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Norton AntiVirus 2009: First Norton not to suck?

Antivirus blows. We know it, you know it -- hell, even the people who make the stuff know it. But there's a new piece of AV software that has changed our perceptions.

Antivirus blows. We know it, you know it -- hell, even the people who make the stuff know it. But what if we told you there was a new piece of antivirus software that doesn't cause you to pull your hair out and scream expletives at your laptop?

We've just had a gander at the recently released Norton AntiVirus 2009. After some initial trepidation (did we mention anti virus blows?) we've come away thinking this new version could be one of the better paid-for bits of AV software -- for the simple reason that it doesn't get in our way.

The first thing we noticed about the product was that it's fast. We clicked one button and by the time we'd Alt-tabbed between the installer, YouTube, and back again (about a minute) it had installed itself. Once up and running, the main menu displays a graph showing CPU activity and how much of that activity is down to Norton AntiVirus 2009. Typically, this hovered around the 5% mark, which isn't much to worry about. Memory usage averages less than 7MB between scans, which is also impressive.

Next, we were curious to know how annoying it was during use. There's nothing more frustrating than watching a DVD or playing a game only for a pop-up to ruin the action. Luckily, there was none of this. The software waits for a sustained period of inactivity before it dares do anything that might get in the way, and it isn't fooled by inactivity caused by watching a movie or playing a game, either -- so long as you're running them full screen. You can specify yourself when Norton performs scans, and satisfy your scepticism by looking at the software's system activity logs.

When it is scanning, Norton 2009 does so very quickly and efficiently. It uses Norton Insight -- an advanced "white list" system that catalogues all known "good" files. By keeping itself aware of what is 99.9% likely not to be a virus (e.g. Firefox.exe), it can decrease the amount of time spent scanning. And yes, it is clever enough to know when these "good" files have been tampered with.

You can check out a list of the software's other features or download it here. We'd definitely recommend doing so. -Rory Reid