Norton AntiVirus 2002 review:

Norton AntiVirus 2002

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MSRP: $49.95
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CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Excellent track record against viruses; simple interface; scans both incoming and outgoing attachments for viruses; works with Windows XP.

The Bad No significant new features; expensive; still doesn't scan ZIP files downloaded from the Internet.

The Bottom Line There's no better virus killer than Norton AntiVirus, but unless you're moving to XP, don't bother with this minor upgrade.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

8.0 Overall

Norton AntiVirus (NAV) can seek out and destroy bugs better than an Orkin man, identify viruses faster than the CDC, and stomp worms harder than the cruelest kid. Version 2002 showcases a new, simple interface and provides some additional protection against e-mail and script-based nasties. If you're new to the antivirus game, purchase NAV 2002 ASAP. But if you already have Norton AntiVirus 2001, pass on this upgrade, unless you're migrating to XP, and pay $10 for another year's worth of virus definitions. Norton AntiVirus (NAV) can seek out and destroy bugs better than an Orkin man, identify viruses faster than the CDC, and stomp worms harder than the cruelest kid. Version 2002 showcases a new, simple interface and provides some additional protection against e-mail and script-based nasties. If you're new to the antivirus game, purchase NAV 2002 ASAP. But if you already have Norton AntiVirus 2001, pass on this upgrade, unless you're migrating to XP, and pay $10 for another year's worth of virus definitions.

Dumbed down
Norton AntiVirus 2002 has aggressively streamlined its look. In previous versions, the main program window contained eight lines of text that described every detail of the program's functions--whether the autoprotect feature was on and when your last virus update took place, for example. Norton AntiVirus 2002 trades in all this text for a panel of self-explanatory indicators that clue you in to what's going on with your system (think car dashboard). For example, a green indicator displays the time of your last scan.

You don't have to configure NAV 2002 much at all--a fact that beginners will appreciate. Norton AntiVirus veterans, however, may want more control over the program. For example, NAV still automatically scans e-mail attachments, but you can no longer select which e-mail accounts it scans; it scans all of them or none. Also, NAV 2002 has made it tougher to schedule a virus scan for a later time and date: the scheduling feature has lost its prominent position on the first screen of NAV and sits at the bottom of the scanning page instead.

Two-way e-mail protection
But despite its interface woes, NAV 2002 includes the same powerful set of antivirus, anti-Trojan-horse tools as its predecessor. It scans for bugs on Windows start-up, scans in the background whenever a file is created or opened, watches for downloaded viruses, checks out e-mail attachments, and quarantines infected (or just suspicious) files. As in 2001, NAV 2002's e-mail protection integrates with any POP3 e-mail client, such as Eudora, Outlook Express, and Outlook.

And NAV 2002 has some new tricks up its sleeve: it still sniffs out viruses in incoming e-mail attachments (as NAV 2001 did), and now it checks outgoing attachments, too, so you can rest assured that you're not infecting others. Since some of the most noxious worms, such as SirCam, replicate via e-mail without the sender's knowledge, we particularly appreciate this improvement.

We also love NAV 2002's new Script Blocking feature, which promises to block script-based viruses, such as the I Love You bug, before they do damage, even if Symantec hasn't identified them yet. In three separate tests, NAV 2002 successfully detected the I Love You virus. The program also scans your e-mail for embedded VBScript and JavaScript worms and alerts you if it finds any suspicious scripts. You can then decide whether to run the script or stop it in its tracks from a pop-up dialog. Want to scan a specific file on your PC? No problem: 2002 integrates with Windows Explorer so that when you right-click any file, one of the options in the pop-up menu lets you scan for viruses.

Despite these improvements, NAV still doesn't keep you informed as it scans. You get a nice summary after NAV has worked its magic, but during the process, NAV doesn't tell you how many files it's scanning or how much time it will take, unlike its major competitor, McAfee VirusScan.

Best in the biz
Even though it doesn't have a ton of new features, NAV 2002 still gets our vote as the best virus checker. We threw more than 50 viruses at it, including script-based and e-mail viruses, and NAV nailed all but two.

But our tests are far from exhaustive. There are tens of thousands of viruses out there, and hundreds active "in the wild" at any one time. One of the best spots to keep an eye on NAV's track record against viruses is Virus Bulletin's 100% Award, a site that salutes programs that detect 100 percent of in-the-wild viruses. According to the site, NAV has a 16-month winning streak--the best of any program.

We're just as impressed by how deftly NAV squashes bugs. Unlike earlier editions, which alerted you that a virus was present, then asked you what you wanted to do with it, NAV 2002 automatically repairs an infected file (or, if it can't, quarantines the file), and alerts you only after it's both found and fixed the problem. This may sound like a minor point, but for beginners, it's reassuring to know that the software has already taken care of the job.

Version 2002 still lacks one significant feature: unlike McAfee VirusScan, NAV 2002 doesn't sniff out viruses packed in ZIP files downloaded from the Internet. In our tests, NAV didn't kick in until we tried to extract infected files from the ZIP archive. We wish NAV would nail virus-infected ZIP files before they reach our hard drive.

Up-to-date definitions
Like its ancestors, NAV 2002 relies on the excellent LiveUpdate, which checks the Symantec site for updated virus definitions every four hours (assuming you're online), so, unless you catch a virus seconds after it hits the Web, NAV is probably already up-to-date and ready to repel the most recent viruses. Norton AntiVirus automatically downloads available virus definition updates and installs them in the background.

As before, NAV barely impacts your PC's performance. According to our tests, NAV 2002 used just 3 percent of our Windows Me system resources, slightly less than NAV 2001's 4 percent footprint.

XP marks the spot
Norton AntiVirus 2002's biggest attraction, though, is its support of Windows XP. This is the first and, at the moment, the only, antivirus app for that OS. If you're upgrading to XP, and you rely on NAV to search and destroy viruses, spring for the $30 upgrade.

On the whole, though, if you use NAV 2001, you won't find enough goodies in version 2002 to justify paying three Hamiltons for an upgrade. Our advice: spend just $10 for another year's worth of virus updates. You'll still be safe.

Read the CNET Labs test results

Take me back to the roundup!

Norton AntiVirus 2002 finds and automatically fixes problems before it alerts you.

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