When we last saw Norton 360, we were very impressed, mostly because it was such a radical departure from the other offerings by Symantec's consumer division. However, in the year since that review, our impression changed. Readers without the latest hardware reported serious installation and backup problems, some of which we were able to reproduce. While we were generally happy with Norton 360 v2, we were very disappointed in Symantec's technical support maze, which now requires a name, an e-mail address, and a phone number just to access. Once there, we spent about an hour trying to resolve a simple firewall question for free. However, we could at any point pay to talk to someone at Symantec. Unless you have the latest and greatest PC available today, preferably, one with no previous antivirus or security software installed, you'll be scratching your head why anyone ever liked these all-in-one security applications.
If you have any of a number of security or utility applications on your current desktop, Symantec will ask that you remove them. Oddly, the most difficult to remove are Symantec's own applications. While there is an uninstall option on the All Programs listing, we found the Symantec uninstall tools weren't perfect. According to Symantec, the Symantec uninstall option is no more effective than the Windows Add/Remove option. In other words, it won't necessarily remove all traces of a Norton product from your PC. To do so, according to Symantec, you will need to use the Norton Removal Tool. This Norton Removal Tool, according to Symantec, "uninstalls all Norton 2008/2007/2006/2005/2004/2003 products and Norton 360 from your computer." The difference, according to Symantec, is that "the removal tool will remove shared components, such as LiveUpdate, even if other Norton products that depend on the shared component are installed." We did not have a working copy of Norton 360 in which to test the upgrade path for existing users.
Our installation of Norton 360 v2 on a very clean Windows Vista system occurred without fail, and without a reboot. We did find that if you don't want to create a Norton user account, you can hit Next two times and continue to the next screen (previously you needed to hit Next three times). However, even if you fill out the account information, Symantec will ask you for personal information when you request technical support.
If you want to add the Norton 360 v2 Add On pack, you will have to reboot. We did not like the automatic addition of the Norton 360 gadget to our Windows Vista sidebar. Instead of seeing our familiar slide show of library photos, we now have Norton staring us in the face. It would be nicer if this were a user-controlled option.
The Interface of Norton 360 v2 has not changed much from last year. There are still four panels, one each for PC Security, Identity Protection, Backup, and PC Tuneup, with drop-down menus for specific tasks. A system status bar--green for good, yellow or red for service--rides across the top under the toolbar for more advance settings.
Should you want to remove Norton 360 v2, Symantec recommends using the above the tool for complete removal of this all-in-one suite.
Norton 360 v2 is designed to cover all the bases--antivirus, firewall, antiphishing, antispyware, backup, performance issues, and online transaction security--and therefore doesn't require the maintenance of separate security and utility products. This may sound good, if you want one company handling all your PC needs. However, advanced users will notice a lack of richly detailed setting options found in the standalone products from competing vendors. The features Symantec includes are for general audiences not necessarily versed in security.
Similar to Microsoft Windows Live OneCare, Symantec Norton 360 v2 has added a network map, allowing you, as home network administrator, to see the security status of other computers on your home network.
Norton 360 v2 extends antisphishing protection to Firefox. However, you will need to reboot the computer to install the Norton toolbar to Firefox. In addition, we found that the technical support section always opens up Internet Explorer even when the default Web browser is Firefox.
Enhanced Backup features tighter integration with Blu-ray, iPods, and other shared devices. Within Windows Explorer, right-click and select the method you wish to back up a file or directory.
Enhancements to PC Tuneup include the capability to remove unneeded registry files, automatic shutdown after a task (say a thorough scan or backup of your machine), new diagnostic reports for easy problem solving, and browser cleanup tools for Firefox.
Additional features are contained within the Norton 360 v2 add-on pack. The pack includes Parental Controls, antispam tools, and confidential information blocking tools. Norton makes the download an option for people who do not want or need these services, and it requires a reboot of your system.
