Symantec’s Norton Utilities for Macintosh (NUM) is the staple tool kit for data search and rescue from deleted files or crashed disks. But version 4.0 is a late arrival. It’s the first incarnation of NUM to support HFS+ (known as the Mac OS Extended Format) disks, yet it was released nearly a year after Mac OS 8.1 debuted HFS+. Despite its long gestation period, NUM 4.0 shows clear signs of being hurried out the door.
The doctor is in
While the NUM 4.0 collection provides several features, from crash protection to quicker file finding, the package’s core consists of Norton Disk Doctor (NDD) and its ability to diagnose and repair disk problems.
NDD 4.0 sports a new look compared with version 3.5, but the shiny new facade eliminates several familiar shortcuts that were in previous versions. For example, you can no longer type a volume’s name from the list of mounted volumes to select it, nor can you press the return or enter key to begin examining the disk. These may seem like trivial gripes, but anyone familiar with older versions of the software will find this a roadblock to performing frequent drive checkups.
NDD 4.0 does have a notable usability improvement: for minor problems you can tell the program which files to fix and which ones to leave alone. In the past, fixing such errors was an all-or-nothing proposition. However, NDD 4.0 didn’t go far enough with the enhancements. The application can’t scan multiple volumes and deal with all the errors at the end. Instead, you’re confronted with individual volumes’ errors immediately after each one is scanned.
Diagnosis and repair
When it comes to diagnosis and repair, Norton Disk Doctor 4.0 seems to have shipped prematurely. Shortly after its initial release, user complaints surfaced about NDD’s reporting errors on disks formatted with many non-Apple drivers, and the fixes resulted in inaccessible disks. NDD 4.0 also had problems fixing a directory error that Norton Anti-Virus (NAV) 5.0 can introduce when running under Mac OS 8.1. Symantec has released an update, NDD 4.01, that fixes the NAV error, as well as reporting errors on disks formatted with FWB’s Hard Disk ToolKit 2.5.X. However, it does not address reporting errors on media formatted with other non-Apple drivers.
Symantec should also be faulted for not including the NAV 5.02 patch, which fixes the bug that causes the directory error. The patch doesn’t fix the error, but it will prevent NAV from causing directory errors in the future. Sure, you can download the NAV patch from Symantec’s Web site, but including the patch on the NUM CD-ROM would have been a simple matter.
Ounces of prevention
Another revamped part of NUM 4.0 is the multifunction FileSaver extension, which tracks erased files for easier recovery, saves critical disk information at regular intervals, and periodically scans drives for damage. In addition, FileSaver 4.0 also introduces an excellent feature: the ability to scan disks quickly after an improper shutdown or crash.
Unfortunately, FileSaver 4.0 has its problems, too. For starters, performance seriously lags when deleting files. While it’s understandable that FileSaver has to do some bookkeeping when deleting files, users may find themselves waiting while their Trash empties, or while programs, such as Netscape Navigator, remove cache files.
In addition, FileSaver’s user interface isn’t as configurable as it should be. It’s impossible to enable the disk-directory- update feature without also enabling delete tracking. In many cases-for example, on servers-this all-or-nothing choice is undesirable. FileSaver also updates its directory information with every reboot and shutdown. Restart updates are unnecessary in most cases, but there is no way to restrict the updating to shutdowns only.
Speeding your disks
NDD may be the core of Norton Utilities, but the package’s jewel is Speed Disk 4.0, which improves disk performance by defragmenting files and rearranging data. The updated version now handles HFS+ disks and is somewhat quicker than Speed Disk 3.5. It also remains configurable for those with a technical bent. Unfortunately, it has slight imperfections: its default settings cause it to scan an entire disk for problems before optimizing. You can also choose write verification, which is more efficient and guarantees that data is written back exactly the way it was before, but we think this should be the default.
One feature missing from Speed Disk is the ability to optimize the directory in addition to all the files; the only comparable process is to back up, reinitialize, and restore a volume, which is far too time-consuming.