Norton’s name is synonymous with yellow boxes and protection from the world of computer nastiness but does the latest version have what it takes to keep your computer not only working but safe from threats?

So what do you get for your money? Firstly, and surprisingly, you get Norton’s famous AntiVirus as well as the tools you are actually paying for. You do get the option to customise the installation so you can skip the AntiVirus if you are already running a different product. Cheekily, upon activation, your 366 days of AV protection start, even if you don’t install the software. However, every sensible user will install it if not adequately protected - it’s for your own good. As Symantec coldly reasons, you’ll want to get your money’s worth.

Norton Utilities is the big part here, and is basically aimed finding and fixing problems, optimising performance and maintaining your system. There is a ‘One Button Checkup’ that will do all of the SystemWorks functions, but we tried the step- by-step approach. The other main programs you are getting are CleanSweep, Ghost, Cleanup, GoBack, and a collection of lesser extras, including XP tweaking and benchmarking utilities.

At first glance, it seems like a good collection of tools, until you start to use them. In Utilities the speed optimizer is basically the defrag option already present in Windows albeit slightly faster. You’ll find this applies to many things in SystemWorks - it’s just a third-party approach to existing elements. The argument is, of course, that putting them in one place means that they are more user-friendly. But is that worth the price tag?

There is a Windows health check, which scans your set up and identifies problems - I have over 100 ‘medium’ grade problems, none of which had caused any problems with the running of my PC. It also told me that there were no problems with my discs, which I was grateful for. There is a continuous system monitor function that again duplicates some of XP’s existing alerts and warnings, only with Mr Norton’s version running, you’re using more of your system’s resources, effectively slowing you down.

The Cleanup option is aimed at the Internet side of things - virtually the same as the Internet Options area for deleting cookies and temp files. CleanSweep allows you to remove programs and plugins, and again, seems almost redundant. Ghost allows you to create backups, and I get the feeling that XP already has that option too - although the Norton version means you are again diverting your precious resources to something else, as Ghost likes to sit in your systray. Even if you can make system restore CDs with low compression as long as you’re writing to DVD, the key is spending all that time building up the perfect image in the first place, and guaranteed you’re bound to miss out some essential and have to repeat the exercise all over again.

Price when reviewed:

So far it’s not looking very good. At a price of £60, Mr Norton must be giving you something that Mr Gates has not already supplied. But it seems that isn’t the case. Ok, you get a virus checker, but you can get NAV for £40 or less in a sale. So what is it that’s in the box? We desperate checked the extra features - nope, there is nothing there worth having either. I believe there is a term called ‘money for old rope’. While we’ve rated the Norton SystemWorks range in the past, it seems Windows, with its numerous service packs, has outmanoeuvred this version.

Our advice this year is to spend your money on a decent PC user guide if you are having problems, because you don’t need this. Hopefully, after preaching to me, it will happily uninstall itself.

Post-review note: I thought this review had finished, and I hope the webmaster will indulge me here (go on then- Webmaster). I looked for the normal uninstall option in the menu, and it wasn’t there. I checked in the manual, and on page 49, under the heading ‘Should you need to uninstall’, the instructions were, and I quote “Instructions for uninstalling are available in the online Help”. I think that says it all - pretentious, presumptuous and unprofessional and a real quality drop compared to last year’s excellence.