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Norton 360 - Install-and-Forget Protection for Your PC

written by: David Berry•edited by: Brian Nelson•updated: 7/14/2009
5

Norton 360 is the next generation of the Norton family of products designed to provide unobtrusive protection for the average home user.

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    Introduction

    Note: to learn about the most recent version of this product, read our Norton 360 Version 3.0 Review.

    When I first started looking at Norton 360, all I could think about was what I didn't like about the program; writing this review wasn't easy. I consider myself to be an advanced user, so I often have a critical view of software that doesn't give me the ability to configure every aspect of the product the way that I want it to run. After thinking about it again, I realized that I wasn't the target audience for Norton 360. In this next generation of its protection software, Symantec has redesigned Norton 360 to be an install-and-forget security suite for the average home user.

    This approach is a good one. With the increasing number of threats appearing every day, not having protection software on your PC is like leaving the door to your house open and all your valuables laid out for the taking. Although most people know that they should install protection on their PCs, the problem is which one to choose and then how to configure it so that it gives maximum security. Often, people opt for multiple solutions to help protect their PCs. But even with all that software installed, you still have to remember to launch it at least once a week, get the latest updates, and then scan your PC for issues.

    The good news is that Norton 360 does this for you. The product is designed to run in the background performing security sweeps, scanning for viruses, blocking unwanted intruders, and maintaining your computer's health without your intervention. Symantec has even toned down all the little pop-up warnings and alerts we've come to expect in a Norton product. With the exception of the little icon in your system tray, you may not even notice that Norton 360 is there. But it is. And it's working.

    While I may prefer to control every aspect of how a program behaves, for the average home user Norton 360 offers excellent protection without requiring hours of configuring. Advanced users can still find a number of configuration settings to control the way Norton 360 functions, but they aren't as obvious as they have been in previous products, nor are there as many settings to configure, as you'd find in other packages like Norton Internet Security, Norton SystemWorks, or even Norton AntiVirus.

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    Performance

    Rating AverageWhat's Hot:&nbspOver the years, Norton products have been one of the biggest causes of dragging down your PC's performance. Each new version seems to take a longer and longer to load and uses more system resources than the version before it. With a brand new high speed PC, it usually takes me five to ten minutes after Windows loads before I can actually start doing any work, open my email, or start browsing the Internet. The cause was Norton Internet Security. Until Norton finishes loading, the best idea is to go get a cup of coffee. When I installed Norton 360, I was surprised at how much faster it loaded. Of all the Norton products I've used since Norton SystemWorks 2002, Norton 360 is easily the best performing Symantec has made.
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    Price to Value

    Rating AverageWhat's Hot:&nbsp

    At $79.99, Norton 360 is well worth the money. Instead of having to buy multiple programs to handle your security and maintenance needs, Norton 360 bundles them all into one comprehensive package that keeps the average home user protected with minimal hassle or intervention required. For additional features, such as antispam, parental controls, or protection of confidential information, you can get a free Add-On Pack from Symantec's website.

    Only slightly higher priced than Norton Internet Security, Norton 360 adds additional features such as backing up files, 2GB of online storage, finding and fixing problems, and cleaning up clutter on your PC.

    Symantec also offers a free 15-day trial version for people that like to try out programs before purchasing.

    What's Not:&nbsp

    Norton 360 provides a first-rate starter pack of tools that will give the average home user excellent protection against most of the security threats that online users face. However, people who spend a lot of time online and use their PCs extensively may find the need to buy additional software to handle some of the things that Norton 360 doesn't include. I was also a little puzzled by the free Add-On Pack Symantec offers. If the additional features can be added for free, then why didn't they just include them in the program?

    Symantec's website says that Norton 360 provides "One year of protection for up to three household PCs," but there is a catch to that. Like Norton AntiVirus or Norton Internet Security, you get a one-year subscription for updates and then after that you need to either upgrade or buy a new subscription. Although you can install Norton 360 on up to three PCs, the subscription date starts the first time you activate the product. So if you activate it on one PC and then install it on a second PC two months later, the second PC is only protected for ten months instead of 12. Unless you install it on three PCs at the same time, you are not getting as big a value as Symantec would lead you to believe.

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    Installation & Setup

    Rating AverageWhat's Hot:&nbsp

    Setup was pretty straightforward and ran very smoothly after some initial problems. After the installation completes, a configuration wizard launches to allow you to create an online account. Here you can register the software and store your product key in case you need to re-install Norton 360 in the future. If you previously owned another Symantec product you can easily log into your existing account from this step. The final step of the installation connects you to the Live Update server to download any new product updates, and then starts a quick scan of your PC to check for problems.

    ##p#Norton 360 installed just fine on both Windows XP and Windows Vista, although it takes longer than most programs. Additionally, if you have a large hard drive, the initial scan at the end can take a lot of time to complete. You'll also need to be connected to the Internet for the installation to work properly.What's Not:&nbsp

    Before you install Norton 360, be sure to uninstall any previous versions of Norton products that you may have on your PC, including Live Update, or be prepared to spend a few hours getting the software installed.

