Forty years ago, in 1982 Peter Norton Computing released a small suite of utilities for the DOS platform. Norton Utilities had everything a command-line user could want. It included tools to recover deleted files, change the screen colours, sort the floppy disc directory, print files and even a disk optimiser to speed up access to files on those slow floppy disks.
Over the years a few competitors appeared, and I remember using PC Tools for Windows on my Windows for Workgroup installs. But Norton Utilities evolved too and when offered a review copy now, I thought why not?
The Peter Norton Computing company no longer exists. It was bought by Symantec in 1990 and when Broadcom bought the enterprise security side of the business the consumer side of the business took a life of its own NortonLifeLock.
NortonLifeLock produces the Norton Antivirus software and Norton Utilities, which in its current version is compatible with Windows 7/8/10 and 11.
Obviously, some things changed. You don’t get a utility to change colours on your 24 x 80 characters DOS screen anymore, but you will still find the disk optimisation utility there.
The main dashboard appears when you start Norton Utilities and it is easy to understand, showing possible issues on your computer. Things like Windows temporary files, items in recycle bin as well as broken shortcuts, memory dump files and Windows reporting files. It also counts browser cache files and registry issues.
I don’t usually recommend blindly cleaning up the registry as it is one of the most important data on a Windows system, so it is good to see the software has an option to list the items to be cleaned – in my case it mostly found unused software associations and unused software keys (leftovers from old software no longer in the system). No harm in allowing Norton Utilities to remove those.
Looking at the settings though you will find it also hunts for invalid uninstallers (yes, those applications that are removed but stay behind in your Programs list), Dynamic-link library (DLL) registrations, fonts and sounds.
It's pretty simple. Start Norton Utilities and it will do a quick scan on your computer and offer up some helpful advice.
Now, go through the Toolbox menu and you will find lots of options there. These individual options allow you to manually do some other jobs: Clean, Speed Up, Protect, Recover and Manage your Windows-based computer.
For example, under Clean, there’s an Advanced Uninstaller, which is basically the Windows uninstaller for applications you have on your computer.
Under Speed Up, you will find some interesting options. Process Scanner for example will show you what’s running on your system, which is similar to Windows Task Manager, with the added “Potentially Malicious Processes” tab.
You will also find a Disk Defragmenter and Application Accelerator. Both of those only work with HDD, not the more modern SSD. The Application Accelerator is an interesting one, as it moves applications and their data to align them so that they can start and run faster. It’s a bit different from just defragmenting. In either case, I could not test as even my desktop runs on a couple of SSDs (with a few HDDs in a RAID array for spare storage).
You will also find on that tab a Startup Optimiser that allows you to enable/disable any startup applications your system might have and a RAM Reclaimer – which is said to reclaim some of the system memory by freeing up chunks that are no longer in use. I have a desktop with 48 GB RAM so this wouldn’t influence speed much but even so it claimed to recover around 4 – 6 GB each time I tried it.
The Protect tab is more interesting. It gives you tools to scrub a drive, by securely wiping out its contents – a process that takes some time as it writes and rewrites data on storage to prevent data recovery, useful when disposing of a data drive. It also allows you to create a bootable USB to clean the system disk.
The File Shredder does a similar job, but for individual files or folders. It will add itself to the desktop (if you want) or as an option to the right-click menu of your Recycle Bin, which is handy.
And then there’s Privacy Protection, an option to disable certain Windows services such as history collection, location tracking, camera and microphone access and the Windows data collection and feedback reporting.
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Finally, the Manage tab gives you a Super Control Panel, which is really a shortcut to the famous Control Panel God Mode, a Control Panel on steroids with access to a lot more Windows configuration options than just the standard Control Panel.
Another interesting tab is the On-Demand Boost. It has four options: Processor, Memory, Drives and Power. The Processor Optimiser maximises core usage by managing application performance and parking/unparking cores for each process. The Memory Optimiser does a similar job for RAM by trying to free up memory for applications that needed it. The Drive Optimiser is interesting because it speeds up I/O operation and prevents storage fragmentation by managing operations and writing data in contiguous batches – again something that is not used for SSD but will be useful if you have some HDD for storage.
You can obviously set and forget some of these options, so your Norton Utilities runs in the background and keep your computer at peak performance.
It’s clear though that some of the features I’ve mentioned above are not exclusive to Norton Utilities. Some are already there in Windows. The problem is that for many consumers those Windows features are as good as non-existent because Windows the user to hunt system options in lots of different places - do you remember where Disk Cleanup is? Or where in the Registry would you go to manually change some of the privacy options? And do you know how to create a shortcut to God Mode?
If you answered Yes to these questions, then Norton Utilities is probably not for you. Otherwise, this might be just what you need to keep your Windows-based computer running smoothly. Even if you do know where to find these options, Norton Utilities is still a time-saver central location to find all these options together. It could even worth taking a look?