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-- by Lenny Bailes
Imagine a troubleshooter built right into your PC, constantly checking for and repairing problems with your system. Symantec's PC Handyman attempts just that.
Quietly performing 16 automatic maintenance tasks (such as making regularly scheduled virus checks, and monitoring hard disk and memory resources), PC Handyman monitors and corrects many Windows 95 system problems. Symantec touts the program as an artificial-intelligence system that examines your computer and interacts with you, minimizing third-party intervention.
In reality, I found that it functions more like an automated version of Symantec's Norton Utilities. It also falls short of its promise to check program integrity, diagnose system Registry problems and resolve device conflicts.
During tests, the software failed to notice 20 renamed system DLLs, several disabled programs and doubled-up serial port interrupts. PC Handyman did detect a misconfigured sound card and offered to open the Windows 95 Hardware Conflict Troubleshooter.
The straightforward user interface lets you click on a computer component and type in questions. Replies consist of simply worded statements, demonstration videos run from the CD or offers to automatically fix a detected problem. I clicked on Speakers, typed in "The sound card doesn't work," and viewed a set of screens describing a sound card, how to install one and how to solve problems recording sound.
Major topics, such as "Using Windows 95," "The Desktop," "Monitors, modems, sound and speakers" and "Printers" contain subtopics ("Adding a Desktop shortcut," "Cleaning inkjet printers") and are accompanied by context-sensitive material and instructive animations.
Although Norton's Disk Doctor and CrashGuard come with the program, PC Handyman's failure to follow through and automatically detect and repair nondisk-related problems keeps it off our Recommended List. Even with lots of advice and tutorial material, the old-fashioned trial-and-error method resolved most system conflicts, so you'll still need to be pretty handy yourself.