Norton Antivirus 2003 Pro review:

Norton Antivirus 2003 Pro

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MSRP: $69.95

Norton Antivirus 2003 Pro

(Part #: 10021266)
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CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Scans and cleans instant-messenger attachments; includes helpful wizards for novices; interface is easy to use; solid track record against viruses.

The Bad Makes only minor improvements over 2002 version; scans ZIP files after they download; provides limited protection for AOL users.

The Bottom Line With only minor improvements over last year's model, Norton AntiVirus Professional Edition 2003 is too overpriced for upgraders and first-time users alike.

8.0 Overall

There's a lot to love in Norton AntiVirus Professional Edition (NAVPE) 2003. Its interface is simple enough for beginners yet offers plenty of flexibility for discerning geeks. It scans and cleans attachments from popular instant messengers and automatically repairs infected files without troubling you. Plus, its script- and worm-blocking technologies stop e-mail viruses, including SirCam and Klez. But if your home office or small business uses the Net on a Windows machine and you're looking for added security with your first antivirus program, NAVPE's $70 price is too steep; the $60 McAfee VirusScan Professional 7.0 package is a much better deal. Current NAVPE users should stick with NAVPE 2002--version 2003 doesn't justify the $40 upgrade price. There's a lot to love in Norton AntiVirus Professional Edition (NAVPE) 2003. Its interface is simple enough for beginners yet offers plenty of flexibility for discerning geeks. It scans and cleans attachments from popular instant messengers and automatically repairs infected files without troubling you. Plus, its script- and worm-blocking technologies stop e-mail viruses, including SirCam and Klez. But if your home office or small business uses the Net on a Windows machine and you're looking for added security with your first antivirus program, NAVPE's $70 price is too steep; the $60 McAfee VirusScan Professional 7.0 package is a much better deal. Current NAVPE users should stick with NAVPE 2002--version 2003 doesn't justify the $40 upgrade price.

Installation and interface
We found only one noticeable glitch in NAVPE 2003's otherwise easy installation. Although NAVPE 2003 includes an automated installation wizard, MSN Instant Messenger users must reboot their PCs after NAVPE 2003's setup; otherwise, NAVPE won't automatically scan IM attachments. Except for that, this version's smooth setup is an improvement over last year's.

Out of the box, NAVPE's default settings provide solid protection against e-mail-borne viruses, SMTP-based worms (which bypass e-mail clients such as Outlook to send copies of themselves on the Internet directly), and Trojan horses by scanning incoming and outgoing e-mail, then automatically repairing infected files. NAVPE scans file downloads in AOL, MSN, and Yahoo IM applications. (Note: NAVPE works with only AOL's Internet IM program, not with the IM feature that comes with AOL's standard online program.)

In terms of interface, NAVPE 2003's main screen lists its primary features--Auto-Protect, E-mail Scanning, Script Blocking, and so on--and shows the date of your most recent virus definition update. On the left, a list of scanning options allows you to scan individual drives, removable or floppy disks, folders, or even individual files by simply clicking the appropriate menu item. NAVPE sets its default system scans to run weekly at 8 p.m. on Friday. Let's hope you're not online socializing then because the full system scan ties up the CPU and renders your PC useless. In fact, we wish NAV gave an estimated completion time for these lengthy system scans; on our test 1.3GHz Athlon PC with a 20GB hard drive, a full scan took 33 minutes.

Feature set
NAVPE boots with Windows and runs in the background, sniffing out rogue code while you work, and downloads current virus definitions from the Net automatically. And like version 2002, NAVPE 2003 scans both inbound and outbound e-mail in POP3 clients such as Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Express, and Eudora. (Sorry, AOL mail users, you're out of luck.)

NAVPE 2003 offers few notable enhancements over last year's model. In addition to scanning downloads from IM programs, it now blocks worms in outgoing e-mail. The company claims that NAVPE 2003's virus definitions are smaller and, hence, faster to download, but we haven't noticed a significant improvement in update transfer speeds.

Unfortunately, unlike its major competitor, McAfee VirusScan, NAVPE 2003 scans ZIP files during the extraction process--after you've downloaded them. We'd feel safer if NAVPE inspected ZIP files during the download.

All of the features of Norton AntiVirus 2003 are included in Norton AntiVirus Professional Edition, plus data-recovery and data-cleaning tools. The data-cleaning tool now provides confidentiality by "shredding" files that you no longer need. NAVPE 2003 also comes with a license for two computers, if you should you want to designate a second computer as a backup device.

Performance
To measure system performance with NAVPE 2003 active, CNET Labs used BAPCo's SysMark2002, an industry-standard benchmark. The Internet Content Creation portion of SysMark measures a desktop's performance running off-the-shelf applications such as Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Windows Media Encoder, and Macromedia Dreamweaver. (We did not run the Office Productivity portion of the benchmark because it incorporates McAfee VirusScan 5.13.)

Our test system was a Compaq Evo W4000 with a P4 2.4GHz processor and 512MB DDR RAM, running Windows XP Professional. An Internet-content-creation score of 100 represents the performance of our test system without any extraneous software installed or running. With NAVPE 2003 installed and running, our test system scored a 95--a 5 percent reduction in overall system speed, which is reasonable and should not be noticed by most users.

To determine whether NAVPE effectively blocks viruses, we compared the Norton AntiVirus engine's performance in a number of independent antivirus-testing laboratories. Previous versions of NAV have been certified by the independent antivirus-testing laboratories at West Coast Checkmark, ICSA Labs, and AV-Test.org. In Virus Bulletin's tests with live viruses, NAV earned the coveted VB 100 percent rating in each of the three most recent Windows tests. We plan to measure NAV against these independent sites and compare NAV's results against those of other antivirus products in the near future.

Technical support
The program's built-in help provides good information on the arcane terminology of virus protection. The help menu also includes links to Symantec's support site, where you'll find a wizardlike tool that steps you through common problems, including software bugs and virus definitions. Unfortunately, Symantec's phone support is expensive at $2.95 per minute (up to $300 maximum) or $29.95 per call. And if you hit a snag at night or on weekends, forget it; the phones are staffed only Monday through Friday from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT.

Norton AntiVirus Professional Edition 2003 is a top-notch virus buster. Unfortunately, the extras in NAVPE 2003 just aren't worth the $40 upgrade fee--that's just $10 more than the brand-new, regular NAV 2003. And if you're looking for your first antivirus app with added security, McAfee VirusScan Professional 7.0 is a better value.

Norton AntiVirus Professional Edition 2003 steps you through its automated setup procedure.

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