games installed over the last three years that no longer functioned after a WinDoctor registry repair. After undoing the last repair, they worked again.
I do not use WinDoctor anymore. I have found a much better program for peforming the same function called CCleaner. CCleaner (or CrapCleaner) can be downloaded for free at the following web address.
Another program in the utilities package is Norton Speed Disk. Norton Speed Disk is basically another skin for Windows Defrag. It performs the same function and takes just as long. It is a separate program from Defrag (it isnt really a new skin for Defrag) but it doesnt do anything defrag doesnt do.
I use a better defragmenting program called Perfectdisk which recently released version 7.0 and can be found at the following web address.
Norton Disk Doctor is a utility that finds and fixes errors on the hard disks. You can scan for errors and have a report shown while running Windows but you can not fix problems without scheduling a scan at boot time. Even so, all that Disk Doctor does is tell Windows XP to run CHKDSK upon reboot. So really, this program is also unnecessary. If you want to find and fix disk errors, just run CHKDSK/r from the run command on the start menu and Windows will ask if you want to schedule a disk scan on the next boot. Again the benefit of this is mainly for people with little to no knowledge of Windows XP.
The rest of the utility package is basically fluff and unnecessary. There is a System Doctor that monitors the drives for fragmentation, memory use and other things but the program uses more system resources than it is worth. After shutting down System Doctor, the computer will run almost 30-50% faster.
There is a program for viewing the system information, but all of the information it provides can be found in Windows under various locations. It is nice for beginners to have all of their important system specifications and statistics available in one place but for long time Windows users, this is unneeded.
Norton Ghost A
Norton Ghost is a hard drive imaging and backup utility program that performs very well within limitations. If you have a drive with multiple operating systems on it, you may want to use other drive imaging software because my experience with Ghost for this purpose has been about 50/50 on success. If you are simply backing up a Windows hard drive, the program is flawless. You can even create your own restore CDs with ghost by creating the .GHO image at 690MB intervals and then burn the files to CDs afterwards. This has been my main use of Ghost in the past, however as my hard drives have now grown to 300GB and larger, I do not use it for this function anymore. I simply use Ghost to make a duplicate image of my primary hard drive and transfer it to a new drive when I eventually upgrade to a larger drive.
In order to use Ghost you must create a bootable floppy diskette with the ghost program on it. You can use it across a network but you must have either MS-DOS drivers or PC-DOS drivers in order to make use of this function. You can also use it with USB devices such as removable hard drives and flash drives, but again you must have DOS drivers for the hardware in order to accomplish this.
Live Update C-
This program is responsible for keeping all the Symantec software on your computer updated with the latest improvements, bug fixes and virus definitions. I have had a little trouble with Live Update in the past. This problem does not happen often but when it does, its a doozie.
A few times when updating Norton Antivirus, the update halts with an error that states Norton Antivirus could not be updated. Then the troubleshooter opens and says Norton Antivirus must be removed and reinstalled. Upon doing this the problem continues to happen. Symantecs web site offers a work around for the problem that has been successful for me only once out of three times that this has happened.
If the work around procedure does not correct the problem, there is no option to fix it, you can not update Norton Antivirus and to make matters worse, the Auto-Protect feature of Norton Antivirus will be turned off with no way to turn it back on. So, at this point you basically have no virus protection; just a virus scanner. You can still quarantine viruses but you must run a scan in order to find and remove them.
This problem has also caused my computer to have other Windows related problems as well. After the problem with Norton Antivirus occurred I had frequent system lock-ups and extremely degraded performance as well. The only option left was to reinstall Windows and all my programs from scratch. I couldnt even back up my files to CD because the system would hang while burning a disc. Luckily, I have several hard drives to copy things to.
This is why Symantecs Norton System Works 2003 has such horrible ratings. It is made for people who want system protection and utilities to keep their computer running efficiently but it does not offer enough simplicity and when it causes problems, they can not easily be fixed by a novice and may cost people more money to have these issues resolved. I have been using Norton Products for nearly fifteen years but they really dropped the ball with System Works. I have not purchased the latest version and I do not intend to. My suggestion is to use a very good anti-spyware program like Xoftspy and a decent Antivirus program like PC-Cillin along with a firewall like ZoneAlarm for the best protection. I would also recommend downloading CCleaner, and learning Windows XPs basic utilities like defrag, chkdsk and system restore to keep your PC healthy.
Thanks for reading,
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