Norton Utilities Version 3.0
by Lawrence M. Rudner
Copyright (c) 1985, Capital PC User Group Inc.
This material may be republished only for internal use
by other not-for-profit user groups.
Published in the December 1985 issue of the Capital PC Monitor.
When our Director of MIS asked what software was needed, the
latest version of Norton Utilities immediately came to mind. I
had been using the older version of the Utilities to restore
lost, wiped-out, scrambled and erased files. While I could help
others, I had been harboring a secret fear. I could restore
files lost on floppy disks, but I could not restore files lost on
either of my machines -- an IBM-PC with a Maynard 10 megabyte
hard disk in the office, or a Leading Edge with a 20 megabyte
hard disk at home. In a letter to one of the computer magazines,
Norton claimed that he had mended his ways to produce a faster,
more compatible set of utilities. This new version appeared to
be just what the doctor had ordered.
Needless to say, when the utilities disk arrived, I immediately
did a DIR to list the files. I noted Norton's cryptic filenames:
DS, DT, NU, SA, SI and others. I also noted the small file
sizes. The entire set of utilities uses less than 140K. The
documentation states that the utilities require at least 128K and
will work on most MS-DOS 2.0+ systems.
The utilities provide 4 classes of functions
1) File and sector examination, alteration and restoration;
2) Hard disk management;
3) Data security;
4) Miscellaneous services.
The first category was my primary interest. I've seen numerous
people reduced to tears because they erased a file, Wordstar gave
them the dreaded "disk-full" abort, or they simply found their
data scrambled due to improper disk inserts. Bad enough when a
proposal for funding representing weeks of work is lost 4 days
before the submission deadline. It is absolutely frightening
when a friend from the Office of Management and Budget calls to
say the machine ate the new budget of an entire agency.
FILE AND SECTOR EXAMINATION, MANIPULATION AND RESTORATION
Data restoration is not restricted to the sorcery of David
Copperfield, Peter Norton and particular institutional computer
magicians. Most people don't realize that when they DEL or ERASE
a file, they are only changing the portion of the disk that keeps
track of the files. The contents of the erased files are not
completely changed, just the pointers used to locate the sectors.
the command DEL simply frees up areas so they can be used by
If the files have not been written over, restoration is as simple
as restoring the first pointer. Norton makes that task
unbelievably, and yes, magically simple. The mainstay of the
utilities, the NU program, provides a variety of tools to
examine, alter and restore data on both floppy and hard disks.
The first menu of the NU program provides three options.
Function keys or numbers are used to step through the menus. The
ESC key backs up one step at a time.
To restore a recently erased file, one selects a file by pressing
either the F# key or the number 3 and then the [email protected] key or the
number 2 key. A list of erased files then appears with the first
character of the filename replaced by a ?. The ? marks the file
as erased. One then uses the cursor keys to pick the file to be
restored and picks a character to replace the ?. Restoration is
almost done. NU will help one pick the right sectors. Files
that have not been written over can be restored automatically.
In some cases, parts of the file that have been written over can
also be restored. NU contains an option permitting sector level,
as opposed to file level, examination. Disks and diskettes are
organized in terms of sides, tracks on a side, sectors within
tracks and bytes with sectors. In the cases of DSDD IBM-PC DOS
2.x formatted diskettes, there are 2 sides, 40 tracks per side, 9
sectors per track and 512 bytes per sector. NU permits
examination of any sector and deciding whether to append that
sector to a file.
In restoring the lost proposal, we went through the diskette,
examining sectors suggested by NU. Each time a sector that
vaguely resembled something from the lost manuscript appeared, we
appended it. As a result, all back-up, and all versions of the
manuscript remaining on the diskette were joined in one large
file. We then simply cut and pasted the manuscript back to near
original form. NU gave us material to with which to work.
It should be noted that sector level restoration on a database,
spreadsheet, and an executable file is unlikely. These programs
either put special codes at the beginning of the files or require
completely contiguous code. If part of the file has been written
over, there is usually little one can do. We have noted that
restoration is usually easier under DOS 3.x. While DOS 2.x will
write to the next available sector, DOS 3.x first to write to
previously unused sectors. As a result, under DOS 3.x, files are
not written over as quickly.
In addition to sector level examination, NU permits sector level
alteration. Again through clear menus, NU routes you to as
display of the data in a given sector. Data can be displayed in
either the Hex-ASCII format of DEBUG or in straight text format.
One can modify the bytes within a sector by entering the desired
hex character or, after tabbing to the ASCII section, by entering
the desired ASCII character. Those who have used DEBUG will
readily testify that the ASCII input option is a great boon to
Within 15 minutes of having Norton's Utilities, I made two
changes in files. I first modified the hidden file MSBIO.COM to
say "Larry's Personal Computer" rather than "Leading Edge
Personal Computer". On a more practical level, I then changed
"Do you want to format another (Y/N)?" in FORMAT.COM to beep
rather than display the question mark. Using NU, I replaced the
? with hex 07. With the ease of NU, I expect to abandon DEBUG
for editing most compiled programs.
