Monday, December 15, 2008

Norton 360 review

The good:
Norton 360 is mercifully light on system resources; it's intuitive, covers most of the bases that a comprehensive security-and-performance tool should, and includes free online storage.

The bad:
Norton 360 doesn't support Firefox or Opera browsers; doesn't include wireless security tools, doesn't provide an ID vault for passwords or credit card info.

The bottom line:
For home and student use, we think Norton 360 represents the best value for ease of use, tools offered, and overall system performance. We recommend it over McAfee Total Protection and Microsoft Windows Live OneCare.


License qty: 1 user; License type: Complete package; Min Operating system: Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition, Microsoft Windows XP Professional.

Two years ago, when Symantec first presented us with their idea to create a complete security and performance solution, the company said it wanted to start from scratch, to build the thing right; we're happy to say that Symantec Norton 360 delivers on that early promise. That's not to say Norton 360 is perfect, nor is it designed for everyone. There are features in the all-in-one suite that we wish had been added (such as wireless security tools), but overall Norton 360 provides a much better user experience and security protection than either Windows Live OneCare or McAfee Total Protection.

Our setup of the final shipping version was surprisingly fast and easy. Norton 360 requires 300MB of hard drive space, considerably less than Windows Live OneCare, but about double that of McAfee Total Protection. Like the others, Norton 360 requires 256MB of RAM. Like Windows Live OneCare, Norton 360 works on Windows XP and Windows Vista. Only McAfee works on Windows 2000 through Vista. Like the other super suites, the price includes installation on up to three different PCs (for example, two desktops and a laptop). 

The new Norton 360 interface is clean and intuitive.

We really like the Norton 360 interface; it's unlike the interface used on the rest of the Norton 2007 product line. The UI for Norton 360 is clean, intuitive, and no-nonsense. A toolbar across the top allows quick access to scans, configuration for tasks, access to your Norton online account, in-program Help, and technical support. The main section includes modules for PC Security, Transaction Security, Backup and Recovery, and PC Tuneup. Each of these modules displays a color-coded status and a brief explanation, with an option for more details. 

Within each module is a clean list of various diagnostics and tools and their status. You can't, however, tweak your firewall settings here, or exclude a second drive from your virus and spyware scan; for that you need to use the main screen's toolbar for Tasks and Settings. It's a minor inconvenience; casual users will appreciate the clean reporting style, but advanced users (for whom the product was not intended) will want to tweak right away and become frustrated at the extra step. Also within each module are access to Help and technical support, along with selected extra steps that include access to glossaries and tutorials on the Symantec Web site. Gone are the blatant links to Symantec shopping that encourage you to purchase additional products, which we've seen in the past. We also like the fact that Norton 360 appears on the taskbar as an indiscrete icon, not the loud and flamboyant, yellow pill design used in Norton Internet Security 2007. 

Should you want to remove Norton 360, we didn't find an uninstall icon and had to use the Add or Remove Programs tool within the Windows Control Panel. Although there is a separate listing for Symantec's LiveUpdate program, we were able to remove both programs by uninstalling Norton 360 alone. Upon reboot we found no registry entries and no system folders for Symantec or Norton 360. 

Rather than simply bundle all of the features from Norton Antivirus, Norton Internet Security, Norton SystemWorks, and Norton Confidential, Symantec went back to the drawing board and designed Norton 360 from the ground up. The result is a much more fluid experience. Even Symantec LiveUpdate, which sometimes feels like a clunky add-on to the other Norton products, is better integrated within Norton 360. Our initial update of the product was quick, with both LiveUpdate and Norton 360 downloading and installing within seconds. 

Symantec pulled only the tools deemed most beneficial to the general user from all its product lines. Norton 360 includes antivirus, antispyware, antiphishing, antirootkit protection, a firewall, Symantec's new SONAR (Symantec Online Network for Advance Response) behavioral monitoring software, and a vulnerability assessment tool to see what Windows updates your computer might be missing. An add-on pack of online tools includes Parental Control, Antispam, and other optional features such as blocking private data from leaking onto the Internet.