Over the years there have been many utility programs written for the PC. One of the first was introduced shortly after the first IBM PC was introduced 20 years ago. The author was Peter Norton, and the program was known as the Norton Utilities.
At that time, almost every PC user owned a copy of Norton; it was kind of a necessity as it would allow you to recover data when a program went bad. Over the years, the program was modified and additional features were added on until today, where the product bears little resemblance to the original.
A few years ago, another company by the name of Ontrack introduced its utility program System Suite. Last year they sold the product to Vcom, which has just introduced System Suite 5.
The program combines PC maintenance, security, anti-virus, anti-spam and privacy all into on $40 package that has earned it the PC Magazine Editors Choice award for the past two years.
Included in the suite is the Fix Utilities that will diagnose and fix problems on the PC. There is a high-powered disk defragmenter along with one-step maintenance wizards that will tune-up your computer.
VirusScanner Pro is a full-featured anti-virus program that includes a years worth of updates. The anti-virus definition files are updated almost on a daily basis and are based on the Trend Micro engine.
NetDefense is an advanced personal firewall program that keeps hackers and other intruders from accessing your computer while you are on the Internet. Secure Erase will permanently delete data on your hard drive so that when you dispose of your computer you dont have to worry about someone recycling your personal information.
Recovery Commander allows you to restore your non-booting PC back to normal. By letting you back up data to CDR or USB flash drives without going through Windows, you stand a better chance of getting your computer restored.
There are many additional features included in the program, including and un-installer, an application mover that will allow you to transfer programs and data to another hard drive or another PC, complete ZIP file management, and advanced file management through their PowerDesk program that is also included.
VCom has also included two programs that I have recently recommended in this column, GhostSurf and MailWasher. GhostSurf is a program that allows you to be on the Internet without others being able to track the sites that you visit or the files that you download.
MailWasher allows you to check your e-mail account and delete the SPAM and junk mail before you actually download it to your computer. You can set up a friends list that will allow their e-mail to transfer without a problem, or a blacklist that will block the mail from reaching you. One of the advanced features is the ability to bounce the e-mail back where the sender receives a notice that the e-mail was undeliverable. Most spammers will remove your e-mail address if this happens, kind of like the tele-zapper products.
SystemSuite 5 is a great set of tools and at $40 is a bargain.
Richard Heller is an independent computer specialist who specializes in repairs, installation, upgrades, technical support, Internet sharing, data recovery and diagnostics. If you have any computer or service-related questions, please send them to The Rock River Times, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 243-1162.