I bought Norton Utilities using a gift voucher. There’s now a PC World within a fifteen minute drive from me. It goes over two floors but I didn’t really see much there. I was disappointed about the range they had in the shop.

Norton Utilities was cheap and can be installed on three PCs. But it’s not the Norton Utilities I remember using years and years ago. To be honest there aren’t any actual utilities in this version. It’s basically a registry cleaner, system monitor and other such banalities; the sort of thing you can get for nothing on the Internet. I’ll admit a lot of the utilities from the old version that I used – and used quite regularly – were DOS based but there were some useful ones which could have enhanced the package by being transferred to the Windows version. It also required online activation. Not the best of things in my book. The online world has a tendency to change, and I’ve already ‘lost’ two programs because they were online activation and the companies are now gone. At least with a serial number alone if the company does disappear from the world you still have the software and the number and can continue to use the product. I’m not sure if I’m going to install Norton utilities on the other laptop. I’ll wait and see.

The second Norton involves the fact that over the past week I have again been trying, here and there, to see if I can restore a Norton Ghost backup. It was a resounding success with a capital suck. I don’t know why I bother, and several times I’ve said I won’t bother again but there’s always something that comes along and gives you hope, whispering in the back of your mind it might work this time.

This time I was trying to restore the backup to a Vista virtual PC. A big problem was that I could only allocate half a gig of memory to Vista on the Virtual PC, and that means it is slooooowww. It would take up to twenty minutes just for Vista to get fully loaded and settled. Another big problem was that it was Vista installed from a disc, meaning Vista without any updates or bug fixes; plain (dumb) vanilla Vista.

Then the Norton Ghost disc wouldn’t read properly, which wasted further periods of time. I finally copied the whole disc onto the hard drive and made that a virtual drive for Vista to access when it started up.

Ghost still wouldn’t play ball. There was some error about destination when I tried to restore the back up, and any time I tried to restore individual folders I got an error about the back up being invalid, which sets off dim and distant memories. I took a note of the error number but it doesn’t even appear on the Internet. There is always the possibility that it is but I don’t think the backup is corrupt. Ghost can open it and view files, it’s just when I try to restore it to anywhere that the program complains.

I could see it being error prone if it was written to a CD or DVD – that’s what happened when I lost my hard drive a few years back, corrupt DVD, backup useless – but this back up from day one was written to an external USB drive, which is more or less a normal hard drive.

Norton Ghost used to be such a great program. The DOS version was flawless. The version I have, Version 14, is nothing but flaws. I got a loan of an earlier version of Ghost, version 9, to see if that made any difference. 2004 it came out; it’s six years old. Dear me. The good thing about version 9 is that it comes with DOS versions. The bad thing about DOS versions is that Vista spits on them with contempt. Dos is totally gone in Vista, and the file system is NTFS, DOS is FAT32 at best. So I uninstalled version 14 from the Vista Virtual PC and installed version 9 on the Virtual PC.

On install I’m informed that Ghost 9 has known compatibility issues. So it’s install and reboot. Ghost wouldn’t even start up as Net framework is required so install – no reboot! But I don’t have permissions to run the damn program. First thing is to turn off User Access thingy then reboot. Now it’s working fine. All I have to do is… enter registration number for Ghost and reboot. Bugger. On reboot I get ‘the data necessary to complete this operation is not yet available’. The problem seems to be that Ghost 9 can’t access or see Virtual PC drives. When I try a backup it can’t find any drives. Virtual PC turned off in disgust.