Norton SystemWorks 3.0

Norton SystemWorks 3.0
Company: Symantec Corporation

Price: $129.95

“No partitions found.”
“The free block count is incorrect.”
“There is no root directory.”
“The extent record has an incorrect key.”

File system problems like these make Mac users wake up in a cold sweat, especially if they’ve failed for too long to back up their critical data. Of course, many Mac users may never experience serious trouble with their hard drives.

But, to quote Dirty Harry, “do you feel lucky?”

If you have file system trouble (can’t boot, lost files or folders, files won’t open, etc.), you’ll need a disk repair application, and you’ll need it quickly, as further use of your Mac may add to the damage. Norton SystemWorks 3 includes a bevy of applications designed to maintain and repair your hard drive. Applications for drive performance and maintenance include Disk Doctor, and Speed Disk. Disk Security applications are AntiVirus and WipeInfo, and the applications for Data Recovery are FileSaver, Volume Recover, and UnErase.

Some of the high points of SystemWorks 3 are:

Real paper documentation! Kudos to Symantec for providing a book that you can read anywhere, instead of a PDF file that forces you to read while tied to your computer.

Full OS X compatibility, including OS X booting for Macs that will not boot from OS 9.

The Norton SystemWorks CD contains two CD partitions:
Mac OS X partition with Norton SystemWorks 3.0 for Mac OS X v10.1.5 and higher. The Mac OS 9 partition with Norton SystemWorks 1.0.5 for OS 9.x

Both will boot the computer into Mac OS X or Mac OS 9 for emergencies.
* Volume Recover is now available for use with Mac OS X: Recovers missing drives and restores damaged directories. Volume Recover now provides a virtual image of the drive for recovery.
* Wipe Info is now available for use with Mac OS X: It securely wipes files, volumes, and free space.
* Scheduled Defragmentation has been added to FileSaver to allow users to schedule the defragmentation of all possible files on their drive(s) at a set time each day.
* Norton AntiVirus 9.0 for Mac OS X v10.1.5 and up protects your computer from all known PC viruses as well as Macintosh specific viruses.
* Norton AntiVirus 9.0 includes mount scanning of removable media, and it can scan and repair of files detected as infected within compressed archives.
* Norton AntiVirus 9.0 will quarantine viruses that are detected but that cannot be repaired with the current virus definitions.
* There are no changes in functionality in Norton AntiVirus 7.0.2, which has been included on the CD for compatibility with Mac OS 9.x. All changes in functionality are for Norton AntiVirus 9.0 for Mac OS X.

So, it appears that the Symantec’s engineers haven’t been sitting on their thumbs. Let’s take SystemWorks 3.0 out for a spin, and see how well theory translates into reality.
SystemWorks 3.0 installation is much improved from the tedious process required by version 2. No longer are you required to do the time-consuming on-line Live Update process just to complete the initial installation, since SystemWorks 3.0 allows the any required updating to be done at your leisure. All users should do the Live Update, as your CD may no longer be current, but at least you can now use the CD right out of the box.
I chose the default installation for my PowerBook 800, and it proceeded uneventfully. The Installer asks for your Admin password, and creates the needed files and folders in your Applications folder. You’ll find a Norton Solutions folder, and a Norton SystemWorks application, both having attractive icons to catch the eye.

On my PowerMac dual 1.4s GHz machine, I encountered an odd (and rare, according to Symantec Tech support) permissions problem that prevented the installer script from running. The on-line support database discusses an easy fix, which entails adjusting the permissions of the Norton CD itself. If you happens to encounter this “pre-install script will not execute” error when installing, the easy fix is outlined at Symantec’s Web Site.

Starting the SystemWorks application brings up the Launcher, a new feature for version 3. The Launcher is a centralized launch pad for the SystemWorks components, allowing easy access to all of them. For starters, I chose to do an AntiVirus scan on my 40 gig drive.
Don’t plan on a quick initial scan! AntiVirus reported that I had 121,378 files on my drive, and proceeded to scan each one. This took over 40 minutes. Not to worry, this time-consuming full scan need take place only once, as AntiVirus can be set to scan all incoming email attachments, and scan removable hard drives as they are attached. So, once your main drive is clean, any new drive that is mounted will be scanned to prevent a new virus from that drive from infecting your Mac. If you frequently attach the same “known-clean” removable hard drive for backup purposes, you can cancel the scan to save time. It’d be nice if there were some way for AntiVirus to recognize specific drives, such as those used for regular backups; Symantec, are you listening?

