To measure Norton AntiVirus 2005's impact on system performance, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's SysMark 2002, an industry-standard benchmark. The Internet-content-creation portion of SysMark measures desktop 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 Dell Dimension 8200 running Windows XP Professional, with an Intel Pentium 4 1.9GHz processor and 256MB of RDRAM. With Norton AntiVirus running, our test system scored 94 percent--meaning a 6 percent reduction in overall system speed. By comparison, McAfee also scored a 94. (An Internet-content-creation score of 100 represents the performance of our test system without any extraneous software running.) In a test of scanning speed, Norton AntiVirus took an average of 6.1 minutes to scan a 1.3GB directory, which wasn't as slow as McAfee, which averaged 6.68 minutes.
Norton AntiVirus has been tested on Windows desktop systems 10 times since November 2000 by the independent testing organization VirusBulletin and earned its coveted VB 100 Percent title each time. Norton AntiVirus is one of the few products tested to consistently win the VB 100 Percent award. By comparison, McAfee's VirusScan was tested only once, at which time it earned the VB 100 Percent title . Previous versions of Norton AntiVirus have also been certified by the independent antivirus-testing laboratories at West Coast Checkmark, ICSA Labs, and Checkvir.com.
For more details on how we test antivirus apps, see the CNET Labs site.The good news is that Symantec finally upgraded its customer telephone support to 24/7. Previously, phone hours were limited to Monday through Friday, from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT. The bad news is, phone support still costs plenty, either $29.95 per incident or $2.95 per minute. By comparison, Trend Micro PC-cillin offers free 24/7 phone help for one year.
Symantec's help site also includes the Automated Support Assistant, a downloadable utility that scans Norton AntiVirus for known problems. However, the assistant needs more tooling. For example, when we disabled Auto-Protect, Norton's real-time virus scanner, the Automated Support Assistant reported no irregularities on our system--oops. Symantec also offers e-mail support, but you'll need to run the Automated Support Assistant before firing off a query.