Norton Utilities has been around for years – some and some consider them legendary, similar to Norton Commander. The special feature of Norton Utilities: In the broadest sense, they are a relative and successor of the formerly popular but discontinued TuneUp Utilities. The large antivirus company NortonLifeLock, which is behind Norton Utilities, was on a shopping spree: it absorbed the antivirus competitors Avira and Avast. The brands BullGuard (joined Avira) and AVG (belongs to Avast) now belong to the group. The portfolio includes tuning products, including CCleaner (whose provider Piriform was taken over by Avast) and AVG TuneUp, which was formerly called AVG PC TuneUp (inherits the non-subscription solution TuneUp Utilities) and which is now only available as a subscription. Avast is at least one of NortonLifeLock, if the stock exchange regulator still approves.
The Norton Utilities are also the successors to PC Tools’ Registry Mechanic, a powerful, discontinued registry cleaner. Anyone who visits pctools.com today will land on the Norton website (security software).
With Norton Utilities, little is possible without depositing payment data. So we couldn’t find a way to download a free trial version. The application is available as an annual subscription for 39.99 euros. So that interested parties don’t buy a pig in a poke, we have subscribed to the most expensive version of Norton Utilities and immediately canceled it: Norton Utilities Ultimate for 39.99 euros (discounted), the regular price of 69.99 euros.
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An excellent alternative: Ashampoo WinOptimizer 18
You get a good alternative to Norton Utilities with the Ashampoo WinOptimizer 18. It costs 49.99 euros – you can get it free of charge exclusively in our download area. Functionally, the application is more pompous than the Norton solution, you are spared a confusing subscription model. Norton LifeLock, however, writes that the Norton Utilities “price quoted today … for the first term of your subscription” applies. “The monthly or annual renewal price applicable to your subscription will then be billed … This price is subject to change.”
Download: Ashampoo WinOptimizer 18 – Download the free full version
In terms of “recommendations”, the dashboard complained: “There are 1 unnecessary or dangerous startup programs on your computer” and “There are 44 potentially unwanted startup programs on your computer”. The exact data garbage content (Windows and browser, see paragraph above) as well as which programs should be unnecessary, dangerous and undesirable is not apparent. Furthermore, the buttons for optimization are not used until you click on “Activate now” and after inserting the serial key you received during the purchase process, this changes. It is not clear which browsers the garbage data comes from. The surface of the Norton Suite is again modern with its design and coloring. It is anachronistic that temporary files of the Flash Player can be deleted; the Flash Player has been EOL since the beginning of 2020 (E.nd-Of-L.ife, no longer available for download and no more updates). Even removable Silverlight temp files do not show that the EOL of Microsoft’s alternative to Adobe’s Flash has already been completed, which is not a state-of-the-art tuning tool. The freeware PrivaZer tidies up more broadly.
Usable startup / services manager
The Autostart Manager from Norton provides a bit of a salvation of honor: It allows deactivating and even delaying (!) Windows co-starter programs, which are usually the largest software-based braking source. In the “Startup Optimizer” we did not succeed in moving the call of “CCleaner Update” into the future when we tried to delay the first time; an error message put us off. The delay only works with system services, but not with conventional autostarts. Why is the delay button then also available for autostarts? The autostart entries have ratings in the Norton system tuner, unfortunately it is not clear on which database they are based. The autostart manager in Ashampoo WinOptimizer 19 is a bit more convincing. Its “Boot Center” module shows a start delay evaluation including milliseconds for programs.
With regard to the Norton Utilities wording “unnecessary or dangerous start program” we state: big words, little behind them. Norton made no move to complain about this misconfiguration on our test system, which was screwed up with three (!) Antivirus tools from Avira, Avast and AVG. A small usability problem is that the Norton Utilities window cannot be scaled to half the screen space with the Windows 7+ hotkey Win-Left or Win-Right or with a mouse gesture. That would be helpful sometimes – but it is also not possible with many other system tuners, as they do not accommodate their surface in the original Windows window design.
More speed: the best tuning tools
Registry cleaner, HDD / RAM defrag & Co.
The “process scanner” checks the RAM for active programs “which are unnecessarily consuming system resources”. The scan took a disproportionately long time in the test. Windows Task Manager is preferable. Norton’s own registry cleaner is not really convincing either: It identified a handful of superfluous registry entries, similar to the CCleaner. When Norton cleared the ballast, CCleaner was still discovering more than 150 ballast entries. If you want to clean up the Windows registry database thoroughly, you will be better off with the CCleaner and, if need be, you will receive a supplementary tool with the Norton Utilities. When we uninstalled Schmutzfink IZArc, CCleaner discovered 79 new useless registry content; Norton only came up with one (!) Entry.
The “NetBooster” in Norton is interesting: Here you specify whether you are using “LAN, cable, DSL, satellite, ISDN, T1, wireless or other high-speed connection”, “Cable, DSL, satellite or wireless with PPPoE” or via 56 kbps modem (!) Go online. This is followed by optimization with regard to parameters such as MTU and DNS. More speed and stability are promised when using the Internet, the effect is likely to fizzle out in practice. It is positive that Norton implements its own defragmenter for hard disks instead of just integrating a call link to the Windows on-board tool. Unfortunately, SSDs cannot be trimmed; At least Norton doesn’t defragment them. The Norton Utilities Defragmenter has no algorithms to choose from and did not display a progress bar, but it completely eliminated our 18 percent USB NTFS HDD fragmentation. Sometimes it did not recognize existing fragmentation and did not bring order to the file system. We were positively surprised by the RAM defragmenter: Unlike usual in the genre, it did not temporarily increase RAM consumption, but instead reduced it immediately. At the beginning 4.9 of 8 gigabytes of RAM were occupied, at the end only 2.1 gigabytes.
The “File Shredder” is an innovative interpretation of a file deletion tool. Using the context menu of your files, you can either delete them directly or move them to a separate Norton recycle bin. There it goes to the collar of Files with the help of an empty button. With “Automatic Care” an automatic PC maintenance is included in the package, we did not find a registry defragmenter (also useful for SSDs).
A data rescuer with optional scan at sector level is integrated, and it evaluates the file status in English.
The “Real-Time-Boost” module is interesting, but not transparent: It combines “CPU Optimizer”, “RAM Releaser”, “Fast Write” and “Power Optimizer”. Exact explanations of what the functions do are missing. “Fast Write”, for example, is supposed to provide real-time file compression, but it may increase the Windows start-up time when it is first booted after activation. The feature “increases overall system performance by minimizing random writing of file data to hard drives and SSDs and largely eliminates the need for traditional defragmentation”.
Conclusion: Norton Utilities in the test
The Norton Utilities are mediocre and offer too little for just under 40 euros. The highlight is the “Recycle Bin 2.0” for secure file deletion. Freeware like Glary Utilities is visually less fluffy, but in terms of performance it is on a similar level. If the Norton solution were free, our judgment would be different. The better buy is Ashampoo’s WinOptimizer 19, which has more depth. As with Norton, you acquire the right to use the optimization software on up to ten PCs. If you want to save, you can use the exclusive free full version Ashampoo WinOptimizer 18.