In a poll at the end of last year it was revealed that the most hated animated character of recent times was Crazy Frog. Now I’m not one to rock any boats, but there’s one that springs to mind that infuriates me even more. It’s that pesky little hourglass that pops-up whenever my PC grinds to a halt.

Of course, your time spent counting those pixelated grains of sand can be minimised by keeping your PC in tiptop order. Norton Systemworks 2006 from Symantec is one tool you can use to do just that. It is essentially a suite of housekeeping applications that at the touch of a button can analyse your system, suggest quick fixes and then repair any problems found.

Over time, during even relatively light use, a PC becomes clogged up with fragmented bits of data and corrupted files. The various components of Systemworks are aimed at finding these problems and fixing them with the minimum of fuss.

All very straightforward, and that’s the real reason for anybody to buy Systemworks. Essentially all the tools you’re presented with are, in one shape or another, already loaded as part of your operating system. Within Windows there are disk defragmenters, system analysis tools and several ways and means of clearing up your files and folders. But to the average user this can be a bit daunting, so what Symantec do with this package is to lump them all together in one suite of utilities to make it easier to manage.

I say easier to manage, and don’t be fooled into thinking it will be all plain sailing. There has been talk recently about whether default settings and installations are always the best option. Let’s face it, that’s exactly how most spyware and malware makes it's way into your system - it comes bundled with software that you do want. This is not a case of taking the rough with the smooth - it’s completely avoidable. I mention this because I tried three times - yes three times - to load Norton Systemworks using the default settings. And without success.

The first time I tried all seemed normal until it reached that tantalising point when the progress bar is full and the countdown timer has reached zero. But here it just kept going. And going. And going. All I got was a message saying that Norton GoBack - a new incarnation of Ghost - was “packing” the contents of my hard drive. It seemed to be doing this in no particular order and in no particular hurry, so I left it to it. Overnight. In the morning my system was frozen, prompting me to resort to the fix-all solution utilised by systems engineers the world over: I turned it off and turned it on again!

On resuming my installation exactly the same thing happened. So I tried uninstalling, which froze my system again. I then deleted any Norton files I could find, and ran a registry cleaner. This time when I tried to reinstall, I was given the option to uninstall.

Still with me? So, I uninstalled. I deleted everything. Again. Cleaned the registry. Again. Back to square one.

For the third time it started its “packing” and I left it running for 10 hours. Now my hard drive really isn’t that extensive so I can only assume that GoBack just plain doesn’t work. Or maybe it does, but you are given absolutely no information about what’s going to happen when you try to install the software suite or what’s happening while all this “packing” is going on. I gave up in the end.

A custom installation allowed me to uncheck the GoBack option, leaving me with just the diagnostic and maintenance utilities.

These work just fine and the main selling point is the “one-button check-up” which performs a smart scan of the most common problem areas and then fixes any bugs found.

The other utilities: disk analysis and space-saving tools, Windows diagnostics, and a new addition, the XP “System Optimizer” - essentially a user friendly version of many of the system settings found in the XP Control Panel - are all easy to use and clearly laid out.

But the fact that nearly all of these applications are just better presented versions of existing Windows tools just doesn’t justify the expense in my mind. One small justification perhaps is the inclusion of the Norton Antivirus - a robust security application that really does work very well.

As for GoBack - if you need to make back-ups, use something else. Or an old version of Norton Ghost which always worked perfectly well in my experience.

Price when reviewed:

Does very well what it says on the box, but why bother when all the same functions can be accessed via the operating system? Save your pennies.