To find out how we test antivirus (and now Internet Security suite) software, see CNET Labs' How we test: Antivirus software page.
In terms of how well Norton AntiVirus 2009 will protect your PC, we cite results for Norton AntiVirus from two leading independent antivirus testing organizations. In the latest test results from AV-Comparatives.org, for on-demand scans Norton AntiVirus 2008 earned an Advanced + (highest) rating, catching 97 percent of all malicious software tested. However, for the Retrospective/Proactive test, Norton AntiVirus 2008 earned an Advanced rating, with Norton falling behind the others, proactively blocking only 18 percent of the "new samples" in the test. From CheckVir.com, Norton AntiVirus 2008 received its Standard award.
In antispyware testing on CNET, Norton AntiVirus 2008 scored in the upper half of our top 10.
Symantec has dropped its overinflated per-call pricing schemes of the past; all regular telephone technical support calls are finally free. That's good. However, its online manual and knowledgebase could be more robust, and an in program link to its community forums would be wise.
To take advantage of the free offerings, Symantec encourages users to use its One Click Solutions self-diagnosis tools first; that's understandable since common problems can be self-remedied. In our tests, however, after answering no to "Does this resolve your problem?" we still didn't get a telephone number, but an online form. Only after supplying a first name, last name, e-mail address, and phone (information you previously gave when setting up your Norton Account; why the two can't be linked is unclear) are you offered a help ticket along with an option for a free online chat, free technical support phone number, or an e-mail address. Once contacted, a technician may remotely control your PC while you watch them solve your given problem.
Our first encounter with Symantec's technical support ended in frustration. Prominent on the technical support page and competing for prime eyeball space are Symantec's premium technical support services: Spyware and Virus Removal (prices range), PC Checkup Service ($29.99), Green PC Service ($14.99), and PC TuneUp ($69.99). These premium services are also mentioned when you call for technical support. But in subsequent testing, we found neither the call nor the chat technician tried to steer us toward these premium solutions. Of course, that depends on what specific problem you have and which technician you get.
The Norton in-program Help is better than in past years. Within the Help file, more terms are explained and less jargon is used this year, but it's still not as thorough as other Help documents we've seen in competing products. And user options when changing configuration settings, long the bane of this reviewer, are once again not adequately presented to the end user: you still have to trust Symantec's opinion on many things.
And the online manual, although indexed, is not very comprehensive, and leans heavily toward installation and the creation of the Recovery Disk. Only by accessing the Symantec Web site do you see the free community forums. That's a mistake. Despite the company response that the Norton community forum is still in beta, these open communities provide more technical support than the canned responses offered through Symantec's One Click Solutions process.
Norton AntiVirus 2009 hits all the right performance notes and its award-winning protection technologies should start to win back even jaded anti-Symantec folks. We love its sleek build, performance speed, and array of quality security tools. Our only fault remains with the products lackluster online consumer technical support.