Do You Really Need to Buy Utilities?

SAN FRANCISCO (05/01/2000) - Some sources tell me that I need to buy third-party utilities, like those in Symantec Corp.'s Norton SystemWorks, to replace the ones that come with Windows. But others say I don't. Any thoughts?

James Sauvage, Albuquerque, New Mexico

There are four utilities you absolutely must have to practice safe computing: a defragger, a disk scanner, and backup and antivirus software. Let's look at what Windows and other utility sources offer.

Defraggers: Windows' Disk Defragmenter is just fine for the job, especially in the Windows 98 version. It's not as good as Symantec's Speed Disk, the most popular third-party defragger (Speed Disk comes with Norton Utilities and Norton SystemWorks), but the differences aren't compelling. Speed Disk's main advantage is, well, speed: During my informal tests, Speed Disk defragged a partition in less than a quarter of the time that Windows' own Disk Defragmenter took. But if you start your defrag at the end of the workday, so the operation has the whole night, speed is pretty much irrelevant.

Disk scanners: Symantec's Norton Disk Doctor (also available in Norton Utilities and Norton SystemWorks) has some real advantages over Windows' ScanDisk. The best of these is the Undo feature, which can save your hide if "fixing" a problem only makes things worse. And, once again, it's more than four times as fast. But are the two tools sufficient reason to make you buy Norton Utilities? Not in my opinion.

Backup: Windows Backup leaves a lot to be desired. For one thing, it doesn't support Zip, CD-RW, or many tape drives. However, these drives usually come with their own backup programs, so you probably already have a good one.

Antivirus: This is the one vital utility that Windows doesn't offer at all, and for which, therefore, you need to buy a third-party program. The one I am partial to is Norton AntiVirus, which is also PC World's most recent Best Buy.

You might want other tools, as well. For instance, if you're short on hard drive space or you share files with others, a file compression tool (such as WinZip 7) is very useful. You might also want to consider a good file viewer, like Jasc's Quick View Plus (Windows' own QuickView hardly counts). And then there's my favorite tool, Ontrack's PowerDesk--a strong file manager that also gives you file compression and viewing.

Setting IE's Window Size

Is there a way to make Internet Explorer come up every time as a maximized window?

Mike Edwards, Newhall, California

The short answer is no. But with some understanding of how IE picks its window size, you can get some control.

There are three different ways to launch IE--a shortcut, the desktop icon, or launching to a specific URL. IE behaves differently in each situation when maximizing the window.

IE shortcuts, such as the ones on your Start menu and Quick Launch Toolbar, behave like other shortcuts. To adjust one of them, right-click the shortcut icon and select Properties. Go to the Shortcut tab. For the Run option, select Maximize, then click OK. Now whenever you load IE via that shortcut, the window will be maximized.

The Internet Explorer icon on your desktop, however, isn't a standard shortcut; it has no maximize option. Luckily, this icon remembers the condition of the window from the last time you used the browser. So if you exit IE after maximizing its window during a session, it'll open in the same mode next time you launch it.

The real problem comes from launching via a URL. This includes selecting an option from the Start*Favorites menu, typing a URL at the Start*Run prompt, right-clicking a link and selecting Open in a New Window, or even clicking a URL in an e-mail message. Unfortunately, IE never comes up maximized in this situation. But IE remembers the size of the window the last time you exited the browser (as long as it wasn't maximized). So if you resize that standard window to be as big as possible, and then exit and relaunch Internet Explorer, the size will hold.

Those Old-Fashioned Menus

In Windows 95, the items in the Start menu and its submenus were always alphabetized, and Win 95 could expand a long menu into multiple columns. But Windows 98 forces you to scroll. Is there a way to make the Win 98 Start menu behave like the one in Win 95?

Lowell Shearer, Alexandria, Virginia

There are fixes, but they require Internet Explorer 5 (go to Start*Windows Update). Once you have IE 5 installed, to alphabetize any Start submenu right-click the submenu and select Sort by Name.

Making long menus display in multiple columns is tougher. In fact, it requires editing the Registry. Before you do this, see "Protect Yourself Against Catastrophic Installs" (May Answer Line, for instructions on backing up the Registry.

Once your Registry is safely backed up, select Start*Run, type Regedit, and press . In the Registry Editor, navigate the left pane, as you would in Windows Explorer, to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced.

Once there, right-click a blank spot in the right-hand pane and select New*String Value. Name your new value StartMenuScrollPrograms. Press once to save the name and again to bring up the Edit String dialog box. In that box's 'Value data' field, type false. Press , then close the Registry Editor and reboot.

For more on Win 95's multiple-column menus, see this month's Windows Tips.

The Best File System

I'm running Windows 2000. Should I set up my hard drive for NTFS or FAT32?

Jim Dixon, Little Rock, Arkansas

Windows 2000 gives you a choice between the NT File System and FAT32--two file systems that can handle multigigabyte drives efficiently. It also offers the old FAT16 system, which doesn't do well on drives bigger than a gigabyte.

The major issue is backward compatibility. NTFS is fine if you want to dual-boot between Win 2000 and an earlier version of NT, while FAT32 will work if you boot from Windows 98 or Windows 95B (but not the original Win 95). FAT16 will work with just about any operating system you can run on your hardware.

If you want to take advantage of Win 2000 features like file encryption and compression, you'll have to use NTFS. But an NTFS-formatted drive will probably be a bit slower than a FAT32 unit, because it must track disk usage in order to provide those extra features. For more information, see Figure 3 below.

For more tips, see Send your questions to We pay $50 for published items. Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector writes and performs computer humor. His column Gigglebytes appears in 13 publications.

Norton AntiVirus

List price: $39

Norton SystemWorks

List price: $59

Norton Utilities

List price: $50; Symantec; 800/441-7234; Info No. 606PowerDesk 4 ProList price: $20; Ontrack; 800/752-1333; www.mijenix.comProduct Info No. 607Quick View PlusList price: $59; Jasc Software; 800/622-2793; www.jasc.comProduct Info No. 608WinZipList price: $29; Nico Mak Computing; www.winzip.comProduct Info No. 609Quick E-MailKarli Williams of San Francisco suggested a simple way to create and address a new Microsoft Outlook or Outlook Express e-mail message, even when the program isn't running. Simply select Start*Run and type mailto: plus the e-mail address of your recipient, and then press . You can do the same thing within your browser's URL field. For instance, to reach me, just type You can also enter mailto: by itself to bring up a new message box with a blank address field.

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