With Norton AntiVirus 2006, Symantec finally gets serious about spyware and adware, computer malware problems that are becoming as insidious and pervasive as viruses were in the late 1990s. Norton AntiVirus 2006's enhanced protection against these new threats offers a big improvement over Norton AntiVirus 2005. That said, Norton is not as proactive as McAfee VirusScan 2006, which warns you before downloading suspected adware and spyware, a feature we'd like to see added to all antispyware apps some day. And we wish Symantec had left well enough alone and not cluttered the clean and highly functional interface of the previous edition. Despite these two things, Norton AntiVirus 2006 is a solid upgrade for current users, but new users still might want to look for faster, lighter performance found in other antivirus apps instead.
Our installation of Norton AntiVirus 2006 went smoothly, thanks to the assistance of a helpful wizard. We've always appreciated Norton AntiVirus's clean and logical interface. Unfortunately, with this year's debut of the Norton Protection Center, Norton AntiVirus 2006 has lost that uncluttered usability. The Norton Protection Center appears both as a separate icon in the system tray as well as a separate window within the software's control console. Most of the Protection Center's functions are useful, such as the alerts it sends if you don't have the latest virus definitions or haven't run a system scan in a while and the bar graph in the Status window. However the Protection Center is focused on upselling Symantec's other products to you rather than providing any new, useful security information. For instance, if you ask to learn more about data recovery, you're taken directly to the Norton SystemWorks 2006 product page on Symantec's Web site.
Norton AntiVirus 2006 does offer some important security feature enhancements, such as protecting your browser's home page against spyware hijacks. More important, Norton AntiVirus 2006 expands its detection and removal to spyware and adware programs, catching them both in real-time and full-system scans; plus, virus and spyware definition updates are now updated daily. But in our tests, Norton AntiVirus 2006 didn't perform as well as McAfee VirusScan 2006 with regard to spyware. Norton AntiVirus 2006 allowed adware to install and run first, then alerted us to the problem. McAfee VirusScan 2006, on the other hand, alerted us before the offending software started to download. However, once a potential threat was discovered, Norton AntiVirus 2006 provided a detailed evaluation of the specific threat. On the other hand, McAfee failed to provide detailed information, making it more difficult to decide whether to keep the software installed or remove it.
In terms of stopping traditional viruses, Norton AntiVirus 2006 provides a complete array of protection. Norton AntiVirus 2006 scans incoming and outgoing e-mail, and it monitors IM traffic through AIM, MSN, and Yahoo Messenger. In addition, Norton AntiVirus 2006 monitors the network and notifies you of any wormlike behavior it detects. For more complete performance benchmarks for Norton AntiVirus 2006, see CNET's 2006 AntiVirus performance test results page. Norton AntiVirus 2006 showed a definite performance hit during our "real-world" performance tests, but it was less severe than with McAfee. As for reliability, Norton AntiVirus has been independently tested against other antivirus products by CheckVir and AV-Comparatives, and it generally compares favorably at stopping most if not all viruses in those tests.
With Norton AntiVirus 2006, users receive product upgrades as well as signature definition updates through the life of the subscription. Previously, you had to upgrade to the latest version of the software to take advantage of new features.
Norton AntiVirus 2006 users have a choice between free online chat and paid telephone support. Both are offered 24/7. Symantec's support site, however, needs a redesign, because the link to the free online chat was extremely hard to find. We discovered the free chat link only after clicking the "Continue to phone support" link. Phone support costs $29.95 per incident or $2.95 per minute.