October 20th, 1999

Norton Utilities for Macintosh 5.0
Contact and Other Information
Manufacturer: Symantec
Product Home Page: Norton Utilities for Macintosh Home Page
Description: Repair, Recovery and Optimization Utilities
Address: Symantec Corporation
2500 Broadway
Suite 200
Santa Monica, CA 90404-3063

Price: US$99.95 List
US$49.95 Upgrade

Telephone: 1-310-453-4600
Fax: 1-310-453-0636
Requirements PowerPC Processor
Mac OS 8.0 or Higher
16 MB Available Disk Space
CD-ROM Drive
Internet Connection for LiveUpdate

System Used For Testing Power Computing Power Center Pro 210
Newer 300 MHz G3 Upgrade
Mac OS 8.6
Norton Utilities 5.0 Adds Must Have Features

Norton Utilities for Macintosh 5.0
by John F. Braun


If you've been using a Mac for any length of time, you've no doubt come across Norton Utilities, which was originally introduced on the Mac platform in 1989. This package has consistently provided utilities that complement and often surpass those included by Apple.

Approaching its 10th birthday, we are pleased to see that this package is keeping up with the times. Version 5.0 enhances existing programs, and adds new features to the entire suite.


The printed documentation consists of a booklet in the CD case. It contains info that will help you get started quickly. For more information, you can take advantage of the Norton Utilities Help and Norton Utilities Shortcuts guides, available after you install the package if you have Apple Guide activated.

Main Norton Utilities Screen
(Click for Full Sized View)

The installation is very straightforward. You can choose an Easy Install, which installs all components, or a Custom Install, where you can select which components to install. We decided to go for the gusto and do an Easy Install. Once the installation is complete, you'll be given the option to Restart your system. Since many components will be activated only after a restart, you should choose this option.

Be sure to eject the Norton Utilities CD-ROM after you choose Restart. Since the CD-ROM is bootable (useful if your system is really messed up and can't boot from the hard drive) many systems will boot from it if it is still in the drive.


During system boot time, you'll notice some extra icons marching across your screen. Specifically, several FileSaver components will be installed, as well as a Scheduler and the DiskLight utility.

A Norton Utilities icon, placed in your Apple Menu, can be used to launch the main interface. From here, you can launch most other utilities, including Norton AntiVirus if available. In every application, a Utilities menu will allow you to quickly jump to any other Norton application.

DiskLight Control Panel

Norton FileSaver
(Click for Full Sized View)


During the restart, you'll probably notice the DiskLight component of the package. It displays a tiny hard drive icon in the upper left hand corner of your screen. It will flash when there's disk read activity, and show the same icon with a small 'w' next to it during a disk write. Good for those of us who remember the old days when all hard drives had some sort of cool blinking light.


Once you reach the desktop, a small window for the FileSaver utility will let you know that it is scanning you hard drives. FileSaver does three things. First is a scan for general disk problems. It can identify problems that the Mac OS scan may miss, plus it also scans volumes other than your startup volume. The second FileSaver feature updates disk directory info, and the third tracks deleted files and folders. These last two features can collect additional information which can be used by the UnErase and Volume Recover components, covered shortly.

The scans can be scheduled during startup, shutdown, or after an improper shutdown. They can also be scheduled after a certain amount of idle time, or at a specific time. The defaults of At Shutdown and After Improper Shutdown should suit most users.

Norton Disk Doctor
(Click for Full Sized View)
Norton Disk Doctor

This is probably the most commonly used component of the package. It can check for defective media, partition table damage, directory damage, and problems with individual files.

The defective media check is handy, but takes time since it has to scan your entire hard drive. In the Mac Observer Labs, the media check of a 8.5 GB drive took nearly 30 minutes. Unless you have a very old drive on the brink of failure, you probably don't want to do this check every time. Likewise for the scanning of individual files, which took about 10 minutes to scan the aforementioned drive with about 50,000 files on it.

For most users, doing a regular scan of your partition tables and directory structure will prevent most mishaps. But if you have a drive which you think is seriously damaged, you can go to the Preferences menu and enable all checks.

New in 5.0 is a Live Repair feature, which borrows from the latest Apple Disk First Aid, and allows repair of the boot disk without booting a CD. Another new feature is Undo, which can undo changes in case a repair makes things go from bad to worse.

Messy Hard Drive Before Optimization
(Click for Full Sized View)

Nice Neat Hard Drive After Optimization
(Click for Full Sized View)


This component will help defragment the files on your drive. Over time, files stored on your drive may occupy noncontiguous sections of the drive, increasing access time. SpeedDisk will reorganize the files so they occupy contiguous portions of the drive. A Check Disk option will graphically display your file layout, and calculate the degree of fragmentation.

You can choose from several different optimization profiles, such as General Use, Multimedia, Software Development, CD-ROM Mastering and Recently Used Files. There are options to verify the media, directories and data before the optimization.

This is strongly recommended since optimizing a damaged drive can make your drive inaccessible. We say this from experience, since previous optimization attempts with various utilities have resulted in unusable disks. Just to be safe, make a full backup!

Fortunately, the Speed Disk operation successfully optimized the drive in the Mac Observer Labs, without any damage whatsoever.

New in 5.0 is the option of also optimizing your directories, which can provide a greater performance boost than just rearranging files.

Norton UnErase
(Click for Full Sized View)
UnErase and Volume Recover

The UnErase utility will allow you to recover files or folders that have been accidentally deleted. If you are also running FileSaver, it will greatly increase the chance that you'll be able to recover a lost file or folder. Filtering allows searching for lost files based on name, type, content and size. Although nothing can replace regularly scheduled backups, UnErase can help in a crisis.

If you have a disk that you can no longer boot from, or can no longer see on the desktop, then Volume Recover may be able to help. Like UnErase, it can do a better job if you are also running FileSaver.


New to 5.0 is a LiveUpdate feature. Like similar technology found in the Windows version of Norton Utilities, QuickTime 4 and, more recently, Mac OS 9, you can either manually check for or schedule updates to the program's components. If you have Norton AntiVirus installed, it will also update this program and, more importantly, your virus definitions.

System Info, Wipe Info, Fast Find

System Info can be used to benchmark the CPU, FPU, disk and display performance of your system. You can then compare this info to profiles available for other common Mac configurations.

For the paranoid and/or security conscious, the Wipe Info component can erase a specific file or folder, disk, or unused space. Once you get rid of something with Wipe Info, not even Norton Utilities can recover it, so be careful!

Fast Find is similar to the Find File feature of Sherlock. Although it can only search by name or kind, when searching by name, we found it at least 50% faster than the Apple counterpart.


Norton Utilities 5.0 offers support for FireWire devices.


Norton Utilities offers a comprehensive package of utilities to help with device repair, data recovery and optimization for your system. Despite frequent backups, bad things happen to good people, and these tools can help you get up and running quickly.

We are pleased to see that Norton Utilities is maturing with such features as Live Repair, Live Update, Undo and FireWire support. Norton Utilities 5.0 should be a part of any Observer's suite of tools.

Final Score (Maximum Score is 5 Gadgies)
5 Gadgies
Pros Bootable CD-ROM
Updates via Internet
Can Now Repair Boot Disk
Undo Feature in Disk Doctor
Cons None