While the utilities are justified on the basis of providing
needed enhancements and tools, NU contains one frivolous,
although fascinating, option. NU can display a host of technical
information about the selected disk. Sector-size, number of
sectors, cluster size and the number of possible files are
provided. I was particularly fascinated by cluster-size, the
number of bytes used by DOS to store sections of files. With a
SSDD diskette, cluster size is 512 bytes. Files are stored in
multiples of 512, regardless of the actual file size. Thus, my
file used to put the Epson printer into quasi letter quality
mode, which consists of 3 bytes, has 512 bytes of allocated disk
space. The unused 509 bytes are called overhead.
Cluster size increases with disk size. DSDD DOS formatted
diskettes have a cluster size of 1024 bytes. A 10 megabyte hard
disk under DOS 2.x has a cluster size of 4096 bytes. A 20
megabyte hard disk, under DOS 2.x has a totally unacceptable
cluster size of 8192 bytes. That same 3 byte file was taking up
8K of storage on my 20 megabyte system. Some overhead is
necessary. There are limits, however, to one's tolerance.
Initially, I swore at Microsoft for designing DOS this way.
Later, I calmed down and reasoned it out. Only a limited number
of sectors can be allocated for the file directories. This in
turn, poses limitations in the maximum number of files and
consequently, cluster sizes. The way around the limitation is to
use DOS 3.0 or to partition the one physical 20 megabyte hard
disk into two logical 10 megabyte partitions.
NU program sets a standard for software developers. The menus
are informative, uncluttered, easy to use, and aesthically
pleasing. The program is exceptionally fast and escape routes
are provided. If you don't like where you are, a series of
ESCapes brings you back, one menu at a time. The file
restoration utility alone fully justifies the price -- assuming
staff time has any value.
This is not to say Peter Norton, with his famous folded arm,s,
whom I have thanked so many times, has written the perfect
program. There is a harmless bug in NU. Because it is
innocuous, immaterial, and definately won't hurt any data, I
won't be specific. For the curious, however, I will say it is on
one of the NU menus, sometimes.
HARD DISK MANAGEMENT
In addition to the NU program, Norton provides a host of
utilities to make one's life before the tube a bit more pleasant.
There are 8 short programs each performing a specific hard disk
management task. In some cases they do something better than
IBM, in other cases they add functions that truly simplify work.
Like most hard disk users, I have organized mine into numerous
directories and subdirectories. This nice, neat organization,
however, has its limityations and drawbacks. Norton's "hard disk
helpers" help me overcome these limitations.
I fine the FF utility most helpful. FF is Nortonese for
FileFind. The program searches for a specified file on a disk
with directories, subdirectories and subsubdirectories. FF saves
time when looking for a particular file. It is similar to the
public domain program WHEREIS. It does, however, take up less
space and run much quicker. The file name might cause a problem
if used in conjunction with IBM File Facility program.
In addition to forgetting where I put a particular file, I
frequently forget how I have named and organized my directories.
DIR *. can be used to list my directories. IBM's TREE can be
used to show the organization, but it uses too much blank space,
produces ugly output, and rapidly runs off the screen. The
public domain program TREEDIR is a vast improvement. Norton's
LD, ListDirectory,. provides the same function as TREEDIR.
Typically Norton, however, it goes one step further by providing
a few switches -- /W uses a wide display format, /P pauses when
the screen is full.
The files within a directory are usually in a somewhat
chronological order with the most recent files listed last.
Norton provides a utility, DS for DirectorySort, to sort the
names of the files within a directory by filename, extension,
date, time, size of a combination of these characteristics.
Sorted directories show a degree of above average control over's
one computer in addition to making it easier to see what one has.
The January 1985 release of this program add subdirectory sort
The FS, for FileSize, is another interesting utility. I don't
know how many times I've tried subtracting the DIR "disk space
free" amount from 360,000 in efforts to determine the sum of the
files on a diskette. FS does this directly for me. The global
characters, "*" and "?" are permitted. A particularly attractive
feature is the specification of the destination diskette. FS
will determine if you can transfer the specified files to where
you want them. If there is sufficient room, FS will tell you.
Those who use their hard disk mainly to store manuscripts,
correspondence and other written material will appreciate
Norton's TS, TextSearch, utility. The program will search the
entire disk, groups of files, or "erased" file space for the
specified text. The utility is of great help to those of us
getting older and unable to remember where and when we said
TS displays filenames as they are being searched. I was
absolutely amazed by the speed. I once tried the DOS FIND filter
and gave up. I was waiting forever for it to do its job. The
speed of TS makes mew willing to search files again. It also
makes me want to carefully examine the language in which TS was
written -- namely C. It was that impressive.
