Norton AntiVirus 2008

As we await final code and therefore test results on the overall performance of this year's version of Norton AntiVirus, the new interface and features alone do not suggest an automatic KO in our latest antivirus roundup of 2008 products.

Robert Vamosi

Robert Vamosi

Former Editor

As CNET's former resident security expert, Robert Vamosi has been interviewed on the BBC, CNN, MSNBC, and other outlets to share his knowledge about the latest online threats and to offer advice on personal and corporate security.

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Having improved a lot last year in Symantec's flagship antivirus product, it makes sense we'd see more modest enhancements for this year's Norton AntiVirus. As we await final code and therefore test results on the overall performance of this year's version, the new interface and features alone do not suggest an automatic KO in our latest antivirus roundup of 2008 products.

Currently, you may order and download Norton AntiVirus 2008, but packaged editions won't hit retail stores until Sept. 11, 2007. Norton AntiVirus costs AU$49.95 for a single licence. It runs on Windows XP and Windows Vista, but not Windows 2000 or Windows 98 (for antivirus applications that support those versions, see BitDefender, Avast, or Panda). Because we have not yet seen the final version of the product, we do not have stats on RAM or hard drive requirements. Check back for our rated review within a few weeks.

Live Update, which used to be a separate process, is now integrated into Norton AntiVirus 2008 -- and it's about time. Once the product is installed and you're asked to update, everything -- program files and signature files -- arrives on your desktop in much smaller packets, making the experience smoother and easier.

If first impressions are everything, Norton AntiVirus 2008 loses us at "Hello". The new interface design is dark and garish, almost a perverse joke on those seeking reassuring security for their desktop. The use of ominous, thick black borders and orange graphics suggests Halloween, a look that could get old by March. Unlike Kaspersky and other antivirus applications, you can't customise the look and feel of Norton AntiVirus 2008.

The unfriendly look and feel is, perhaps, a deeper metaphor for the overall lack of the configuration settings within Norton AntiVirus 2008. Like Microsoft, which has moved away from letting the user control the Windows experience, Symantec limits (if not removes) the user's ability to customise and tweak individual settings, such as setting Norton to only scan new or recently modified files. Generally you are often limited to enabling or disabling features, continuing with a practice adopted long ago by Symantec in making decisions for the user rather than presenting options.

We're also not keen on the large yellow brick in the task tray that says Norton. While other vendors have icons, even icons that rotate or blink, we found the constant advertisement in the lower right-hand corner unnecessary and visually distracting.

Most of the new protection features from Symantec are found in the Norton Internet Security 2008 release. One significant feature shared across both products is network monitoring. Following advances made by Trend Micro and others in past years, Norton AntiVirus 2008 now allows you to remote monitor and, if necessary, run scans on other Norton-protected computers on your network.

Our test results for Norton Antivirus 2008 are pending, awaiting final code from Symantec. Informally, the scans were quick and didn't appear to affect the performance on our test machine.

Symantec continues to improve its technical support experience. Like last year, support options include an automatic diagnostic tool for the program, an online FAQ and knowledgebase, free chat, and e-mail. At the time of this writing, we did not yet see telephone support options listed for Norton AntiVirus 2008.

Check back in a few weeks to see our rated review once we have test data from the final code for this product.

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