Missing is Norton Anti-Bot, a standalone application that helps protect PCs from Trojans associated with botnets. Symantec still does not include this product within any of its security suites and sells Norton Anti-bot separately for $29.99.
In terms of protecting your PC, we cite results from two leading independent antivirus testing organizations. In the latest test results from AV-Comparatives.org, for on-demand scans the previous version Norton AntiVirus 2007 earned an Advanced + (the highest) rating, catching 98 percent of all malicious software tested; and for the Retrospective/Proactive test, the previous version of Norton AntiVirus 2007 earned an Advanced (second-highest) rating, detecting almost half the back doors, Trojans, and other malicious software sampled. Norton AntiVirus 2007 received a Standard rating from CheckVir.com, meaning only the virus searching capability was examined.
For antispyware protection, Norton fell from last year's heights but remained solidly in the middle of the pack in our CNET antispyware tests. CNET labs conducts three separate tests using spyware found to be bundled within free applications rejected by CNET Download.com (as a policy, Download.com does not host any applications containing known spyware). In the first test, active detection, Norton discovered about 60 percent of the spyware; in the second, on-demand test, Norton detected about 55 percent of the spyware; and in the final, removal test , Norton removed all traces of about half the spyware placed on our infected machine.
While Symantec continues to improve its technical support experience, they've also taken a few steps back by making access difficult. In Windows Vista, we found we needed administrator's privileges to access technical support. We then needed to install the latest version of Adobe Flash. Worse, to proceed even to look up a help file online, we needed to provide our name, our e-mail address, and phone number. We think that's extreme, given that we filled out that when we wanted to tweak a firewall setting. There are a series of canned FAQs, but none of these addressed our question. Back at the home page, we found a section for user manuals. Here, again, we were prompted to download and install the latest version of Adobe Reader. Time lapsed: 10 minutes.
Once downloaded, the 44-page PDF user's manual addresses how to install the product, not necessarily how to use it such as in tweaking our firewall setting.
If the automated assistance hasn't helped, nor the documents, there's one final option: talk to Symantec directly.
By clicking Contact Us you must provide your name, e-mail and phone number (unless you did so before). Then you must state what your problem is by using a drop-down menu. Then, you will be given three options--live chat, e-mail, or telephone support. Choosing telephone support, you will be presented with a list of geographic locations, and then, finally, a toll-free number for support. At no point were we informed of any potential charges, unless we read the 44-page PDF manual carefully. Nonpremium telephone support from Symantec costs $9.95 per call.
There, Symantec writes that if step-by-step assistance, online chat, or e-mail doesn't resolve your issue, you can always call their telephone technical support using the Contract Us link. The manual goes on to state that Symantec will "pay for complimentary support and will pay for support in accordance with the most current customer support policy of (sic) Symantec." At that site, however, Symantec writes that for Norton 360: "Complimentary online documentation and live support through chat, email or phone for installation and known issues. Other phone support issues are charged a fee." In other words, for a question about a firewall setting you have to pay for the telephone support.
Symantec offers a more direct route through the "Norton Premium Services" section where expert technical support can cost up to $99.95 (that's a flat fee) per call, although we could find no mention of that anywhere on the Symantec Web site. Under Premium Services are three options: Spyware and Virus Removal ($99.95), Expert Installation ($39.95), and PC Tune Up. In the PC Tune Up ($69.95) scenario, you call up, are charged, and a Symantec technician remotely accesses your PC to resolve any problems you might be having at that time. Symantec claims that 40 percent of its customers expressed interest in premium services in a recent survey, but we think you can probably find free help by doing a Google search for your specific error message or problem. Unlike Microsoft, Symantec doesn't yet maintain its own free users forum.
Our installation on a very clean Windows Vista system occurred without fail and performed as advertised. However, installing Norton 360 v2 on older systems may incite trouble. We're not happy with the technical support offered for Norton 360 v2, especially the paid services that appear to be superior to the free services offered.