Norton AntiVirus 2004 offers the option of a preinstallation virus scan, an added protection measure not matched by Norton's leading competitor, McAfee VirusScan 8.0. This procedure adds a lot of time to the setup process, however: 30 minutes on our test PC. Users with time constraints may wish to bypass it. (NAV does an automatic postinstall, scan, too.)
The program froze during our first install attempt, but it ran perfectly once we rebooted. NAV 2004 supports Windows 98 through XP and requires a slightly larger amount of drive space than previous versions--from 85MB to 125MB, depending on OS version.
NAV 2004's main screen provides an easy-to-read snapshot of your PC's security and uses bright red and yellow icons to indicate areas that need your immediate attention.
After setup is completed, NAV connects automatically to Symantec's Web server to download the latest virus definitions. Inflation alert: NAV 2004 users get a year of free definitions, after which the annual fee is $19.95--a significant jump over the $10 renewal charge for NAV 2003. McAfee users pay $14.95 annually after the first year. Symantec has also added an activation process similar to that used by Microsoft in Windows XP, though we found this to be a painless extra step.
NAV 2004's well-designed interface changes little from its predecessor's. The main screen presents a snapshot of your PC's security, with red or yellow icons marking items that need attention, such as outdated virus definitions. Default settings provide strong security by automatically deleting viruses and scanning compressed ZIP files, as well as stopping spyware and Trojans from infecting your PC. Popular options, such as scheduling automatic scans, are easily accessible.
NAV 2004 adds two major capabilities. First is its enhanced detection of compressed files. Previous versions of NAV detected viruses embedded in ZIP and other compressed formats during manual scans. NAV 2004's real-time scanner finds and deletes these hidden viruses on the fly--as they are being downloaded, for example--adding another layer of protection.
NAV 2004 detects viruses embedded in ZIP archives the moment they reach your hard drive.
NAV 2004's second new feature is the ability to detect and destroy spyware, adware, and hacking tools that may be lurking on your hard drive. NAV 2004 is the first antivirus app to include this feature. However, the free standalone utilities, such as Lavasoft's Ad-aware and Spybot Search and Destroy, ferret out these same annoyances much better. For example, in our tests, NAV 2004 failed to find a malware component uncovered by Ad-aware 6.0 in a follow-up scan. (We ran Ad-aware immediately after the completion of a Norton system scan.)
In our CNET Labs' tests, NAV 2004 caused a 4 percent drag on our test system's performance. McAfee VirusScan 8.0, on the other hand, produced no perceptible drag. But NAV 2004 scanned our 1GB drive much faster than McAfee did. Here are our complete test results:
Norton AntiVirus has been tested on Windows systems six times since 2000 by the independent testing organization VirusBulletin and earned its coveted VB 100 percent title each time. By comparison, McAfee's VirusScan has been tested and earned a VB 100 percent title only once. It's hard to draw any meaningful conclusions from such limited data. Previous versions of Norton AntiVirus have also been certified by the independent antivirus testing laboratories at West Coast Checkmark, ICSA Labs, and AV-test.org.
Like McAfee, unfortunately, Symantec charges for its live tech support via phone: either $29 per incident or $2.95 per minute. We tried the free alternative: e-mail. The form was hard to locate, but techs were responsive, answering within 24 to 48 hours. Unfortunately, Norton does not offer online tech chat, a feature McAfee offers (with mixed results) for its VirusScan customers. The Automated Support Assistant, another feature accessible via the support site, is a convenient way to download product upgrades and keep your copy of NAV 2004 up-to-date. Symantec's free online knowledge base is a helpful do-it-yourself resource.
Symantec's online knowledge base is one of several ways NAV users can learn about viruses and troubleshoot problems.