These days, the real question with paid optimisation software such as Symantec Norton Utilities 15 (£39 as of January 5, 2011) is not whether it works or how well, but whether you actually need it. With the speed of today's PCs, and with advances in both Windows and its file systems, problems such as disk fragmentation simply aren't the concern they once were.

Moreover, you can use competent freebies such as Piriform's CCleaner for Registry and file housekeeping, and the free version of UltimateDefrag for disk defragmentation, not to mention Windows' own built-in tools. So where does a program such as Norton Utilities 15.0 fit in?

Questions of necessity aside, Norton Utilities 15 brings all the Windows and PC housekeeping tools you could possibly desire under one extremely friendly and easy-to-use roof. Disk defragmentation, Registry cleaning and defragmentation, selection of which Windows services should be running - all are present and accounted for, and simple enough to use. Norton Utilities 15 also provides quick access to information on performance and running processes, as well as a Registry-backup function and an undelete utility to recover accidentally deleted files - again, nothing revolutionary, but all tried and true. All worked perfectly in our hands-on tests.

This new version of Norton Utilities adds what Symantec calls Speed Disk, an updated way of defragmenting and optimising your hard drive; Disk Doctor, for scanning a hard drive for potential issues and fixing those problems; and UnErase Wizard, for restoring files more easily.

Symantec makes some fine products, and you might find a number of useful components within Norton Utilities 15; but like Iolo Technologies' System Mechanic, Norton Utilities may have outlived its usefulness. If your system isn't running as fast as you think it should, uninstalling unnecessary software and pruning background applications using Windows' own tools or downloadable freebies are a more cost-effective first defence.

Next page: Our expert verdict >>

See also:

12 amazing productivity boosters

CCleaner 2.17 review

Iolo System Mechanic 9.5 review

Symantec Norton Utilities 15: Specs

  • 300MHz processor
  • Windows XP/Vista/7
  • 256MB RAM
  • 200MB hard-disk space
  • internet connection (to activate the product)
  • must meet the minimum operating system requirements of Vista and Window 7
  • 300MHz processor
  • Windows XP/Vista/7
  • 256MB RAM
  • 200MB hard-disk space
  • internet connection (to activate the product)
  • must meet the minimum operating system requirements of Vista and Window 7

OUR VERDICT

Although Norton Utilities 15 is stylish and works well, you're spending money for tools already provided with Windows or available for free elsewhere.

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