I've been a Norton Utilities fan ever since I started fiddling with computers. Now I've found something better.
The Fix-It Utilities 99 suite from Mijenix Corp. is easy to use, powerful and, in all my tests, highly reliable. It runs just fine under Microsoft Windows 95, 98 and NT. Most other suites require separate versions for Windows NT.
One of Windows' greatest annoyances has been that its registry, essentially a list of the software contents of a computer, does not accurately reflect program removal. After a few months' use, the registry file balloons with links to programs that no longer exist. A messed-up registry is almost a sure-fire way to slow or cripple a system.
Utilities to fix the Windows NT registry generally fall far short of needs. When I have tested registry fixer-upper components of other products, my test system has sometimes crashed.
For this review, my test system was about a year old, and its meticulous user--me--had manually cleaned the registry so well that I wondered whether Fix-It could find anything wrong.
The utility took about a minute to scan the registry file. When the dust settled, Fix-It had located an astonishing 447 invalid entries. It found entries pointing to programs that had long since been uninstalled, but I was more impressed by its ability to locate entries for programs that had been upgraded yet still had pointers to old locations.
Most of the time, Fix-It found the new locations of programs that had been upgraded. It did not automatically rewrite the registry but instead flagged the moved files so I could approve each change.
Under Windows 98, I tested another suite component that often causes trouble: the crash protection utility. Instead of avoiding crashes, such Windows 98 utilities often cause extra grief. But the Fix-It crash protection utility worked, managing to stop several crashes that I induced.
If you are skeptical about turning such a suite of utilities loose, don't be. Fix-It can be customized. Unlike suites that throw everything onto the hard drive during installation, Fix-It's interface lets you choose if, and when, to install various components.
The suite also has a virus scanner, a hardware diagnostics tool and an error scanner for potential year 2000 glitches. But Fix-It gives only one year of virus updates for free. After that you must pay to continue receiving new virus profiles.
The interface is one of the best I have seen in a utility suite. The menus briefly describe what each program does in a logical way. Users who have little experience with system utilities will be comfortable with the level of hand-holding, and veterans will not feel they are being treated like idiots.
I did encounter a few problems with the suite, however. Performance was noticeably slow with the disk-defragmentation tool, which groups file fragments together so the drive head does not have to travel as far to reach them.
Other defrag utilities typically take a few hours on large drives. But Fix-It required days for a 4-gigabyte drive in a machine running Windows NT.
I started the defragging in early afternoon, and it was still not done by quitting time. So I left the machine running. Come the next day, it was only 54 percent finished after running almost 24 hours. The small speed boost achieved by defragging is not worth going computerless for so long. I had similar results running Fix-It on other computers.
But taken as a whole, this is the best utility suite I have seen. It beats its main competitors hands down with a simple interface and solid programming. New utility suites have a hard time breaking into the market, but I suspect that once users try Fix-It, they'll be hooked.
Fix-It Utilities 99
Mijenix Corp., Boulder. Colo.
Web address: www. mijenix.com
+ Registry fixer program especially good
+ Excellent user interface
- Performance problems with disk defragmentation tool
Report card grade: A -
Real-life requirements: Windows 95, 98 or NT, 8 megabytes memory for Windows 95 and 98 or 16 megabytes for Windows NT, 20 megabytes of storage space on hard disk.