Norton Utilities Makes an NT Comeback

Hands On: Norton Utilities for Windows NT 2.0

Symantec Corp.’s Norton family of utility products has long been the leader in system management tools for consumers and workstation users who run Windows 95 and Windows 98. In the Windows NT environment, however, Symantec hasn’t made the same impact. The reasons vary: The need for system management software is dramatically different in the server environment, and it is difficult to translate some of Norton’s most popular features out of the desktop environment.

Symantec’s first attempt in the marketplace was the Norton NT Tools product. The underpowered package provided a limited tool set that did little more than attempt to combat viruses locally, provide a substitute for Windows NT 3.51’s file manager and perform some limited system monitoring. The release was widely condemned for being nothing more than a port of some of Norton’s least useful tools.

Norton’s problem also pointed out the inherent difficulties in building utilities for the Windows NT environment. Defragmentation, for example, is complicated by the variety of disk formats available under Windows NT. For administrators attempting to get a snapshot view of their system, Norton NT Tools provided a useful "System Information" utility, but the same data is available in a similar format from the utilities that are part of the Windows NT 4.0 Resource Kit.

Enter Norton Utilities

It is evident that Symantec has left the past behind by discarding the name Norton NT Tools and adopting the immediately recognizable Norton Utilities for its NT tool. In fact, system administrators familiar with the Norton Utilities of the consumer market will feel at home with the tools and resources available in the NT product.

Installation on our Windows NT 4.0 Server with Service Pack 5 was as simple as inserting the distribution CD-ROM and letting the autoplay start the installation. We choose a complete implementation and were happily surprised when the result only required 15 MB of disk space. The installation is effortless, requiring only a single reboot once the software is installed.

We installed the product on a machine that had a copy of Norton NT Tools. The installation process does not automatically remove the older version. For instance, the older, enhanced file manager remains available after the installation of the new product. Since the Norton File Manager is not part of the new Norton Utilities for NT this makes some sense. On the other hand, clients could be confused by the existence of two menu items with the Norton moniker.

Five Functions

Five utilities make up the new product. All appear to be rebuilt to take advantage of the 4.0 user interface, and to provide support for both NTFS and FAT file systems. Two tools address disk maintenance: Speed Disk, a defragmentation utility, and Disk Doctor, a disk analysis tool. We set the utility package to work on individual volumes in our network and found that it worked quickly with both FAT and NTFS disks.

Norton Utilities for Windows NT also includes a real-time system monitor that supports disk, memory and network analysis. The previous version of the software was particularly weak, offering only a few options that could be monitored. The new software does a much better job at providing a comprehensive list of statistics and metrics and ordering them in a sensible way. The tool also provides some basic Internet analysis tools, but they will never compare with specialty tools like Net.Medic from International Network Services ( They probably should have been left out of the product.

Single system users will appreciate Symantec’s decision to incorporate its improvements on Microsoft’s Recycle Bin. Called Norton Unerase and Nprotect, these utilities sit in the background and monitor the system for real-time detection of file deletion. This means a user can recover files no matter where they were deleted. The utilities also provide an Unerase Wizard that helps novice users do file recovery quickly and easily. Unerase and Nprotect are oriented toward single machines and will never be confused with robust, networkwide products like Network Undelete from Executive Software Int’l Inc. ( Even so, an individual user on a single workstation will find these tools useful and straightforward.

Easy Update

One of our favorite features of the software is the ability to get updates easily over the Internet. Between when the product was released and when this review was written, there were two intermediate updates. The Live Update feature of Norton Utilities for Windows NT found the needed files, downloaded them and installed them -- all with a single mouse click. Other utility vendors could stand to learn from Symantec’s example here.

Symantec’s Norton Utilities for Windows NT has a decidedly single-user, single-system look and feel. Network and system administrators looking to provide tools on large domains supporting many users should probably look elsewhere for robust utilities. But many workstation users and administrators have a need for basic tools that are either not in the Windows NT Resource Kit, or poorly implemented. A vast improvement over their earlier effort, we hope Symantec will continue to improve the product and provides utilities targeted at larger networks when they offer a follow-on package for Windows 2000.

Norton Utilities for Windows NT 2.0
Symantec Corp.
Cupertino, Calif.
(800) 441-7234
Price: $99.95

+ Product is easy to install and update
+ Support for NTFS and FAT in disk utilities
+ Low system/disk installation requirements
+ System management utilities are well-suited to individual users/workstations
+ Users familiar with Windows 95/98 Norton Utilities will feel at ease

- Not strong enough for network or domain administration tasks
- Limited toolset compared with Windows 95/98 consumer version
- Installation process does not remove previous version