Norton Utilities 6.0

If you’ve used a Mac for any length of time, you’re probably already familiar with Norton Utilities. Originally introduced on the Mac back in 1989, this package has consistently provided a selection of powerful utilities that complement, and often surpass, those included by Apple. Version 6.0 offers some small improvements to the familiar tool-set for routine disk repair, disk optimization and data recovery. Plus there’s a sizeable range of new features, such as custom optimization profiles in Speed Disk – which can be used for digital video, MP3 files and other specialized purposes – and FireWire device-level support catering for a broader range of evolving user demands. Untouched Unerase
Like all previous versions, installation is very straightforward, and, in most cases, you should simply choose Easy Install – which installs all necessary components. You do have the choice of a Custom Install if you feel that you want to select particular components and not others. Some users, for example, tend to use this program for the Disk Doctor and Speed Disk tools, and may not want to bother with functions such as Unerase. However, whichever installation you choose, you’ll still have to restart your system since many components will be activated only after this. Also, be sure to eject the Norton Utilities CD-ROM before you restart, since the CD is bootable, which is particularly useful if your system is really screwed up and you can’t boot from the hard drive. But, you might find that some systems will boot from it if it’s still in the drive whether you want it to or not. The manual strongly recommends that you run Norton Disk Doctor from the CD before installing, so you’re sure your start-up disk is healthy before you install the full program. A lot of users don’t even bother to install the whole program, but simply run the tools from the CD to repair or optimize their drives. As mentioned earlier, Norton Disk Doctor is the most commonly used component of the package – it can check for defective media, partition-table damage, directory damage, and problems with individual files. The defective-media check is handy, but takes time since it has to scan your entire hard drive. A media check of a 8.5GB drive can take nearly 30 minutes. Unless you have a very old drive on the brink of failure, you won’t want to run this check every time. If you only want to diagnose the disk, or if you want to disable specific tests, you can do so from the Norton Disk Doctor Preferences dialog box. For most users, doing a regular scan of partition tables and directory structure will prevent most mishaps. But if you have a drive that you think is seriously damaged, you can go to the Preferences menu and enable all checks. Because Norton Disk Doctor repairs directories during its scan, it’s possible that a repair might cause an unwanted result. The Undo Repairs command gives you an additional safety net – should anything unexpected occur during a disk repair – by returning your hard disk to the state it was in before Disk Doctor was run. The great thing about Disk Doctor is that it checks every area of your hard drive and locates problems that need immediate attention, as well as file problems that could cause problems in the future. All found problems are displayed as problem alerts; you decide what to fix and what to leave alone. Drive defrag
Since I work with many audio files, I tend to use Speed Disk quite a lot. Over time, files stored on your drive may occupy non-contiguous sections of the drive, increasing access time. SpeedDisk is particularly useful for defragmenting files on your drive and reorganizing them so they occupy more efficient, contiguous portions of the drive. A Check Disk option will graphically display your file layout, and colourfully calculate the degree of fragmentation. You can choose from several different optimization profiles – such as General Use, Multimedia, Software Development, CD-ROM Mastering and Recently Used Files. There are also options to verify the media, directories and data before the optimization. This is strongly recommended, since optimizing a damaged drive can make your drive inaccessible. Just to be safe, always make a full back-up before using this component. Personally, I’ve used Speed Disk in its various incarnations for several years now, and the operation has always successfully optimized my drives without any damage whatsoever. Also, remember there’s an option to optimize your directories, which can generally provide a greater performance boost than just rearranging files. Another thing to look out for here is driver-level security software. Because some copy-protected software makes use of hidden files that might be moved during Speed Disk optimization, you may need to uninstall certain applications before optimization and then re-install them later to ensure that files remain in their expected locations. If you do the full install, FileSaver constantly records vital disk-directory information while you’re working. If you accidentally delete a file, UnErase can examine the directory and help you recover your data. If you’ve got some serious damage, Volume Recover works with FileSaver to resurrect drives that have crashed or have even been accidentally reinitialized. Hierarchical recovery in UnErase now lets you restore folders – as well as the files in them – to simplify data recovery. You can even use these components with external or internal floppy-drives, Zip or Jaz drives. Although new FireWire support allows you to run Norton Utilities on attached FireWire drives and devices, when you start from the Norton CD, your FireWire drive might not be recognized, and you could be prompted to initialize or eject it. However, if you start from your internal drive with Norton installed, you can examine the external devices. Norton Utilities 6.0 also includes LiveUpdate to help keep your program files current via online access. LiveUpdate lets you know if your files are up-to-date by displaying version numbers and status, and you can also check the program file and virus definitions in the application’s About box – accessible from the Apple menu.

OUR VERDICT

Norton Utilities is a seasoned veteran, and it’s saved my bacon on more than one occasion. The new version is powerful, easy to use, and probably one of the few applications for a Mac that would qualify as essential.

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