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Symantec’s Norton Utilities for Macintosh. There are few utilities more indispensable for Mac OS users than Symantec’s Norton Utilities for Macintosh. Over the many years that this product has been available, NUM has saved my data, my hard drive, and my butt far too many times to count.

If you’re new to Norton Utilities for Macintosh, you may be surprised to learn that it’s really an integrated suite of applications designed to protect against potentially destructive hard disk problems. With the release of version 7, Symantec support all Mac OS versions from 8.1 onward. OS X computer users will see additional benefits starting with an Aqua interface, but more important is how it taps into OS X’s multitasking capabilities allowing parts of the NUM suite to do their job without interrupting yours.

Norton FileSaver uses these multitasking capabilities to take disk snapshots, which are used by Volume Recover to rebuild damaged directories or restore system efficiency degraded by directory errors. If your startup drive won’t start the system, the program CD can boot the computer allowing you to run Volume Recover and restore your data. NUM’s Unerase uses the disk directories and FileSaver logs to recover accidentally erased and deleted files and its built-in filtering helps find missing folders too.

The heart of the package remains Disk Doctor, which lets computer users scan and repair all kinds of drives, including removable media. Not only does it find and fix problems, but Disk Doctor also often finds potential problems that if fixed right now will head off later potential disasters. I make it a practice to run Disk Doctor after every system crash or lock up and it’s a good idea to run it twice after a crash–even if it appears to fix all of the problems the first time. Sometimes it finds and fixes other, different problems.

SpeedDisk is designed to organize your hard disk like a highly caffeinated librarian. It optimizes your hard disk by arranging frequently used files for convenient access. Depending on the size of your hard disk and the amount of data, this process can take some time, so if you’re just looking for faster file loading, you can use SpeedDisk as a defragmenter. Norton Utilities for Macintosh 7 requires 24MB of RAM, 15MB available disk space for installation, with 10 percent of that space for Speed Disk’s optimizing function.

Like Norton Anti-Virus, NUM includes LiveUpdate which lets you download updates and patches from the Symantec web site to keep the package up-to-date. Norton Scheduler lets you schedule FileSaver scans as well as LiveUpdate downloads. All of this techie-sounding work is accomplished with just a few menu pulls and mouse clicks. If this sounds easy, that’s because it is.

The estimated street price for NUM 7 is less than $100, with upgrades available for $49.95. OS 9.2 users may wonder if an upgrade is really justified, but if you look at NUM’s recent history, you will see that every update has resulted in incremental but nevertheless important changes in performance and ways to protect your data. Since, sooner or later, we’re all going to have to bite the bullet and move to OS X, why not be ready?

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