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Norton AntiVirus 2004 Professional review: Norton AntiVirus 2004 Professional

NAVP 2004 offers the option of a preinstallation virus scan, an added protection measure not matched by Norton's leading competitor, McAfee VirusScan Professional 8.0. 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. (NAVP does an automatic postinstall scan, too.)


Norton AntiVirus 2004 Professional

The Good

New protection against spyware and adware; improved scanning of compressed files; well-designed interface.

The Bad

Minor improvements over 2003 version; antispyware feature is imperfect.

The Bottom Line

NAV 2004 is still a good choice for first timers, but its minor improvements mean NAV 2003 users need not upgrade.
Review summary
Norton AntiVirus 2004 Professional (NAVP) 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 tradition (including some we don't like, namely, the fee-based phone support), but it adds an imperfect antispyware feature and licenses for two PCs. NAVP 2004 is a solid program for home offices, but its half-hearted enhancements make it a questionable $30 upgrade for existing users.

The program froze during our first install attempt, but it ran perfectly once we rebooted. NAVP 2004 supports Windows 98 through XP and requires a slightly larger amount of drive space than previous versions: from 85MB to 125MB depending on the OS version.

After setup completed, NAVP connected automatically to Symantec's Web server to download the latest virus definitions. Inflation alert: NAVP 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 NAVP 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.

NAVP 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 Trojan horses from infecting your PC. Popular options, such as scheduling automatic scans, are easily accessible.

NAVP 2004 adds two major capabilities. First is its enhanced detection of compressed files. Previous versions of NAVP detected viruses embedded in ZIP and other compressed formats during manual scans. NAVP 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.

NAVP 2004's second new feature is the capability to detect and destroy spyware, adware, and hacking tools that may be lurking on your hard drive. NAVP 2004 is the first antivirus app to include this feature. However, the free standalone utilities, such as Lavasoft's Ad-aware and Spybot Search and Destroy, ferret out these same annoyances much better. For example, in our tests, NAVP 2004 failed to find a malware component uncovered by Ad-aware 6.0 in a follow-up scan. (We ran Ad-aware immediately after the completion of a Norton system scan.)

The professional version of NAVP 2004 also includes licenses for two separate PCs.

In our CNET Labs' tests, NAVP 2004 caused a 4 percent drag on our test system's performance. McAfee VirusScan Professional 8.0, on the other hand, produced no perceptible drag. But NAVP 2004 scanned our 1GB drive much faster than McAfee did. Here are our complete test results:

  Test system Norton AntiVirus 2004 Professional McAfee VirusScan Professional 8.0
SysMark 2002 Internet-content-creation (ICC) score 233 223 234
Normalized score 100 96 100
Percentage of degradation N/A 4 0
Average boot time (seconds) 40.8 52.72 48.38
Scan 1GB directory, average scan time (minutes) N/A 3.59 4.75

Norton AntiVirus has been tested on Windows systems six times since 2000 by the independent testing organization "--="" rel="nofollow">&siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Evirusbtn%2Ecom%2Fvb100%2Farchives%2Fproducts%2Exml%3Fsymantec%2Exml" target="_blank">VirusBulletin and earned its coveted VB 100 percent title each time. By comparison, McAfee's VirusScan has been "--="" rel="nofollow">&siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Evirusbtn%2Ecom%2Fvb100%2Farchives%2Fproducts%2Exml%3Fmcafee%2Exml" target="_blank">tested and earned a VB 100 percent title only once. It's hard to draw any meaningful conclusions from such limited data. Previous versions of Norton AntiVirus have also been certified by the independent antivirus testing laboratories at "--="" rel="nofollow">&siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Echeck%2Dmark%2Ecom%2Fcheckmark%2Fproducts%2Ehtml" target="_blank">West Coast Checkmark, "--="" rel="nofollow">&siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Eicsalabs%2Ecom%2Fhtml%2Fcommunities%2Fantivirus%2Fcertification%2Fcertprod%2Eshtml" target="_blank">ICSA Labs, and "--="" rel="nofollow">&siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Eav%2Dtest%2Eorg%2Fdown%2Fspecial%2F2002%2D07%5Fmarket%2Den%2Exls" target="_blank">AV-test.org.

Like McAfee, unfortunately, Symantec charges for its live tech support via phone: either $29 per incident or $2.95 per minute. We tried the free alternative: e-mail. The form was hard to locate, but techs were responsive, answering within 24 to 48 hours. Unfortunately, Norton does not offer online tech chat, a feature McAfee offers (with mixed results) for its VirusScan customers. The Automated Support Assistant, another feature accessible via the support site, is a convenient way to download product upgrades and keep your copy of NAVP 2004 up-to-date. Symantec's free online knowledge base is a helpful do-it-yourself resource.


Norton AntiVirus 2004 Professional

Score Breakdown

Setup 8Features 8Performance 8Support 7