Norton Utilities 2001 (Various Tools): Part 6

by by Lee Hudspeth

This article concludes a series on Norton Utilities ("NU"), and covers Rescue Disk, Registry Tracker, Registry Editor, Integrator, and the DOS-based Disk Editor.

(Note: Of these tools, only Integrator is Windows 2000 compatible.)

Rescue Disk can produce two different types of disk sets. A "basic rescue set" is a set of floppies, at least one of which is bootable to a DOS prompt, that also includes tools to help you investigate and repair whatever problem has caused the PC to need rescuing. A "Norton Zip rescue set" writes data to an Iomega Jaz or Zip cartridge, along with one bootable floppy. A Norton Zip rescue set will boot you back to Windows (not MS-DOS), at which point the Rescue Recovery Wizard starts automatically. Personally, although I make a basic rescue set whenever I upgrade NU (that's maybe once a year), I don't take Symantec's advice to keep my rescue set updated. I don't even bother to make a Norton Zip rescue set even though I have a nice Iomega Zip 250 drive.

Why? If a PC is so out of whack that it can't boot, in my opinion it's time for a scorched-earth reformat/reinstall (note that I *do* keep all my data religiously backed up; otherwise of course I'd be inviting misery by not at least trying to do a rescue).

Registry Tracker monitors changes that either programs or you make to your PC's Registry keys, INI files, startup files (like autoexec.bat and config.sys), and data files and folders. (Registry Tracker can't show you the exact changes made to data files but it can keep snapshots of them so you can restore from a previous version.) If you elect to track a folder, the tool takes a snapshot whenever the folder contents change so you can see what files were added or deleted.

I find Registry Tracker's user interface very awkward and confusing. To me, it does not makes sense to tie up system resources with this type of tool constantly monitoring the Registry et al. I don't install suspect applications on my system, and if for some reason I have to, I do that on a test PC (or a test partition on my production PC) that I can quickly and easily delete and recreate. What do I do if a program really wrecks a PC under my care? I roll back to the previously known- good version of the Registry using the free, built-in Windows Registry Checker. For more information on using the Registry Checker to roll back the Registry, see pp. 321-323 of our ebook "The Book That Should Have Come with Your Computer."

Norton Registry Editor offers two conveniences not provided by Windows' own built-in Registry Editor tool (Regedit.exe). First, Norton's version has an interface for making a backup (select File, Backup Entire Registry, enter a filename, Save). Second, Norton's version supports bookmarks so you can mark your most frequently visited Registry keys. Unfortunately this feature is not name-based so you can't assign your own names to Registry bookmarks. Instead there is a tree-style listing of all the bookmarks you've created. It's easy to traverse the list if you only have a few bookmarks but with more than about 10 the list can quickly become overwhelming. I'd prefer that NU offer a name- based system so that I could bookmark the key "HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\10.0\Outlook\Today" with the name "Outlook_Today_Disable".

Integrator is just a fancy wrapper interface for all of NU's tool. It is a helpful control panel, and that's all there is to say about that.

Disk Editor is a tool for advanced users. It allows you to view and edit a hard disk down at the sector and byte level, from inside a DOS window. You can *really* get yourself into trouble with this tool, but it can occasionally come in handy, say, if you wanted to study the binary file structure of a Word document. Not something any of us are likely to do on a daily basis, but you never know.

I've enjoyed reviewing NU in this series of six articles. Overall I give NU a thumbs-up. Even though I consider the package as a whole to be indispensable, in cases where I don't like or use a feature, I have explained why in my articles. It's up to you to determine if you find a specific feature useful. As always, I welcome your comments.

I have some additional information about NU for which there isn't room here, including a table with each tool's name (19 in all), its category (find/fix problems, system maintenance, etc.), direct links to The Naked PC article that reviewed each tool, and a Yes/No column for Windows 2000 compatibility.

You can reach Lee Hudspeth at: