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Developer: Symantec

Product: Norton SystemWorks (Mac version - see below for Windows version)

Relevance: As new viruses and other "malware" surface literally every day, reporters and other information gatherers are particularly vulnerable to data loss or hardware damage. Norton SystemWorks and other products like it are particularly useful to those who receive material from unknown (and perhaps untrusted) sources and frequent the Internet.

Review: Buying SystemWorks software is rather like buying home insurance: if nothing happens, it's wasted money -- but if something goes wrong, it's the wisest investment you've ever made. And as most reporters have discovered, something always seems to be happening to computers these days -- especially laptops.

Inside SystemWorks, you'll find three key Symantec packages: Norton Utilities for Macintosh, Norton AntiVirus for Macintosh, and Symantec's Live Update. You also get three third-party software utilities in the SystemWorks bundle: Dantz Retrospect Express, Aladdin Spring Cleaning and Alsoft's DiskWarrior Recovery Edition.

New Utilities
Mac owners are perhaps most familiar with Norton Utilities, a set of powerful software modules for disk repair, data recovery and hard drive optimization. Norton Utilities includes Norton Disk Doctor (for finding and fixing hard drive problems), Volume Recover (for repairing large-scale drive problems) and Norton Scheduler. Now fully X compatible, Norton Utilities (also available outside the SystemWorks bundle) is bootable from either the System 8.1/9.x side or from the OS X partition. This means you no longer have to keep a System 9 partition if you've otherwise completely made the switch over to X.

Most people use Disk Doctor when they're having problems starting their Macs, but you can use many of its utilities for preventative maintenance as well. SpeedDisk, for example, a long-time favorite among video producers and digital artists, helps defragment files and organize hard drive space. You can also use SpeedDisk to optimize your hard drive for specific activities by arranging applications and data files to match your particular work or play.

WipeInfo completely wipes selected files from your hard drive or other storage device. This is useful when you're worried about others recovering sensitive information you've already deleted. For some reporters, WipeInfo is especially useful in stories that must be kept confidential until published -- and whose sources can never be revealed. Another module of Disk Doctor is System Info, a utility that can tell you all about your peripherals, network connection, memory usage, Internet speed and other performance benchmarks.

Norton AntiVirus
Available separately, Norton AntiVirus for Macintosh provides automatic virus scanning for e-mail attachments and can perform many repairs needed to disinfect files. Besides the traditional System 8.1/9.x and OS X user interface controls, you can also use OS X's command line interface to perform a scan. For example, entering "navx/" at the command line will scan files in your Mac's system drive with default options. This, and other, more complex commands can also be incorporated into UNIX maintenance scripts.

The third module is Symantec's LiveUpdate, software that updates all Symantec programs installed on your Mac. Using your Internet connection, LiveUpdate connects to Symantec's Web site and downloads and installs the necessary files. These files can include program updates (minor improvements and optimizations to existing products) as well as product upgrades (newer version of entire programs). Not only does LiveUpdate download the new programs, but it also deletes any older, leftover files that are no longer needed.

Besides keeping your applications current, LiveUpdate also updates your AntiVirus Definitions on a regular basis. Since new viruses appear almost every week these days, your virus definition file must always be kept current to provide effective protection.

Dantz Retrospect Express
One of the three third-party utilities bundled with the SystemWorks package, Dantz Retrospect Express lets you create backups of your disks and files quickly and painlessly. Retrospect Express works with a wide range of removable media such as Zip disks, Jaz cartridges, CD-Rs and CD-RWs and now fully supports Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X. It also provides support for UNIX "ownership" and "permission" attributes.

This version of Retrospect Express also lets you restore volumes in a Mac X partition and provides backup capabilities for files larger than 2 GB. The number of files that can be backed up into one "set" can now exceed 70,000 and the software now recognizes DVD-R, DVD-RW and Apple SuperDrive as viable backup alternatives.

DiskWarrior Recovery Edition is a smaller version of the full software available from Alsoft. This version lets you copy otherwise inaccessible files from a disk with a badly damaged directory to another disk. It doesn't fix the original disk, it merely let you make a copy of the damaged one so you can try to repair the copy without risking the original. This may sound trivial but it's not since there are cases where experimenting with a damaged disk can further harm it. Therefore, creating a safe, working copy can be vital in the rare cases where your disk is badly damaged and you can't risk a possibly destructive repair attempt.

Spring Cleaning searches your hard drive (or other volume) and displays a list of files you may want to remove or move to a removable storage media such as a Zip disk or Jaz cartridge. The problem we have with Spring Cleaning is that it needs a fair degree of expertise to use safely since it's easy to remove (or worse, delete) supposedly old or unneeded files that are still necessary. Still, Spring Cleaning may be useful for those Mac owners who haven't (or couldn't) use a program's own uninstall program and are burdened with multiple copies of system applications (such as the ubiquitous SimpleText) or Internet Explorer cache files.

So is SystemWorks worth its price tag? Yes. The software has three key utilities that make using a computer safer, faster and more protected -- and spending money to protect your computer (not to mention all your data) is a wise move. In a perfect world, however, we wish that Symantec would add Norton Internet Security (a very good program that protects against Internet ne'er-do-wells and Web-based privacy invaders) to the SystemWorks bundle. Although this might happen in the next version, your Mac or PC (and its data) is too important to wait. Highly recommended.

This product is available in both Mac and Windows versions (see below).

Norton SystemWorks is a valuable addition of any reporter's computer and, provided it is used as both a preventative and a curative, provides a high level of functionality in an antivirus and general hard disk maintenance tool.

Norton SystemWorks at a glance:
• solid, easy-to-understand interface
• works with both OS 9 and OS X environments
• LiveUpdate keeps you current with new viruses for a year
• backup utility included (although full version requires separate upgrade and fee)

• sometimes generates cryptic error messages
• LiveUpdate only valid for a year; afterwards a small subscription fee applies
• advanced mode of some modules can confuse new computer users
• does not (currently) work with Mac OS X 10.4

End of Review

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