- The Washington Times - Monday, January 29, 2001

How can you make sure your personal computer stays under your control? I'm not talking for the moment about physical security; rather, the question for the moment is how to "tame the beast" that sits on your desk.

One way is with a good utility program, or even a "suite" of items. Recently, Symantec Corp. released its SystemWorks 2001 Professional product, designed for Windows PCs, and with a retail price $99.95. It's a worthwhile package that incorporates Norton AntiVirus 2001, Norton Utilities 2001, Norton CleanSweep 2001, and Norton Web Services, a free Internet-based service powered by ZDNet Updates for problem solving, self-help, and extended support services. Also included are copies of Norton Ghost 2001, to help you "clone" a hard disk drive's files and move them to a new computer, and a basic edition of WinFax 10.0, which lets you send and receive faxes using a PC. A version of SystemWorks without the latter two items retails for $59.95.

In my testing I concentrated on the utility and anti-virus portions of SystemWorks. These are among the most important for users, both in terms of monitoring PC performance and defending it against attack from the outside. PC performance, as most of us have found, is a rather tricky thing that needs to be "tweaked" every so often to ensure it is optimal. As to security, particularly anti-virus protection, attacks on computers particularly those with a "persistent" Internet connection such as DSL or cable modems are plentiful enough to be cautionary.

On guard against viruses, the program has several useful features: there is a "SmartScan" technology that will intelligently find files with executable code that must be scanned for viruses, thus eliminating the need to scan all files in the system, providing unmatched protection and performance. SmartScan also improves file-scanning performance and significantly reduces system impact resulting from constant background monitoring for viruses in AutoProtect. The program automatically scans e-mail as it is received, detecting viruses in attachments before the user accesses the attachment, eliminating the risk of unknowingly forwarding the virus to others. I found it more than a little reassuring to see the scanning icon appear in the Windows "system tray" on the toolbar as mail was examined.

There is also Symantec's Security Analyzer, a Web-based PC security assessment tool that evaluates a PC's Internet security in three key areas: susceptibility to hackers, risk of infection by a computer virus and loss of personal information. The program then tells users about the specific security threats they face and offers options on how to eliminate the vulnerability.

Because it contains the rather famous Norton Utilities updated for the year 2001 and covering just about every desktop flavor of Windows including Windows ME and Windows 2000 the program is a valuable tool for making sure one's PC is in proper working order. Tests can be run individually or by using a One Button Checkup feature. Accessible from the main screen, One Button Checkup addresses the most troublesome problems that can degrade system performance, including registry corruption, fragmentation levels, viruses in memory and disk space.

In short, if you want to give your computer a good "checkup," there are few better solutions available than SystemWorks. The professional version's inclusion of "Ghost," for hard disk copying and WinFax Pro are welcome additions. You may well at some point want or need to move your files to a new computer or hard drive; for this Ghost is indispensable. On the fax side, WinFax can be rather addictive; it's a good basic fax program and one you'll likely enjoy using.

Of course, some versions of various system utilities disk compression, fragmentation and even virus checking are to be found either in the Windows operating system or, in some cases, in certain application programs. But the beauty of SystemWorks is that it offers a "one-stop" shop for such features, and the Norton-based programs are generally far more capable than the stripped-down "free" ones found in the operating system.

The time to buy and use such software, of course, is before something bad happens to your computer. More information on Norton SystemWorks can be found on line at www.symantec.com/sabu/sysworks/.

• Write to Mark Kellner in care of The Washington Times, Business Desk, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; send e-mail to [email protected], or visit the writer's Web page, www.kellner2000.com. Talkback live to Mark on www.adrenaline-radio.com, every Thursday from 8 to 9 p.m., Eastern time.

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