Techno-pundits say that Macintoshes don’t really need regular virus scans, as both the Classic Mac OS and the Unix-based Mac OS X are unpopular amongst virus writers. It’s true that there are very few Macintosh-specific viruses, but my AntiVirus scan showed that I had 15 Microsoft Word documents with Word Macro viruses! These files all came via email from work, where the thousands of PC’s are rife with infected Word files. AntiVirus cleaned the infected files, and my Mac was Spic ‘n’ Span clean. One great new improvement is the ability to scan compressed files for viruses. This feature kicked in when I scanned a ZIP’ped Word file, and AntiVirus caught a PC virus in the compressed attachment.

Maintaining proper virus hygiene may keep your mother happy, but disk and file integrity is the real point of owning SystemWorks 3.0. That means UnErase, Disk Doctor, and Volume Recover.


To test UnErase, I duplicated a few files and applications and then trashed them. I then cranked up UnErase, to imitate a user who has emptied the Trash on a critical file or three.

When (not if) you join the ranks of those who have trashed important files, run UnErase right away; your chances of recovering the files will be good. DO NOT WAIT, and don’t do any more work with your Mac, as the chances increase that you will overwrite the recently deep-sixed files, rendering them unsalvageable.
UnErase scanned the ‘Book’s drive, and found 826 files that had been trashed over the past few weeks. Since it allows you to sort the list of found files by name, size, date, and recoverability, it’s not hard to find the files you so desperately need. If the list of found files is too large, UnErase allows you to filter the found list by name, file type, contents, size, etc. I selected the three test files, and recovered them without any trouble. UnErase creates a folder called “Recovered Files” at the main level of your hard drive, and all recovered files are found there. My recovered data files were complete, and the recovered application ran normally.

UnErase has some annoying little habits, however. “Help” is a menu choice, but if you are running off the CD (as you will be to do serious work) the Help viewer doesn’t run when invoked; nothing happens to let you know that Help is not available. This happens when any of the various SystemWorks applications are run from the CD. According to Symantec, Apple’s Help viewer cannot be run when booted from the SystemWorks 3.9 CD, as Apple’s licensing agreement does not let them provide the Help Viewer. Even so, it would be useful for Symantec to put up a dialog box saying, for example, “Help is unavailable when booting from the CD.”

When running UnErase from the CD, the default drive for saving the recovered files is the CD. Obviously, you can’t save files to a CD, and if you fail to notice that (it’s quite easy to do), UnErase simply regurgitates a less-than-helpful error message that “an error occurred” but the only “error” is that you attempted to write to the CD. Nothing was wrong with the recovery operation itself. Experienced Mac users will be able to figure this out, but newbies will be taken aback.

Once you’ve figured out that you need to save your recovered files to someplace other than the CD, you may be surprised to see several cryptically-named temporary volumes (“run” “tmp” and “dp”) shown in the list of available drives. Don’t save to these temporary drives; but don’t expect the documentation to tell you that.
Peccadilloes aside, UnErase did what it set out to do: recover deleted files.

Disk Doctor

I first ran Disk Doctor from the PowerBook itself. It examines partitions, directories, files, and media, all more or less simultaneously. I always skip the Media check, as it is very time-consuming, and true media problems are quite rare.

You’ll get ample warnings to tell you that many errors cannot be fixed unless you boot from the SystemWorks CD. This is because Disk Doctor cannot unmount, or take the boot disk “off-line.” But Disk Doctor is able to do light housecleaning on the boot drive. My scan found a goodly number of files with bad modification dates, folders with custom icons missing, and the like. Unfortunately, Disk Doctor also found cross-linked files, and tartly reported that I must boot from the CD to fix this problem.
Obediently, I booted the PowerBook off the CD. You’ll need the patience of Job (not Jobs) when you boot into the OS X version of the Launcher off the CD. My PowerBook is equipped with a 16x Combo drive, and it took 3 minutes 30 seconds to get to the Launcher screen. (Booting into the OS 9 version was quite a bit faster). Macs with faster CD drives will boot faster.

Don’t be surprised when you don’t see the normal Mac OS X desktop if you boot the OS X version, as Apple’s licensing rules apparently require third parties to boot right into their application, and not boot to the Desktop.

