By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 1997, The Syracuse Newspapers
I'm often asked to recommend a cleanup program for Windows. Because all versions of Windows are incredibly complex, programs that search for conflicts and recommend fixes are very popular.
Until now, I haven't found one that did this quickly and thoroughly while keeping you from doing something dumb. The program that finally meets those requirements is a new fixit program from an old hand in the PC utility business, Helix Software of New York City. The program is Nuts & Bolts, which sells for about $50. It works with all consumer versions of Windows.
Nuts & Bolts has only one drawback—availability. You'll probably have a hard time finding it. If you don't see it in stores near you, call Helix at (800) 451-0551 or log onto its Web site at http://www.helixsoftware.com/ to get a list of stores and mail-order dealers that carry it.
Nuts & Bolts takes a much different approach from that used by its main competitors, QuarterDeck's Clean Sweep and MicroHelp's UnInstaller 4. Nuts & Bolts combines an impressive array of disk-and-file-safety routines (as good as those in Norton's famous utilities) with a unique set of tools that can find problems in just about every area of PC operation.
In this respect, Nuts & Bolts is much more than a Windows fixit program, because it checks RAM chips, serial (or modem) connections, printer ports, disk integrity and video-display operations, too. In its disk-cleanup routines, Nuts & Bolts is far ahead of anything else I have seen. To give just one example, it can reorganize your file storage so that the files you use most often are near the beginning of your hard disk—and it will let you decide which files are sorted in any order.
Nuts & Bolts does all its other disk checks very quickly, too. It automatically replaces the slower and less thorough ScanDisk checking in Windows 95. (If you want to be able to return to ScanDisk's method, make sure you make a backup copy of WIN.COM—name it WINCOM.BAK—before you install Nuts & Bolts. To get ScanDisk back, copy WINCOM.BAK to WIN.COM.)
As the other cleanup programs do, Nuts & Bolts checks for bad program links and suggests fixes for ones it finds. Its guesses are better informed than what you'd find from other programs, but they are not infallible. (They could not be, because you may have links that only you or your kids could possibly understand.) But they are made very quickly, and you can ignore any or all of the possible fixes.
What I found amazing was the program's ability to fix a variety of problems in my Windows 95 Registry. It does this quickly and safely—there is no way to get Nuts & Bolts to skip making a backup of the Registry before it goes to work on it. It also offers an "advanced" mode that calls up a powerful Registry editor for those times when you need to work on the plumbing in the Windows' bathroom.
Other functions include a smart Recycle Bin that saves everything missed by the normal Windows Recycle Bin and a file shedder that can keep anyone from recovering deleted files. It also has a utility called BombSquad that intercepts crashes, a disk snapshot routine that can restore your hard drive if something dreadful happens and a Zip-file manager. And it has a set of customizable gauges that show what's happening in Windows and a launch bar both for its own functions and for programs you add to it using drag-and-drop.
I mentioned that finding Nuts & Bolts might be a problem. (It's worth hunting down, so don't get discouraged.) I must point out another catch. This is not the fault of Helix.
Helix released Nuts & Bolts and then discovered a few problems with the software. This is normal—no software can be perfect, as we all know already. Helix then made a fix for Nuts & Bolts that you can download from the company's Web site. The address for the page that tells you about the fix is http://www.helixsoftware.com/n&b_updates.html.
The last time I recommended a Helix product (Hurricane, an excellent fix for Windows 3.1 memory problems), I pointed out that the company had three fixes that were essential. I said these fixes had to be installed. Readers who did not do this complained to me that the software didn't work right. So let me say this even more strongly: GET THE FIX. Get it before you install Nuts & Bolts. Then take all the Nuts & Bolts icons that it added to the Startup menu (or Startup Group in Windows 3.1) and move them to a temporary folder. Reboot, run the fix, put them back in, then reboot again.