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Symantec Norton Antivirus 2004
Windows platform antivirus protection for files, email, internet, instant messenger.

By Jon Deragon, Visca Consulting
Tuesday, November 4, 2003; 9:00pm EST

Symantec's Norton Antivirus solution, widely regarded as a market leader, gets its 2004 makeover with some welcomed new features. Visually it is almost identical to its 2003 predecessor, with only minor hints of changes throughout the programs design. Installation, as with past versions, is relatively quick and effortless, with exception to a recommended pre-scan for viruses before executing the installation or upgrade.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Norton Antivirus, it takes all of its functionality (as well as the features of any other Symantec utility you purchase) and integrates it into an icon on your system tray. Once clicked you have all your virus protection "vital information" immediately at hand (although at times it can be sluggish to load). It also allows you to change settings, run an on-demand scan and check for updates to the software and virus definitions. In addition to checking for updates yourself, Norton Antivirus also conveniently grabs the latest updates in the background as they become available, which we have found at times interrupt the performance of your computer. This feature can be deactivated if so desired.

Where it starts to get interesting is its all out war on viruses. It protects your computer at literally every possible front. It checks all of your in going and out going mail (scans within the email and all of its attachments); all files as they are transferred to and from your computer by removable media or internet; it protects your instant messenger transfers; scans the contents of compressed files in real time (Windows XP and 2000 only); scans for trojan horses and internet worms; and now I am pleased to say it also searches for those wretched spyware, adware and keystroke logging programs lurking in your computer. Yes, that's pretty much every possible entry point for a virus.

The impact on your system performance appears to be negligible for all typical tasks such as copying files, receiving files by instant messenger with exception to email transactions. At times it noticeably slows down the sending and receiving of emails.

As for its effectiveness, right away it was more effective than its prior version as it detected 3 viruses during its first full hard drive scan after being installed that the prior version did not detect. During the 2 weeks we have lived with the product running on our test system (Pentium 4 3GHz, 1GB memory, SATA hard, Windows XP Pro) it found scores of viruses arriving in our email in box, ranging from potential annoyances, to viruses that threaten the integrity of my computer and its data. Your ability to control what happens upon the discovery of a virus is a definite plus. Choose from automatically fixing the virus, deleting the infected data or quarantining the data. It's default automatic attempt to clean the infection seems to work best.

A great aspect of the latest version is that by default, it has a brute force approach to scanning for viruses. Which means people who are less familiar with such programs don't have to search around the program attempting to activate features for full protection. Something else which I have found very helpful about Norton Antivirus, is when it discovers a virus, it doesn't just tell you the name of it, it links you to its online database of virus knowledge for an unbelievable wealth of information about the virus, its impact to you and other informative tid bits.

System requirements for Norton Antivirus 2004 range widely depending on the version of Windows you are using. Minimum requirements for a Windows XP computer are 85MB drive space, Pentium 300MHz processor, 128MB memory. While minimum requirements for Me/98 are 125MB drive space, Pentium 150MHz, and 32MB memory. Norton Antivirus 2004 has a recommended retail price of $69.95CAD. A "Small Office" 5 seat license pack is available for $299.95CAD. Current users of the 2003 version can upgrade for $39.95CAD, rebates and special offers can usually be found online to save further money. Norton Antivirus 2004 Professional is also available offering the addition of data recovery features, an advanced delete function (virtual document shredding for privacy); and inclusion of a license for 2 workstations. Clearly this is aimed for people who wish to protect both their home and work computers with a single purchase; it tags $30.00 to the price brining it to $99.95CAD.

We would absolutely recommend Norton Antivirus 2004 to people considering a virus scanner for their computer for the first time, for those not pleased with their existing solution, and for users of the previous 2003 version of Antivirus. Although there is limited reasons for upgrading from 2003, the spy/adware checking alone in my opinion is worth of it; due to the growing prevalence of these horrid programs around the world. Norton Antivirus comes with 1 year of free software and virus definition updates as part of the package; that can be renewed annually for a fee if desired. The product is available immediately in stores and was released September 2003.

In this day and age of relentless virus attacks from every direction, this is a must-have utility for all computer users that value the integrity and privacy of their computer data.

PROS - Its "all-out-war" approach leaves literally no entry point for viruses; a generally non-intrusive approach that makes its operation transparent; addition of spyware, adware and keystroke scanning an excellent addition; it's solid reputation for eradicating viruses effectively.

CONS - Slow email scanning at times; no continued innovation in the interface from previous versions; at times slow in loading its windows and performing background updates; cannot completely close system tray icon, can only "disable" it.

About The Author
Jon Deragon is president and founder of Visca Consulting, a firm specializing in web site design, development and usability for businesses of all sizes. His many years in the technology industry has enabled him to write quality, in-depth product reviews to assist businesses make more informed technology purchases. He welcomes any questions or comments you may have regarding his company's services, this review or interest in having your company's products reviewed.


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