Ontrack SystemSuite 4.0

Utility software

Utility packages might not represent the most glamorous side of computer software, but we all know that PCs are prone to being more than just a little temperamental. It's therefore a good idea to have some tools at your disposal for when things inevitably go wrong. Utilities can also come in handy for speeding up older computers, and usually have several useful tricks up their sleeve to help your system run smoothly, efficiently and safely.

Ontrack's SystemSuite 4.0 labels itself as a "complete solution for PC maintenance and security" and, with its army of over 50 tools and utilities for all manner of tweaks, improvements and protection against data loss or other nasties, it's easy to see why.

What do you need to keep your PC ticking over nice and smoothly? Well, SystemSuite kicks things off with Fix-It Utilities as the main part of its central hub. This application is designed to maintain and improve the performance of your PC. Also included in the package are VirusScanner Pro, CrashProof, EasyUninstall, Crisis Centre, DataEraser and, as an added bonus, PowerDesk Pro file manager.

Each program tackles its specialised area with aplomb, whether it's keeping your PC free of viruses, removing unwanted clutter from your hard disk or working to protect your "applications from a costly crash. More elaborate tools help you recover lost and corrupt data or permanently remove information from hard disks - both tasks that neither of SystemSuite's competitors (from McAfee and Symantec) can claim to be able to perform.

Version 4.0 sees "the welcome addition of a personal firewall. NetDefense is a well-presented and easy-to-use program that runs in the background. It allows you to specify which programs are allowed access to the Internet, while preventing intruders from accessing your PC from afar. In these days of unmetered Web access, broadband and always-on connections, it's a wise move to have something like this on your side.

Ontrack hasn't ruined its intuitive and familiar approach, though even experienced computer users may find themselves baffled by certain areas. It's all very well running EasyUninstall to check if there are any redundant files floating around on your system, for example, but interpreting the results is not quite as obvious.

In all fairness, however, Ontrack tackles the innate complexity of this technical subject as well as can be expected. Indeed, the changes that have been made to the interface only serve to improve such matters. Its customisable control panel arranges programs into logical categories by the kind of tasks that you might want to perform (diagnose and fix problems, optimise, recover data) and the layout of the instruction manual reflects this.

Additionally, a one-stop solution section includes wizards to guide you through a variety of common problem-solving activities with a few clicks.

Other improvements to SystemSuite 4.0 include the obligatory compatibility with Windows XP and an error tracker that keeps a useful log of any software problems that you might encounter, such as program crashes or freezes, and attempts to diagnose them.

Ontrack SystemSuite 4.0 ****

Protection for your PC is a vital investment and SystemSuite 4.0 is certainly an impressive utilities package. With the recent addition of a personal firewall, SystemSuite has almost every eventuality covered. It's also well priced compared to other "similar products, while offering you more for your money.

Price: $159.

Distributor: Scholastic New Media.

Phone: (02) 4328 3555.

URL: www.ontrack.com, www.scholastic.com.au.

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