Symantec Norton SystemWorks 2006 review
Unlike last year’s release, there isn’t much that’s new in this latest release of SystemWorks – or at least new and worth getting excited about.
The one notable exception is that GoBack now automatically installs itself so as to provide out-of-the-box continuous rollback coverage. It’s better than the XP System Restore thanks to the Safe Try mode, which creates a temporary test environment. If you do potentially disruptive things like installing new software or P2P file-sharing and it all goes pear shaped, your system at least stays safe.
Everything else is in the fine detail: the system cleanup component will now automatically import your browser bookmarks and leave any cookies found that match the URLs during a sweep. It even supports Firefox, which is good, Netscape, which is a touch academic, but not Opera, which is scandalous. Cleanup has also been tweaked to include remove lists for Microsoft Office files, Windows Search Assistant, Google toolbar searches and Windows Media Player. Norton AntiVirus now includes protection against ‘potentially unwanted programs’, or spyware as the rest of the world calls it. The combined anti-virus/anti-spyware scanning routine proved effective in our tests, but also slow. Not only does the scan take unacceptably long, it also takes your system resources along for the ride. In fact, you can use the last of the new features, the Task Manager replacement of Process Viewer 2, to see just how much of an impact Symantec applications are having.
Otherwise, it’s business as usual for Norton. The one-button checkup does precisely that, scanning the Registry for problems, looking for program-integrity anomalies, checking that your virus definition updates are up to date, revealing broken shortcuts and hunting down redundant files. It’s relatively quick and logs everything it finds as well as what it does to resolve the problem. The Smith Micro CheckIt Diagnostics application does a superb job of both diagnosing hardware problems and optimising system memory. Bizarrely, it needs installing separately to the rest of SystemWorks, although once in place it’s accessed from the central control console. It’s good to see that the old Norton mainstays are still here: Disk Doctor, System Doctor, WinDoctor, UnErase and SpeedDisk. Between them, and despite being rather long in the tooth now, they still do a top-notch job of monitoring for ongoing problems, repairing most that are thrown their way without incident, securely deleting files and defragging your drives.
But the hit on system performance severely clouds the positives. Booting up becomes something of a test of patience. It took 51 seconds to get to a fully usable Windows Desktop with everything loaded prior to installing SystemWorks, and a whole three minutes longer post install. If that wasn’t bad enough, shutting down is even slower. And, just to rub salt into the wound, SystemWorks 2006 gives your system resources a pounding in between too. It’s certainly a retrograde step from the 2005 version, which was a lot more resource-friendly.
With the exception of GoBack, none of the component parts are best of breed any more. If there were better integration, with consistent navigation and less impact upon system resources, we might forgive it. If the installation didn’t force us to remove our existing Norton AntiVirus 2006 (which came as part of Norton Internet Security), only to replace it with the same application that then has to be instantly updated anyway, we’d be happier. If there were only one version of SystemWorks 2006 instead of a Premier edition adding Ghost 10, a bootable recovery CD and some decent benchmarking software, for an extra £9, we wouldn’t feel so cheated.