[ Go to July 1997 Table of Contents ]|
-- by Warren Ernst
Peter Norton is to system utilities what Bo Jackson is to sports. Peter knows DOS. Peter knows 95. Peter knows Mac. And now, Peter knows NT. In fact, Peter knows Windows NT 4.0 pretty thoroughly.
Everything Peter Norton knows about NT has been bundled into Norton Utilities 2.0 for Windows NT 4.0. This new package from Symantec contains several tools for maintaining NT Workstation and Server systems. SpeedDisk defragments hard drives, including NTFS and FAT partitions. Norton Disk Doctor scans for and repairs disk errors, again on both NTFS and FAT partitions. Norton Protection increases Recycle Bin's file-protection abilities, even allowing you to restore overwritten files.
Finally, Norton Unerase lets you recover files even after you've emptied the Norton Protected Recycle Bin. Coordinating this arsenal of utilities is Norton System Doctor, which constantly monitors your system, displaying information in gauges of your choosing and then running the necessary Norton component should it detect an impending or immediate problem.
At first, all these tools sounded vital and useful for measuring the health of any NT system. But when we tested them, we weren't so sure. The high incidence of problems with DOS, Windows, MacOS and even Windows 95 has made Norton Utilities beneficial for any computer running these operating systems. But, for the most part, Windows NT 4.0 is much more stable-so much more stable, in fact, that Norton Utilities 2.0 helps in only a few situations. For example, you really have to hammer a nearly full NTFS file system to get fragmentation severe enough to make a difference in disk speed.
Norton's System Doctor detected what it termed High Fragmentation of greater than 10 percent on NTFS partitions on both a personal workstation and a central server. Both disks were filled to less than 70 percent capacity, which gave Norton plenty of room to find contiguous storage blocks. SpeedDisk performed a flawless one-pass defragmentation operation smoothly in the background-but neither system showed a speed improvement measurable by stopwatch, by usage or by running Wintune.
SpeedDisk's FAT defragmentation capability was disappointingly simple, making it useful only for reassembling fragmented files, a very basic situation. It lacks the options that made Norton Utilities for DOS and Norton Utilities 2.0 for Windows 95 such splendid tools-the ability to put directories first on the disk and to manually specify which files and directories to put first and last.
Similarly, the second disk utility, Norton Disk Doctor, is most useful in specific situations. It does indeed check for and fix a host of NTFS drive errors, but NTFS itself is designed to control such errors in the first place. Not surprisingly, Disk Doctor found no errors on our NTFS partitions. However, if you experience a disaster, such as a power failure during disk access, Disk Doctor will come in handy. The utility can repair problems on less-stable FAT partitions and fortunately includes the Windows 95 version's breadth of disk-checking features-partition table, boot record, file and directory structure, and compressed disk (it's missing only the surface test)-making it valuable for monitoring NT systems that use FAT.
Norton Utilities' unique new tools, virus checking and Internet site checking, are not as useful as you might think. Virus checking merely consists of a gauge; to remove any viruses Norton Utilities finds, you must also purchase Norton AntiVirus for Windows NT. And the Internet Speedometer, which ostensibly measures the speed of your Internet connection, only measures ping times (how quickly a site responds to a request), instead of what really matters: the site's transfer rate to your system (how quickly the site can send you information)
Norton Utilities has two components that we liked unreservedly, System Doctor and Unerase. System Doctor is a welcome substitute for NT's built-in Performance Monitor. It lets you create a set of gauges that display information like how much space remains on a drive, how hard the CPU is working at a given moment and technical facts like the number of interrupts per second your CPU is experiencing. It will also run SpeedDisk or Disk Doctor if it detects a fixable problem. Unerase protects your deleted files by moving them to a special Norton Recycle Bin.
Given NT's high level of system stability, the average workstation user or small-server administrator doesn't have a compelling reason to buy Norton Utilities 2.0; they will find NT's built-in utilities sufficient. But if you administer a heavily loaded server or support users who stress their workstations, then it would be worthwhile to pay Peter for what he knows.