Symantec upgrades PC, disk utilities

Symantec is having a busy month, with upgrades to its Norton Utilities package as well as to its disk cloning and disk cleansing utilities.

Norton Utilities 2000 adds Windows hardware diagnostics to ease PC maintenance, according to the company. Featured are crash protection, registry repair and optimisation and disaster recovery. An enhanced SpeedDisk utility boosts PC performance by optimising the placement of files on a hard disk.

Norton System Check, also featured in the package, consolidates Norton Utilities 2000 in one application, for quick diagnoses of systems. Another feature, Norton Disk Doctor, checks boot records, file allocation tables and directories, and performs surface analysis tests to ensure the integrity of hard drives, the company said.

A utility called Rescue Disk 2000 guards against crashes.

Users of the new product get a three-month subscription to Norton Web Services, an Internet-based service for problem-solving, self-help services and extended support.

Norton Utilities 2000 is available immediately for $US49.95. Users of previous versions get a $20 rebate.

The latest version of Norton Ghost, labelled version 6.0, centralises disk cloning from a server, without the need for a boot disk at each PC. Disk cloning involves pushing system upgrades down to individual systems through a server-based, single image.

PCs can get individually customised upgrades as well in the new version.

"In seven minutes time, we're able to crank out a set of images" to as many as 200 machines, said Thom Bailey, Norton Ghost product manager in Auckland.

The main uses for Norton Ghost include software upgrades, disaster recovery, configuration changes, initial PC deployments and refreshing of hard drives for uses in applications such as training.

Software agent technology is used in distributing software images, according to Symantec. Disk images can be distributed across local networked systems or to laptop computers.

An analyst said there is a growing need for applications such as Ghost.

"These disk imaging, Ghost-type applications are moving up, and by that I mean an administrator is now managing even more PCs," said Philip Mendoza, analyst for systems management software at International Data Corp. "What that means is the administrator needs a greater degree of control over the images he or she is pushing down to each of the PCs."

Available from September 15, Norton Ghost 6.0 pricing will be set by resellers, with a 100-workstation configuration expected to cost roughly $US11 to $15 per seat.

Symantec's other new product, Norton CleanSweep 2000, restores a computer to optimal performance by removing Internet "debris", such as plug-ins and cookies, as well as unneeded files and unwanted software applications from hard disks, according to the company. An interface is provided to simplify cleanup, the company said.

Clean Sweep 2000 also features Safety Sweep, a utility that protects critical files by backing deletable files before removing them.