When I restore someone's file and chide them for not making back-
up every 10 minutes, I turn to my olwn mess and do a bit of
cleaning up. I am always running out of space on my 10 megabyte
hard disk. I go into the subdirectories and routinely delete
files left by my co-workers and programs no one uses.
With a cavalier attitude, I now go into a sub directory, do a DEL
*.* and answer "Y" to "Are you sure (Y/N)?". Normally this would
wipe out all the files, good and bad within the subdirectory.
Norton's FA, FileAttribute, facility permits me to mark files as
Read Only. As Read Only files, they cannot be deleted. I find
this program to be absolutely essential to protect me from my
self and from my co-workers. Frankly, I am surprised that
Microsoft did not provide such a utility to protect and unprotect
Remember to discussion on deleting or erasing files. Using NU,
it is easy to examine disk sectors and what people thought was
erased. This is good if you are trying to restore lost data.
This is horrible if you are trying to keep your resume or the
President's budget a secret.
For our OMB, FBI and other security conscious friends, Norton
provides two destroy utilities. WipeDisk will overwrite an
entire diskette with blanks. WipeFile will overwrite and entire
file with blanks. In the process, these programs will thoroughly
destroy confidential data. David's magic won't be able to help.
In addition to NU, the hard disk helpers and the data security
programs, Norton provides programs to make your printer and
screen behave and to teach you about the system. I have been
generally unhappy with print programs for desktop computers.
they don't format the text well and are difficult to use. While
text editors sometimes have adequate built in routes, there are
m,any times when I wish wish to print tables, program source code
and program output without loading and running my word processor.
Copying files to the printer using COPY filename.ext PRN does not
permit any text formatting. Lines are types at the page crease,
I must start at page one, I must single space, and I can't use
line numbers. This is not satisfactory.
Norton's LP, LinePrint, program permits 16 types of formatting.
Top and bottom margins, page length, and page width can be
specified. Norton even included a switch to permit normal or
compressed mode for Epson-type printers. In conjunction with a
print spooler, LP permits happy printing. I must say, however, I
was a bit disappointed that Norton did not include a switch to
initialize quasi-letter quality mode. If he did, I would not
need my 3 byte file and its overhead.
The screen is another area Norton simplies. There is an
excellent public domain program entitled KOLOR which allows the
user to specify foreground, background and border colors on a
properly equiped PC. Its sole limitation is that the colors are
specified in computer terms like 0,1,2,A and F as opposed to
English terms like black, blue, and red. Nortons SA,
ScreenAttribute, program allows the user to use English and not
have to try to remember the right numbers. Usage is as simple as
SA BRIGHT YELLOW ON BLUE.
Norton's contribution to education is his SI, SystemInformation,
program. This utility lists characteristics of the computer
including type of machine, number of drives, amount of memory,
operating systems and BIOS marker. Norton also created a clever
"computer performance index" of the computer's power relative to
the IBM-PC. An IBM-PC and a Columbia each have a performance
index of 1.0. My Leading Edge, with its faster clock, has an
index of 1.5. The IBM-PC AT, with is faster clock, 16 bit bus,
and super CPU reports in at 6.3.
No office should be without Norton's NU program. There will be
times, due to human or machine error, that something will be
erased. NU can effectively help in efforts to restore that
Norton's hard disk helpers simply make life more bearable for
people with hard disks. Being human, we forget. Norton's
programs help us find some of those things we forget. While many
of the programs have public domain counterparts, they are nice
added features to Norton's Utilities. Alone, they do not justify
the purchase, but they are nice icing on the cake.
No matter how much experience one has with machines, easy to use
programs are a please. I no longer have the patience to spend
time learning the latest programs. With its ease of use, the
Norton Utilities set a high standard for software developers.
You do not need to spend hours with either the program or the
manual. The programs are clear and straight forward.
This is not to say you do not need the manual or that it is a
poor document. Quite the contrary, the manual for the Norton
Utilities also impresses the user. Each program description
contains sections discussing the purpose, format and options,
general remarks, detailed information and recommendations. The
manual is not thick and burdensome. Rather it is concise, to the
point, clear, and helpful.
If your machine is used to generate computer programs, letters,
documents and the like, then you do need the cheap insurance
provided by the Norton Utilities.
Dr. Lawrence M. Rudner is a statistician with the United
States Government and President of Visual Information Systems,
Inc. Specializing in the custom development of information
retrieval systems, Dr. Rudner has been involved with computers
for 15 years. The author may be contacted at PO Box 42106,
Washington, DC 20015 or (301) 986-1531.