When we last saw Norton 360, we were very impressed, mostly because it was such a radical departure from the other offerings by Symantec's consumer division. However, in the year since that review, our impression changed. Readers without the latest hardware reported serious installation and backup problems, some of which we were able to reproduce. While we were generally happy with Norton 360 v2, we were very disappointed in Symantec's technical support maze, which now requires a name, an e-mail address, and a phone number just to access. Once there, we spent about an hour trying to resolve a simple firewall question for free. However, we could at any point pay to talk to someone at Symantec. Unless you have the latest and greatest PC available today, preferably, one with no previous antivirus or security software installed, you'll be scratching your head why anyone ever liked these all-in-one security applications.
If you have any of a number of security or utility applications on your current desktop, Symantec will ask that you remove them. Oddly, the most difficult to remove are Symantec's own applications. While there is an uninstall option on the All Programs listing, we found the Symantec uninstall tools weren't perfect. According to Symantec, the Symantec uninstall option is no more effective than the Windows Add/Remove option. In other words, it won't necessarily remove all traces of a Norton product from your PC. To do so, according to Symantec, you will need to use the Norton Removal Tool. This Norton Removal Tool, according to Symantec, "uninstalls all Norton 2008/2007/2006/2005/2004/2003 products and Norton 360 from your computer." The difference, according to Symantec, is that "the removal tool will remove shared components, such as LiveUpdate, even if other Norton products that depend on the shared component are installed." We did not have a working copy of Norton 360 in which to test the upgrade path for existing users.
Our installation of Norton 360 v2 on a very clean Windows Vista system occurred without fail, and without a reboot. We did find that if you don't want to create a Norton user account, you can hit Next two times and continue to the next screen (previously you needed to hit Next three times). However, even if you fill out the account information, Symantec will ask you for personal information when you request technical support.
If you want to add the Norton 360 v2 Add On pack, you will have to reboot. We did not like the automatic addition of the Norton 360 gadget to our Windows Vista sidebar. Instead of seeing our familiar slide show of library photos, we now have Norton staring us in the face. It would be nicer if this were a user-controlled option.
The Interface of Norton 360 v2 has not changed much from last year. There are still four panels, one each for PC Security, Identity Protection, Backup, and PC Tuneup, with drop-down menus for specific tasks. A system status bar--green for good, yellow or red for service--rides across the top under the toolbar for more advance settings.
Should you want to remove Norton 360 v2, Symantec recommends using the above the tool for complete removal of this all-in-one suite.
Norton 360 v2 is designed to cover all the bases--antivirus, firewall, antiphishing, antispyware, backup, performance issues, and online transaction security--and therefore doesn't require the maintenance of separate security and utility products. This may sound good, if you want one company handling all your PC needs. However, advanced users will notice a lack of richly detailed setting options found in the standalone products from competing vendors. The features Symantec includes are for general audiences not necessarily versed in security.
Similar to Microsoft Windows Live OneCare, Symantec Norton 360 v2 has added a network map, allowing you, as home network administrator, to see the security status of other computers on your home network.
Norton 360 v2 extends antisphishing protection to Firefox. However, you will need to reboot the computer to install the Norton toolbar to Firefox. In addition, we found that the technical support section always opens up Internet Explorer even when the default Web browser is Firefox.
Enhanced Backup features tighter integration with Blu-ray, iPods, and other shared devices. Within Windows Explorer, right-click and select the method you wish to back up a file or directory.
Enhancements to PC Tuneup include the capability to remove unneeded registry files, automatic shutdown after a task (say a thorough scan or backup of your machine), new diagnostic reports for easy problem solving, and browser cleanup tools for Firefox.