This review appears in the July issue of PC Advisor, available now in all good newsagents.

SystemWorks 2006 Basic Edition is the latest addition to Norton's suite of utilities. Despite the 'Basic' tag, it's aimed at more experienced PC users – those who already have some protection but want to beef it up a bit. No antivirus software is included.

Instead, you get four robust protection and optimisation apps: Norton Utilities, Norton GoBack, CheckIt Diagnostics and System Optimizer. These will help you to diagnose and fix problems, restore your PC to a trouble-free state – should disaster strike – and ensure you are getting the best possible performance from your PC.

When you first install the software it automatically scans your PC for any issues. A pop-up window in the Toolbar will warn you if it finds anything nasty. You can then choose to fix the problem at the click of a button or find out more about the situation before initiating a quick fix.

Testing the software on even a brand-new PC threw up a huge amount of internet-related clutter. The PC had been in use for onlya couple of weeks and was already playing host to thousands of superfluous files. Thankfully, the Norton Cleanup function was able to detect and wipe them.

Cleaning up the mess

The more you've used the PC, the greater the number of problems the software is likely to find. This will increase the time it takes to complete its work. It's like clearing a messy desk: the less often it's tidied, the longer it takes.

This software will keep on tidying up in the background. You can schedule your PC for regular, automatic scans and then forget about it until a problem crops up.

From the pop-up window, clicking on the Home link will bring up the SystemWorks main interface, providing access to the tool suite. Clicking on any of the buttons on the left takes you to the controls for each tool, allowing you to configure each one. From here you can use any of the utilities to speed up performance and fix problems, recover files and folders using GoBack, configure Cleanup options and check for any problems.

Keeping out the bugs

SystemWorks 2006 Basic Edition doesn't come with antivirus protection, so you'll need to look elsewhere to keep your PC free from bugs. Of course, you could shell out an extra £20 for the full version, which includes Norton AntiVirus – but there are other options.

If your budget is very tight, there are free solutions available, such as Grisoft's AVG AntiVirus 7.1 (click here). You are encouraged to pay for a more fully featured version of the software, but you can download a free edition that does a good job.

Then there is the competition, such as Panda Software's Titanium 2006 Antivirus & Antispyware (£32 from Pandasoftware.com), which, as the name suggests, includes spyware protection – or try McAfee's VirusScan 2006 (£40 from McAfeestore.com). Whichever option you go for, ensure you install some antivirus software on your PC – one bad bug can wipe out your essential data.

Norton SystemWorks 2006 Basic Edition: Specs

  • 300MHz Pentium or Athlon
  • Windows 2000/XP
  • 256MB RAM
  • 170MB hard disk space (200MB for Windows 2000)
  • DVD drive
  • SVGA (800x600 resolution, 16bit colour) display or higher
  • CD/DVD drive
  • 300MHz Pentium or Athlon
  • Windows 2000/XP
  • 256MB RAM
  • 170MB hard disk space (200MB for Windows 2000)
  • DVD drive
  • SVGA (800x600 resolution, 16bit colour) display or higher
  • CD/DVD drive

OUR VERDICT

We liked the idea of being able to buy a cheaper package that gives you all the useful tools found in SystemWorks without forcing you to opt for Norton AntiVirus. There are lots of other virus protection suites on the market, some of which cost nothing. However, it's a good idea to opt for a package such as this that fills in the gaps left by free products.

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