|Diagnose your PC: we review two software utility suites|
If you're like most people, you install and uninstall software or save and delete images, media files, and e-mail several times over the lifetime of your PC. All of that activity can cause your Windows operating system to slow down, burdened by broken shortcuts, leftover registry file entries, and the inevitable defragmentation of your hard drive. You could simply buy a new computer or take your old one into the shop for repair. Or you could diagnose your computer woes yourself at home with some of the same tools that the professionals use.
For years, Norton Utilities reigned as the de facto cure-all for PCs. Those basic Norton tools have since evolved into Symantec SystemWorks, a gigantic suite of diagnostic tools that now includes pop-up-ad prevention, junk-file removal, antivirus and spyware detection and removal, confidential-file protection, memory defragmentation, data recovery, and Internet-speed optimization. The Premier edition we reviewed also includes Norton Ghost, a disk-imaging software app, and CheckIt, a high-end diagnostic utility. Unfortunately, we had trouble installing Norton SystemWorks 2005 Premier, and even after we did, we were less than impressed with the overall package, which required about 260MB of hard drive space and noticeably ate into our system resources.
Instead, we recommend Iolo System Mechanic 5.0 Professional. For about the same price, System Mechanic includes many of the same features as Norton Systems but requires only half the hard drive space and systems resources. And while we quibble about its lack of printed documentation, the in-program help screens are adequate. We found the System Mechanic tools logically grouped and genuinely useful.