Norton AntiVirus (NAV) 2004 debuts with a promising pedigree. Previous versions have consistently led the antivirus pack in security innovations, being the first, for example, to scan instant-messaging attachments as well as inbound and outbound e-mail. The program routinely receives high marks from independent antivirus testing laboratories. Its interface is easy for beginners to navigate, yet it offers advanced users plenty of scanning options. The 2004 version continues the traditions (including some we don't like, namely the fee-based phone support), but it adds an imperfect antispyware feature. NAV 2004 is a solid program for first-time antivirus users, but its halfhearted enhancements make it a questionable $30 upgrade for existing users.
Norton AntiVirus 2004 offers the option of a preinstallation virus scan, an added protection measure not matched by Norton's leading competitor,. This procedure adds a lot of time to the setup process, however: 30 minutes on our test PC. Users with time constraints may wish to bypass it. (NAV does an automatic postinstall, scan, too.)
The program froze during our first install attempt, but it ran perfectly once we rebooted. NAV 2004 supports Windows 98 through XP and requires a slightly larger amount of drive space than previous versions--from 85MB to 125MB, depending on OS version.
NAV 2004's main screen provides an easy-to-read snapshot of your PC's security and uses bright red and yellow icons to indicate areas that need your immediate attention.
After setup is completed, NAV connects automatically to Symantec's Web server to download the latest virus definitions. Inflation alert: NAV 2004 users get a year of free definitions, after which the annual fee is $19.95--a significant jump over the $10 renewal charge for NAV 2003. McAfee users pay $14.95 annually after the first year. Symantec has also added an activation process similar to that used by Microsoft in Windows XP, though we found this to be a painless extra step.
NAV 2004's well-designed interface changes little from its predecessor's. The main screen presents a snapshot of your PC's security, with red or yellow icons marking items that need attention, such as outdated virus definitions. Default settings provide strong security by automatically deleting viruses and scanning compressed ZIP files, as well as stopping spyware and Trojans from infecting your PC. Popular options, such as scheduling automatic scans, are easily accessible.
NAV 2004 adds two major capabilities. First is its enhanced detection of compressed files. Previous versions of NAV detected viruses embedded in ZIP and other compressed formats during manual scans. NAV 2004's real-time scanner finds and deletes these hidden viruses on the fly--as they are being downloaded, for example--adding another layer of protection.