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Software Review: Norton Utilities 14.5 from Symantec

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Where Norton has been synonymous with computer protection, the Norton name first began in the 1980's with a utility to retrieve erased data from the DOS era operating system. According to legend, this came about when the author, Peter Norton, lost a very important file that he needed to recover. Other tools were eventually developed and they became known as the Norton Utilities. This is version 14.5.

The goal of the Norton Utilities is to provide the tools that are needed to optimize the performance of your PC. The aim of this product is to find and fix common PC problems, free up disk space, free up system memory, accelerate your startup time, and boost overall performance.

Norton UtilitiesInstalling Norton Utilities is very easy and straightforward. Pop the disc into the drive and it handles the rest. Once you enter in your activation code, you are good to go. Because you can install this on up to three separate computers, you get three separate installs from the one included code.

What is needed to run Norton Utilities 14.5?
• Windows (XP or greater)
• 300 MHz or faster processor
• 256 MB RAM
• 200 MB hard drive space
• CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive
• An Internet connection

The main tools that come with Norton Utilities are Disk Cleaner, Registry Cleaner, Registry Defragmenter, Startup Manager, Service Manager, and Performance Test. These are organized under the categories of Optimization, Monitoring, Windows Tools, and Administer.

• Registry cleaning is the process of searching your Windows registry looking for invalid entries. These can cause problems in the performance of your computer system and becomes more noticeable if you install and remove software from your system. This process safely repairs or removes the invalid entries which can improve the performance of your system. It does create a backup of your registry if you need to restore an entry.

• Manage your startup allows you to view and manage your system startup and all entry points. This gives you the ability to change or remove the programs that automatically start when your computer starts up. Norton UtilitiesSometimes when you install a program, it can install other things that can affect your performance that aren't always necessary for the program to run. Disabling these can improve the speed at which your system starts up.

• Manage your services through the Services Manager which provides different configuration options to improve the performance and setup of your Windows services. Here there are three options. The first is the "Recommend Services" that provide a combination of performance and functionality, this option will enable all core services and a selection of other services to provide balance between features and speed. The second is the "Minimal Services" which will give you raw performance and faster boot times and will enable only core Windows Services. Finally there is "Restore Services" which will restore your services to a last known good setup. Be careful with the minimal services as this can cause stability problems by turning off too many things off to increase performance.

• Defragment registry compacts your registry and removes gaps, wasted space and corrupt keys from the registry, and performs physical defragmentation of the Windows registry files.

• Clean your disks gives you the ability to clean your computer to securely remove Internet tracks, history information and other sensitive data. Be careful here as well as this will remove document folder history, search folder history, your Windows recycle bin, as well as other areas of your computer that you may look to in the future to recover old data.

• Windows Defragmenter is a built-in defragmentation tool that provides a streamlined interface into the Windows Disk Defragmenter. This native Windows process lets you optimize and order the data on your disk for faster access.

• Monitor your system provides you the tools to actively monitor processes, system performance, drive/space usage, and system information. Through this you can optimize your system and defragment you hard drives for faster performance

Norton Utilities• Monitor your registry is designed to assist in keeping your system free of Windows registry errors. Registry Monitor observes your Windows registry and alerts you when a specified number of changes have been made to key areas of the registry. When alerted, you have the option to run a silent scan. This optional feature can begin monitoring your registry as soon as Windows starts up.

• Windows tools are primarily an interface to the standard tools that are in the Windows control panels. They give you the ability to manage your computer from within the Norton interface.

• Administer is another interface from where you can manage settings for the overall behavior of the Norton Utilities, restore the changes to your user registry, and manage the updating of your Norton Utilities.

Norton UtilitiesNorton Utilities 14.5 is a mixed bag. While it does contain many very useful tools, it also contains many links to existing items within the standard Windows product. I found that the things that work with the registry such as the cleaning and defragmenting works great and was very easy to use. The "managing your services" and "managing your startup" made it very easy to speed up my system as well.

Some of the other things like the Windows Defragmenter, "monitor your system," and Windows tools are links into existing functionality that already is available in Windows if you know where to look. While this may make this seem less useful to the knowledgeable user, for someone who does not know where to look, it does provide a common interface.

Norton Utilities 14.5 provides a good set of tools for maintaining your computer system and does help keep it running better and faster especially for systems who have been in use for a while. You do need to heed the system Norton Utilitiesrequirements, and perhaps you will want more in the areas of processor and memory, since it is monitoring your system and will use resources. If your computer is running slow and you don't really know how to improve the speed, then I recommend that you try Norton Utilities 14.5.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.