    ##p#On my Windows XP machine, with no previous Norton products installed, Norton 360 installed just fine. On my Windows Vista PC, installation was a nightmare. I decided to install Norton 360 over my existing copy of Norton Internet Security 2007. That was the longest three hours I've ever spent. Setup seemed to run fine and everything was progressing nicely until the end: setup failed to launch the configuration wizard. After the machine rebooted, Norton 360 was not installed and Norton Internet Security was still there, although it was popping up multiple errors. Norton 360 indicated that there was a problem with the configuration so I clicked the big red Fix button, but nothing happened. I decided to uninstall Norton 360 and start over. Uninstalling appeared to work. But when I rebooted my PC, Norton Internet Security started up, only I still got a number of pop-up error messages about missing DLLs. No problem, I'll just uninstall NIS before I try again. Too bad it wasn't listed in Add/Remove Programs anymore. Now what could I do? Fortunately, you can download the Symantec Removal Tool from their website, which will eradicate any traces of Norton products that are on your system. The tool worked perfectly and I was ready to start again. After everything was uninstalled, Norton 360 installed just fine. I highly recommend using the Symantec Removal Tool before attempting to install Norton 360.
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    Product Features

    Rating AverageWhat's Hot:&nbsp

    I've always found Symantec to be one of the industry leaders in virus and spyware removal technologies, and Norton 360 continues in this tradition, offering the same quality of protection that you'll find in Norton AntiVirus or Norton Internet Security. Norton 360 consists of four basic components: PC Security, Transaction Security, Backup and Restore, and PC Tuneup.

    ##p#The PC Security component is where you'll find the antivirus, PC firewall, spyware, and email scanning features. The PC Security features are the backbone of Symantec's long history of having one of the best PC protection software packages on the market.##p#The Transaction Security module works to keep you secure while browsing the Internet and conducting online transactions, such as online shopping or banking. This part of the program is where you'll find the anti-phishing, online theft identity protection, rootkit detection, and website authentication features. Norton 360 also uses Symantec's new SONAR (Symantec Online Network for Advanced Response) technology, which identifies threats based on behavioral characteristics.##p#The third piece of Norton 360 is Backup and Restore. If you've ever had a hard drive crash, or turned on your PC only to find that it doesn't boot anymore, you know the pain of not having a recent backup of your important files. Norton 360 comes with multiple options for doing automatic or manual backups of selected files. You even have the option of backing up your data to a secure 2 GB online storage space on Symantec's servers, with the ability to purchase more space if needed.##p#The final component to Norton 360 is PC Tuneup. While this feature isn't as powerful as the old DOS-based Norton Utilities or some of Symantec's other offerings, such as Norton SystemWorks, it does provide a decent job of cleaning up some of the clutter that Windows can leave behind. PC Cleanup will clear your Internet browsing history, remove temporary Internet and Windows files, and perform disk optimization to keep your hard disk running more efficiently. While not as good as some of its competitors, Norton 360 does a great job keeping your PC healthy.##p#One of the biggest new features in Norton 360 may be the way that it performs all of these tasks without requiring as much user attention as Norton Internet Security or some of the other Norton products. Norton 360 works quietly in the background without all the annoying pop-ups and warnings that you'd normally expect to see.What's Not:&nbsp

    As I mentioned earlier, for advanced users the product is excessively dumbed down. There doesn't seem to be any direct connection from each component in the big green circles to the advanced settings for each. Even after you drill down through the menus, you'll find that there isn't much that you're able to configure. For the typical user this isn't a problem, because Norton 360 works just fine with its default configurations, but personally I like the more detailed settings in Norton Internet Security for controlling how the program runs. I like to be notified when updates are available before they are installed. I want to be able to customize when scans are run and I'd like to choose which things are cleaned during optimization.

    The PC Tuneup module seems to be the most disappointing of all. While Norton 360 does offer basic cleaning, there's no registry cleaner or application cleaner (to remove old files and settings left by programs after an uninstall). I also wasn't impressed with the disk optimization. The older Norton Speed Disk seemed to do a better job and Windows XP and Windows Vista already come with their own versions of disk optimizers. Recently, I've been using Diskkeeper Pro to keep my hard drives in line and I've found it to be one of the best I've ever tried. The only advantage to usin

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    Images

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    Suggested Features

    I’d like to see more utilities for doing PC tuneups as well as better security for wireless Internet connections.
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    Conclusion

    Norton 360 is an excellent product for protecting your PC and data from all of the different threats that plague users today. Its user interface is clean and easy to use, and the combination of better performance and quiet protection makes it worth the purchase over other Norton versions.

    Check out our reviews of other Norton Products: Norton AntiVirus 2009 and Norton Internet Security 2009.

    Not sure which Norton product to buy? You'll find some help in our article: Norton 360, Norton AntiVirus 2009, Norton Internet Security: Which One is Right for You?