Norton Utilities review

There's simply no good reason to pay this much for such a flimsy collection of tools

Darien Graham-Smith
18 Dec 2009
Price when reviewed 

Symantec relaunched Norton Utilities last spring with a promise to breathe new life into old PCs; but the reality fell far short of the rhetoric (see Utilities 14). This update adds Windows 7 compatibility, but little else. The main focus of the package is still the various automated "optimisation" processes you can run, such as disabling unnecessary services, fixing registry references to missing files and keys, compacting your registry files, defragmenting your hard disk and clearing out browser histories.

On a Core i7-based test machine loaded with software trials and desktop extensions, these tools did knock three seconds off our total startup time. But with Norton Utilities installed our available memory dropped by 113MB.

Norton Utilities

That's probably down to the always-running Registry Monitor, which alerts you when (for example) your Add/Remove Programs list has been changed a certain number of times. Note though that it can't roll the changes back: the alert is just for information.

One manually-operated feature that could significantly boost your PC's performance is the Startup Manager, which helps you disable unneeded processes that may be hogging system resources. Advanced users don't need this help, though, while inexperienced users will rightly fear to tinker, since Norton gives no guidance as to which items can be safely removed and which could be important.

There's also a one-click "Optimize" button, which tweaks a few settings to make the system feel more responsive: for example, it sets Windows to automatically kill running applications and services as soon as you click to shut the system down, and reduces the time delay before menus appear. It does nothing for application performance, though.

Finally, there's a licensed edition of the PassMark PerformanceTest benchmark suite, which tests your system speed, drive efficiency and so forth (so you can see just how little Norton Utilities has done for you); and a collection of "Windows Tools", giving access to standard system features such as Windows Update and the Device Manager from within the Norton interface. You almost have to laugh at Symantec's chutzpah.

But in truth there's nothing funny about Norton Utilities. PerformanceTest has a certain value (it sells on its own for around £13), but everything else here is either next to useless or easily achievable with built-in Windows tools and freeware utilities. There's simply no way this package is worth anywhere near £34.


Software subcategoryUtilities

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported?yes
Operating system Windows XP supported?yes

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