Healthy PC from Symantec is one of those little utility programs that promises to give your system a checkup and either fix, or tell you how to fix, any problems with your hard disk. It looks for viruses and checks to make sure your hard disk is set up properly, that it is free of errors and running at top speed.

It can't fix everything, but it promises to clean out any viruses it finds, and to repair errors on your hard drive and to defragment the drive if it needs it. Defragmenting refers to the process of rewriting the data on the disk so that all files are contiguous and not scattered in parts in different places on the disk. This makes the disk work faster.

Once the program is installed, you just click on its icon and, after a weird delay in which your computer appears to have locked up, its opening screen appears with a "Start" button at its center. Clicking on start brings another delay before the program begins checking your hard drive.

In the midst of giving a Toshiba 205CDS laptop a checkup, Healthy PC suddenly displayed this ominous message: "Healthy PC has detected a serious hardware configuration problem. Your hard disk has not been installed properly. Further use of your computer will eventually result in data loss. Please visit the place where you purchased your computer to have it repaired."

A click on the "help" option brought the following details: "Windows may not be able to access all of your hard disk, although Windows may think it can. When Windows passes the limit on the hard disk, Windows starts writing to the first part of the disk again, causing data corruption. This can occur either because your hard disk has been set up incorrectly or because you moved your hard disk from a new machine to an older machine."

This seemed odd, since the machine came with the hard drive installed at the factory. It has been in service for months with no hint of a problem. Windows 95's "Scandisk" utility, which checks disk drives for errors, reported no problems. Neither did the "System" utility in Windows 95's "Control Panel." "This device is working properly," it said.

Symantec is a reputable firm, so a warning from one of its products is not to be taken lightly. This sounded like a job for another Symantec product, "PC Handyman." Since that program sells for about $50 and "Healthy PC" for half that or less, presumably "Handyman" would do an even better job of checking the hard drive, and its "Disk Doctor" feature might even be able to solve the problem.


For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.