These days, antivirus protection is a necessity for any PC user and Norton has long been one of the most trusted apps. The latest release, which is part of the Internet Security suite reviewed here, does nothing to change this reputation and also adds support for Windows Vista.
As online communication becomes more complex, the essentials of Norton have expanded. Norton now protects during filesharing and instant messaging as well as providing active system scanning. The program automatically detects and blocks malware such as viruses, worms and Trojans. It also tracks down spyware and adware.
As well as being updated for Vista, AntiVirus 2007 includes improvements to scan times and a new interface. Most operations can now be accessed via a single click, but if you wish to spend time configuring more advanced settings, these are available in the Protection Center.
On the face of it, this is not such a major upgrade as the 2006 version: the latter included Live Update 3.0 and the Norton Status indicator in the Windows tray, both of which remain in the latest release. However, Symantec has rewritten much of the code that lies behind Norton, meaning it's now much less of a system hog. Plus, the program is more effective at finding rootkits, software used to conceal processes from an operating system.
Simple and adaptive
The main features are all accessed via the Norton Protection Center, a model of elegance and usability. What is particularly impressive is that, instead of asking the user a series of potentially confusing questions, it now automatically fixes most viruses. Sometimes, however, you still have to identify items to be ignored, fixed or excluded, which could be a little confusing for novices. When there is a problem you will see a red cross instead of the green tick, indicating that you need to take action. In many cases, the Fix Now button will sort out most of your problems.
When scanning for viruses, you can perform a full system scan to remove existing problems with spyware, too. In the vast majority of cases, Norton’s pre-emptive, firewall-style features will prevent malware installing on your system by one of two means. First of all, LiveUpdate regularly downloads updated virus signatures from the web, with protection updates typically available for 12 months.
Norton employs Bloodhound heuristics to locate potential virus threats even before they have been identified by the Symantec database. While there is the possibility of false positives, these are rare.
One feature that some users may miss, however, is the antiphishing toolbar. If you want this, you must purchase Norton's Internet Security suite. More significantly, Norton is an expensive proposition for those looking to protect multiple PCs. Most competitors now offer multiple licences as standard, but a three-user Norton licence costs an extra tenner (£50).