Symantec – Norton Utilities 14 review

rather disappointing system maintenance suite
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Norton Utilities is, strangely enough, a suite of utility programs designed with your machine’s health in mind. They encompass a range of system diagnosis, cleaning and optimisation tools, with all the programs neatly ensconced inside the traditionally yellow Norton front-end.

First stop, the monitoring utilities. There are some basic tools here, such as a graph of system performance (CPU/memory usage), along with a benchmark utility which comes with some baseline benchmarks for comparison, albeit featuring rather outdated systems and no modern graphics cards in sight. There’s also a registry monitor that keeps an active eye out for any changes being made. On the whole, however, there’s nothing all that useful here.

When it comes to the optimisation utilities, we may as well begin where the computer does, namely at boot-up. Norton provides a startup manager that lists the programs loaded upon boot, so you can disable any which are unnecessary. This is certainly useful, although we were disappointed that it only lists basic information such as the program and company name. The better boot managers provide a program description where possible, which is helpful with the more cryptic entries if you’re not too confident with computers.

No maintenance suite would be complete without taking a machete to the registry, and indeed Norton Utilities is on hand with a registry cleaner. This gave our registry a thorough scan which took several minutes to complete and picked up a large number of problems, taking care of them in a matter of seconds. It’s backed up by a registry defragmenter.

There’s also a disk cleaner here, which clears out the usual Internet and temp files junk and spring cleans various common applications’ recent file lists. An option to “bleach” is given, meaning that anything deleted will be securely wiped so it’s unrecoverable.

The suite contains a big “optimise system” button (flashing lights not included), and according to the Norton blurb this instantly performs a “set of tweaks and patches to the registry which are designed to improve system performance.” After clicking it we ran a few tests on application boot-up times and did indeed notice a slight increase in speed. It didn’t cause any problems, either, so that function gets a tick.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that a batch of links to basic Windows services are provided within the suite’s menus, such as system restore, the control panel, disk defragmenter, event viewer and so on. Not particularly useful, really, and it feels like it’s padding the package out. But it doesn’t do any harm to have the icons in there for convenience.

Company: Symantec

Contact: 020 7616 5813

Norton Utilities provides a reasonable set of tools for disk cleaning and registry housekeeping, and the optimisation wizard adds a little zip to some application loading times. However, it's light on features compared to rivals such as System Mechanic, which run a fuller range of tweaks (Internet speed optimisation, for instance). The usefulness of some of the monitoring utilities is questionable and the price is rather high for what you're getting here.