Norton SystemWorks 2003

  • Editors' rating
    7.4 Very good
  • $69.95


  • Excellent set of hard drive utilities
  • many user-configurable options
  • easy-to-navigate interface.


  • Problems removing previous SystemWorks versions
  • erratically effective in-product help system
  • only one new, minor feature.

SystemWorks 2003 is the heir to a package of Norton utilities that dates back to the PC's DOS-based days in the mid-1980s. This suite has always been a classy, do-it-all, Swiss-Army-knife-like program, bundling a powerful disk defragmenter, an automated PC diagnosis and repair utility and, more recently, Norton AntiVirus. If you rely solely on Windows' own utilities, such as ScanDisk, to accomplish these tasks for you, it's time to invest in your PC's future. No matter what version of Windows you use, you'll find Norton SystemWorks 2003's powerful extra features indispensable, and the suite will soon pay for itself -- it costs around £50 (ex. VAT). But if you already own SystemWorks 2002 or even SystemWorks 2001, don't bother upgrading: the improvements in this version are purely cosmetic.

When we installed SystemWorks 2003 afresh, it worked without a hitch. However, we sometimes encountered difficulties when we installed the suite over previous releases. Before SystemWorks 2003 will install, it first attempts to remove earlier product versions -- in our tests, the program occasionally failed to do so. When that happened, the program advised us to run SymClean, and we had to find an executable file under the Support > SymClean subdirectory on the SystemWorks disc itself. Norton should automate this process. And for us, SymClean did not always remove the previous SystemWorks versions. In one test, it took three tries and several system reboots (SymClean requires a reboot each time) to finish its work. Each attempt was successful, but dealt with only one part of SystemWorks 2002's main modules.

Once installed, SystemWorks 2003 looks exactly like SystemWorks 2002 and is extremely easy to configure. The default configuration installs all modules and activates all of Norton's resident programs: Registry Tracker, System Doctor, and Antivirus Auto-Protect, to name a few. The Custom option, on the other hand, lets you select which modules to install.

There is one new feature, Connection Keep Alive, which sends packets across a dial-up Internet connection at a default rate of roughly one per minute or any number of minutes you choose. Although not as sophisticated as InKline Global’s Stay Connected, Connection Keep Alive does prevent disconnection when you're not actively online and can be configured to connect to any address you choose.

Other than that, there are no significant differences between SystemWorks 2003 and its immediate predecessors. Three of the program's main utilities are still present: Utilities, AntiVirus and CleanSweep. And the new Web Tools main program module simply regroups several former CleanSweep features.

Despite SystemWorks' lack of real updates, we still find many of its packaged utilities compelling. Disk Doctor is a safe and effective tool for the diagnosis and repair of a variety of file-related problems, such as bad clusters. WinDoctor, in turn, examines and repairs a host of Windows problems that show up in the Registry, including invalid entries and shortcuts. Other SystemWorks modules, however, are much less interesting, and some have long since outlived their usefulness. For example, take Rescue, which boots your system into DOS using data you have previously saved to multiple floppy disks; it doesn't offer you the option to record a CD. Still, many of these tools help when you want to remove cookies, get system information or edit your Registry.

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To put this suite to the test, we ran Norton SystemWorks 2003 on a PC with a 1.3GHz Pentium 4 processor and 256MB of RAM, with a dual partition set up to run Windows 98 and XP Professional. We repeatedly rebooted Windows while applications were open, added false Registry entries, misdirected program shortcuts for targeted executables, and installed and uninstalled software to produce a heavily fragmented 40GB hard drive. Throughout our tests, SystemWorks 2003 successfully sensed errors and diligently performed repairs.

SystemWorks 2003's help system is fairly comprehensive for basic advice, but sparse at higher technical levels. For example, the WinDoctor help page has only general information and nothing to explain the specific scans that the program uses. Although this omission is mostly just annoying, it makes you wonder why Symantec allows you to select which tests to run if you don't know their functions. Symantec's online support site offers help for standard problems with each of the company's products.

If you already have SystemWorks 2002, there isn't enough new in version 2003 to make the upgrade worthwhile. But if you don't have this utility suite on your computer, or you rely on Windows' native applications to tune and repair your PC, this is must-have software. It remains an excellent collection of well-honed utilities that will keep your computer in optimal condition.


Packaged Quantity 1
Category utilities
Subcategory utilities - utilities suite
Package Type retail
Distribution Media CD-ROM
Subcategory utilities - utilities suite
Category utilities
License Type box pack
License Category shrinkwrap
System Requirements
Min RAM Size 128 MB
Min Hard Drive Space 150 MB
OS Required Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional, Microsoft Windows 98, Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition, Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition, Microsoft Windows XP Professional
OS Family Windows
Additional Requirements CD-ROM
Min Processor Speed 233 MHz
Min Processor Type Intel Pentium
Brand Symantec
Product Line Norton SystemWorks
Model 2003
Packaged Quantity 1
Compatibility PC
System Requirements Details
Min Operating System Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional, Microsoft Windows 98/ME, Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition, Microsoft Windows XP Professional
Min RAM Size 128 MB, 32 MB, 64 MB
Min Hard Drive Space 150 MB

Where To Buy


Where To Buy

Norton SystemWorks 2003

Part Number: 10025223