The magazine of the Melbourne PC User Group

Norton Utilities for Windows 95
Ash Nallawalla
ash@melbpc.org.au

Norton Utilities (NU) is my most important suite of utility programs. Utilities are helper programs that can be called up infrequently to help you use your computer for its primary role, be it business or play. NU's main role is to protect, repair, and recover data from your disks. While I might need to repair a disk perhaps once a month, NU has other features that operate daily, helping to lessen the need to do a repair.

Peter Norton introduced UnErase back in 1981, which served to restore accidentally erased files. Since then he wrote more of these programs and packaged them into NU. A few years ago his company merged with Symantec and he has stepped into the background, although not totally.

In the past, using NU was the province of the PC enthusiast (read nerd). The concept of repairing a disk conjured visions of surgical skills and precision, which put off many people. Symantec took that aspect on board and has released a user-friendly version for Windows 95. In the past if you purchased a few Norton products you would see some overlap and duplication; this is no longer the case.

Key features
  • Pre-Installation TuneUp (PIT). PIT runs on DOS 3.3 and above but not from a multitasking environment such as a DOS box within Windows 3.1 or 95.
  • True 32-bit. The component programs in NU are true 32-bit, whereas some of the similar utilities in Windows 95 are only 16-bit. This generally means that a 16-bit program does not have its own virtual machine and can be crashed by another 16-bit program, whereas a 32-bit program is not affected by such an event. Multithreading enables several tasks within the same utility to be performed simultaneously.
  • Integrated monitoring. A utility that operates quietly in the background and monitors the system saves the user from remembering to run those tasks. If (and only if) a job needs to be done, a suitable tool is set into operation.
  • DOS-mode utilities included. If Windows 95 will not load, certain DOS-mode utilities in the NU package can be run so as to attempt to recover the situation.
  • CD-ROM. A CD-ROM edition of this package was not available at the time of review, but it will cost no more. It adds online multimedia resources such as a Disk Companion, Memory Companion, and Norton Utilities Companion.
The PIT

Windows 95 needs over 100 MB for its installation, about 30 MB of which are for temporary tasks in that process. Most people would not have a spare 100 MB on their Windows 3.1 PC, so it is a good idea to get rid of unwanted files and to tidy up the disk in general before installing Win 95. You want to repair the disk if necessary, check memory usage for inefficient practices, potential clashes of IRQs and so on.

PIT needs to be run from DOS. Its Space Wizard goes through the hard disk looking for potential file candidates for deletion. For example, it will find every file with a TMP and a BAK extension. It won't delete anything without your approval, which is just as well because one of my applications uses .TMP extensions for templates!

Norton System Doctor

Norton System Doctor (NSD) can be regarded as the operating console for most of the tools in NU. It comes with appropriate gauges and sensors, not unlike a car's dashboard. You can customise this display to show only the sensors that interest you.


Figure 1. Norton System Doctor, the nerve centre of Norton Utilities

NSD by default starts when you start Win 95. Its sensors run as low-priority, 32-bit threads, which helps to conserve system resources. It will launch a utility only if needed, for example, if the drive needs to be repaired. You can also run them in the background, only when there are spare resources available. This distinction is important if you compare this with, say, Microsoft System Agent, from the Plus! pack. The latter is a scheduler that runs certain tasks as directed; it does not monitor your system or alert you to take some action.

Speed Disk

Speed Disk (SD) is a 32-bit file defragmenter. When you delete files, they leave behind gaps all over the hard disk. When you add large files, they are stored as fragments in the gaps, and the disk head has to travel all over the disk to find the fragments when you want to work on the file, if it is data or run it, if it is a program. So it makes sense to have files in contiguous segments. From time to time you want to re-order your hard disk for this reason, and NSD can be set to monitor the amount of fragmentation, so that SD can be launched when a trigger point is reached.


Figure 2. System Information


Figure 3. Speed Disk about to rearrange the face of
my hard disk

Norton Disk Doctor

Norton Disk Doctor (NDD) is the main 32-bit file system analysis and repair utility. When you have a system crash, say when the power was lost briefly or when you had to press Ctrl+Alt+Delete, you may not realise that some files might be corrupt. More often than not, you work with temporary files, so the damage is not severe, but at times the temporary file is in the process of writing to the "good" file when disaster strikes, and you know all about it. Anyway, it makes sense to note damage when it occurs rather than when you next choose to use that data, in case the damaged fragments have been trampled over by other programs in the meantime.

NDD works with standard, DoubleSpace, and DriveSpace 2 or 3 disks. It is not Stacker 4.0 (and lower) compatible, but may work with the latest version 4.1 reviewed elsewhere in this issue. When NDD gets down to work, it can play music and display animated icons . You can save resources by turning off these features. You can fine-tune its settings so that it will only do what you choose. For example, you can tell it to ask you before making any changes or set thresholds below which it can go ahead without bothering you.

Space Wizard

It is easy to collect "junk" on your hard disk. Not only can you have hundreds of .TMP and .BAK files, but you may have lots of "just in case" files that you have not opened since 1985. There could be large files that could be compressed when not needed. It is easy to accumulate duplicate files, such as multiple copies of .DLLs that come with shareware programs. How can you find them and delete them, especially if you have a large disk? Space Wizard is the answer.

Norton Unerase

We all delete files and regret some of those deletions. While Win 95 offers some protection by means of the Smartcan, this does not trap files deleted while in a DOS box, files overwritten with the same file name, etc. Norton Unerase can recover such files, even if you turned off Recycle Bin or Norton Protection. Norton Protect provides ongoing erasure protection, and if things are truly scrambled, the expert user can use the ultimate tool: Disk Editor, with its Advanced Recovery Mode, which can address any part of the hard disk. Unerase can also recover deleted files on Novell networks using components of Novell Salvage.


Figure 5. The Unerase Wizard lists recently deleted files


Figure 5. Run Norton Image when you start your computer







Rescue Disk

Win 95 prompts you to create an Emergency Disk, but it is lightweight compared to Rescue Disk. This is a bootable disk that can come in handy when your PC won't start in the usual way, such as after a major crash. In addition to your unique system configuration information, such as the Registry files, CMOS, etc it also stores real mode drivers for older hardware, startup files, compression drivers etc, that cannot be found on the Emergency Disk. NSD also warns you when you need to update your Rescue Disk. This can save you many hours, if not days of recovery time.

System Information

System Information (SI) gives you more information about your system, monitor, printer, memory, drives, network, etc, than you want to know. But when you need technical support, SI may well help the expert at the other end to quickly diagnose your problems. It also provides a benchmark of your system's performance against a standard.

Image

When you start up your PC, and at regular intervals, you should take a snapshot of your file and directory structure. Image makes this easy, so that you can repair your disk faster with the other tools. I can recall more than one occasion when this utility has helped to restore my hard disk.

Conclusion

NU is a must-buy product as your data is the most expensive part of your PC and needs to be safeguarded at all costs. At an RRP of $199 (upgrade $89), NU is cheap insurance. 

Reprinted from the November 1995 issue of PC Update, the magazine of Melbourne PC User Group, Australia

 

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