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Symantec Norton Antivirus 2006
Windows platform antivirus protection for files, email, internet, instant messenger.

By Jon Deragon, Visca Consulting
Friday, December 24, 2005; 7:30pm EST

Virus protection has become an absolute necessity in
maintaining computer integrity, and selecting the most reliable virus detection software has become more important than ever before. New viruses and new methods of infection make detection and eradication all the more difficult, therefore requiring the vast resources of a company that can keep up with the influx of new virus creations.

Norton Antivirus has long been established as the benchmark software for virus detection and removal, and their new Norton Antivirus 2006 edition continues it's trend of gradual program refinements and enhancements.

Installation of the software is a relatively easy process, allowing time for a pre-scan of your computer and multiple reboots. The process was straight forward and required little user intervention. However, at the end of the installation the program became confused with numerous message alerts that conflicted with one another as to whether it was telling you updates were available; the fact that it was updating; and that you should check for updates and install them. While it is easy to resolve all of these conflicting reports, this is definitely something that could have been better handled by the installation program.

Once the software is installed, you have one system tray icon giving you access to the Norton Antivirus 2006 program; and another icon that sits in your windows task bar connected to the system tray. We were not particularly thrilled about this "Norton Protection Center" icon as it serves little more than to notify you of what Norton products are installed, and whether they are working. While this can be switched to the system tray to occupy less screen real estate, it unfortunately cannot be disabled.

When you open the Norton Antivirus 2006 program by the system tray icon or Start menu icon, you are presented with an interface similar to the previous version, that is clean, informative and well laid out. From this screen you can easily change settings and perform tasks as needed. Norton Antivirus 2006 offers an excellent level of customizability, allowing you to configure every aspect of its operation... everything from how it handles email viruses to what instant messengers should be protected. While Norton Antivirus 2006 automatically updates its self and its virus "definitions" in the background, you can also perform a manual update check. However, you will find little need to do anything manually with Norton Antivirus, it is a very hands-off and transparent program that will do its job well without any real user intervention.

Norton Antivirus 2006 covers just about any possible entry and exit point for a virus, leaving you well protected from receiving or transmitting a virus. Norton covers file (including compressed archive files) and email based viruses, instant messenger transmitted viruses, trojan horses, internet worms, keystroke logging software, adware and spyware. Adware and spyware scanning is a much needed enhancement to this new version, adware and spyware is a serious problem that should be treated like a virus, and thus be part of antivirus software. While Norton Antivirus 2006 covers the 3 popular MSN, Yahoo and AIM instant messengers, we were disappointed in the absence of Skype protection.

Also new this year, is the ability to perform quick scans instead of performing a lengthy full system scan each time you check your computer in addition to the background scanning. The quick scan targets typical virus locales and skips all of the less susceptible areas of your computer. This version also prevents malicious programs from changing your browser's home page settings.

We found this version an improvement in both scan speeds and detection rates. Immediately 2006 found 3 viruses the previous version did not. We performed a full system scan on our test box (Pentium 4 3.6GHz, 160GB SATA-II drive, 1GB memory running Windows XP) and scanned 480,551 files in approximately 52 minutes. We also noticed that email scanning performance has been vastly improved over the previous version; which was an item we hoped was going to be addressed and has been.

In addition to very regular updates of the virus definition files it uses to detect and clean viruses, it also utilizes technologies that attempt to detect yet unknown viruses. We were impressed with how Norton handles the virus detection and removal process, allowing you to take full control of what to do, or allow Norton to automatically determine what to do with the virus. Norton even provides you with detailed information about the virus it has detected, courtesy of its online database. However, some of the virus information provided tends to be a bit confusing and would not be overly helpful to the typical home user.

Overall, we are pleased with the handful of improvements made to Norton Antivirus 2006, taking the dependability and quality of the previous version and adding needed enhancements. The great thing about Norton Antivirus 2006 is its great install it and forget it attitude. This is exactly what most consumers want - all the protection, without having to take a crash course in computer security to get it. We like the clean interface; improved performance; the 'every access point covered' mantra of the program; and would definitely recommend it to any home or small business user.

Norton Antivirus 2006 works on Windows XP Home / Professional and Windows 2000 Professional with 300MHz or higher processor; 256MB of memory and 150MB of available drive space and a CD or DVD drive as its minimum specifications. Norton Antivirus 2006 retails for a very reasonable $39.99USD, and includes a 12 month subscription of program updates and new virus definition downloads. This product is available from most major computer and electronics stores, and the Symantec web site. It is available at the time of this review being published.

PROS - Improved scanning performance and transparency, plus a "quick scanning" feature; expanded coverage now includes full adware and spyware detection and removal; better virus detection rate; clean and easy to use interface; the excellent variety of access points and virus formats covered; regularity of virus definition updates.

CONS - Confused installation process; useless "Norton Protection Center" system tray icon; would have liked to see Skype virus scanning added to the current 3 instant messengers covered.

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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