When booted off the CD, Disk Doctor fixed every problem it encountered. A follow-up run showed no errors.
While Disk Doctor is ready for prime-time, it too has plenty of little oddities. The OS 9 version immediately presents a Save dialog box for an Undo file, but there is no accompanying explanation or information about what the undo file is for. Oddly, the OS X version does not allow creation of an Undo file. Why not…?

Disk Doctor allows you to create aliases of damaged files to make locating them easier. Again, when running off the CD, the default location for saving the new aliases is the CD itself. The resulting error message “Norton Disk Doctor was unable to fix the files” is confusing. As previously noted, there was no problem with the alias creation itself; but you can’t save them to a CD.
To be fair, this is only partly Symantec’s fault. Both Mac OS 9 and X defaults to save files on the drive that holds the current application. I suspect it would be hard to patch this. But clear warning text accompanying the dialog box would go far to eliminate confusion as to where to put aliases and Undo files.

Of greater concern was the fact that, on occasion, I ran Disk Doctor only to get numerous serious errors when only hours before I had done a CD-based run where Disk Doctor fixed all errors. While troubleshooting my Disk Doctor session, I noticed information buried in the Read Me file says that, while Disk Doctor will run while in the background, doing -anything- that will change the disk directory may cause phantom errors to appear. It’s not playing fair to change the disk directory once Disk Doctor has begun work; that’s not an unreasonable request. But, Murphy’s Law being what it is, someone who has not read the Read Me (who ever does?) will try to save and delete files when Disk Doctor is doctoring, and they’ll get spurious error messages. Perhaps it would be a good idea to prevent Disk Doctor from being switched to the background. Or, just Disk Doctor should post a dialog box warning the user that false error messages may occur if Disk Doctor is run in the background.

I ran Disk Doctor on 6 different drives using both OS 9 and X. The only compatibility issue arose when I ran Disk Doctor on a WiebeTech DuoGB mechanism that had been formatted as a RAID array using Apple’s OS X Disk Utility. Even when running off the SystemWorks OS X CD partition, Disk Doctor was not able to unmount the drive to complete the repair session. I discussed this (and other issues) at length with Technical Support. It’s worth noting that all the Tech Support people I spoke with were highly knowledgeable. SystemWorks was tested with numerous types of RAID-formatted drives, but not the WiebeTech DuoGB. Symantec plans to obtain a DuoGB for testing. If you have a RAID array, it would be wise to check with Symantec to see if they have tested your hardware and software combination.

Volume Recover

Sometimes Disk Doctor can’t resuscitate the damaged disk, and more powerful juju is needed. SystemWorks 3.0 provides an alternative; Volume Recover. When run off the CD, this application will create a new disk directory, and allow you to preview it. If you are satisfied with the new (NOT rebuilt) directory, Volume Recover will write the new directory to the damaged disk. This ability to recreate the disk directory from scratch is new to version 3. Version 2 could only attempt to -repair- the damage, and many users felt that the repair attempts were often less-than-successful. It’s worth noting that directory recreation from scratch is the approach that Alsoft’s Disk Warrior uses. It’ll be interesting to see how well Symantec has engineered its implementation of disk directory rebuilding. I did not elect to deliberately damage my disk directory, so I can’t comment on how well Volume Recover actually works with a damaged drive. I did run it on my healthy disk, and verified that it created a new directory, which I was able to preview.


This was easy to test! I wiped a recently backed-up 40 gig external FireWire drive, choosing to overwrite the entire disk with “1”‘s. After acknowledging several warnings about how not even Symantec could restore the wiped info, WipeInfo cheerfully wrote 1’s to the entire drive. I did not time the operation. When complete, I nosed around the drive using the Disk Editor X (included as part of the SystemWorks package). As advertised, the drive contained 40 gigabytes of 1’s. Mission accomplished!


Norton SystemWorks 3.0 is a major upgrade, providing impressive OS X compatibility. It’s still the most well-rounded and full-featured collection of disk repair and maintenance utilities in the Macintosh market. The various components work well, although some rough edges show through. In spite of the lack of fine polish, SystemWorks 3 will fix most problems most of the time. Some problems are unfixable by ANY repair application, so stay backed up, and run Disk Doctor to prevent little problems from becoming big problems.

MacMice Rating: 4 out of 5

David Weeks

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