Norton Utilities (“NU”) includes three tools in its “optimize performance” bucket: Speed Disk, Optimization Wizard, and Speed Start. I can cover Speed Start in one sentence: it’s great for Windows 95 users but similar technology for optimized application start-up has been built into the operating system since Windows 98 was released.
(Note: Speed Disk is Windows 2000 compatible, Optimization Wizard is not.)
Speed Disk does what you might imagine: it reorganizes data on your hard disk to improve its performance. You can customize a wide variety of settings. You can perform a full optimization (default), unfragment files only, or unfragment free space only; optimize your swap file (default); verify writes (default is OFF; if turned on this takes a very long time, but can be helpful with an old or suspect drive where you really want to be sure about the integrity of the writes); and even wipe free space with all zeros. You can customize the way Speed Disk arranges material on your drive: files to place first, files to place last, files to place at the end of the disk, optimize files by access and modification dates, place folders first, sort folder entries, files that should not be moved. In a recent test a full optimization with all Speed Disk defaults set took 33 minutes (performed on a PIII/450’s 2.95 GB Win98 SE partition).
Hot tip: looking for Speed Disk’s indicator of how far along it is in its duties? It’s not easy to find. It’s tucked away as a percentage that updates in the dialog’s caption (title bar). I would have put it in the bottom area of the dialog where the elapsed time and progress meter are.
Optimization Wizard performs two chores (you choose which, if any, you want done). The Swap File Optimization option sets what it thinks is an efficient swap file minimum size and moves the swap file to the fastest drive on your PC. (Norton will first ask you if you want it to benchmark the drives on your system to see which is actually fastest.) Personally, I’m not a big “swap file optimization” fan and so don’t use this feature. If you look at my systems you’ll find that they are set to the Windows default: right-click on My Computer, select Properties, click the Performance tab, click the Virtual Memory button, and the “Let Windows manage my virtual memory settings” option is checked. If you’ve got some cool swap file tips that have worked wonders for you, I’d like to hear about them.
The Wizard’s Registry Files Optimization option efficiently reorganizes your Registry data, thereby increasing how quickly Windows and applications can interact with your Registry.
I have some additional information about NU for which there isn’t room here. For example, a table showing each individual tool’s name (19 in all), its category (find/fix problems, system maintenance, etc.), direct links to the TNPC article that reviewed each tool, and a Yes/No column for Windows 2000 compatibility.