Norton Utilities Reappears, Tries to Speed up PCs

How much new software works may depend on what's wrong with a PC

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Norton Utilities is back, at least in name. Symantec has brought back the once-venerable title for a collection of tools meant to help a PC run faster and more stable.

Symantec says the "optimizing" tools can help a PC boot nearly 25 percent faster, according to a test lab. Or an application like Microsoft Word might run 16 percent faster after running the $50 Norton Utilities. But a hands-on test by Neil J. Rubenking at PCMag found little gain:

Overall the improvement was just over one percent. That's not terribly impressive, and it's all the more dismal when you consider that the app itself is the tool that's telling me that it doesn't really do much.

Maybe some of the difference is in the test PC. Symantec says its scores came on a "sluggish" machine running Windows XP. Rubenking ran his on a test machine that he says has not been cleaned up over time. But I'm guessing it might not have been junked up like the computers we use every day.

Still, these optimizing tools come under a lot of criticism for not doing much for most users. We can only hope a respected name like Symantec will make progress with theirs. The company also emphasized speed in its recent update to its Norton Internet Security, and there I did see a difference.

The long-running Norton Utilities was once a lifesaver for early PC users. Developer Peter Norton's Unerase, for example, saved the hide of many who had mistakenly deleted files. He later sold the package to Symantec, which eventually integrated most of those tools into its Norton SystemWorks.