Note: for a review of the most recent version of Norton, see our article: Norton AntiVirus 2009: Leaner, Meaner, Faster.
Norton AntiVirus 2008, the latest antivirus protection from Symantec, provides comprecustomizable computer security. Like previous versions, the product is an affordable solution for home or small business antivirus protection. This tool works in the background to detect and remove spyware and viruses, automatically block spyware and worms, and guard against Trojan horses.
The overall installation of the product was very straightforward. The download took roughly 15 minutes over a high-speed DSL connection. The following installation process required another 15 minutes to complete. A fail-safe aspect of the installation process is that users are required to remove any previous versions of the tool before continuing with the installation. The install application checks for any previous versions and then instructs the user to remove them before it will continue with the installation. Overall, the application provides a number of options for customization; however, the default settings are designed such that users who do not modify the default settings will still receive a high level of protection. A Norton AntiVirus 2008 subscription is valid for 365 days. From the subscription screen, as shown in Image 12, users can check the status of their subscription and enter a renewal code to renew their subscription. Symantec has made it very simple for the user to stay protected by providing detailed subscription information and subscription renewal reminders.
The latest version of this antivirus tool provides a very simple user interface. It is essentially broken down into two main tabs: Protection Center and Norton AntiVirus (see Images 1 and 2, respectively). Within the Protection Center, users can view an overview of their computer's current protection status. The Norton AntiVirus tab provides a subscription status, task and scan information, and protection setting information. The overall design of the tool is such that it provides a number of customization options. The user has the ability to set some basic options such as password protection, hacker protection, and icon displaying (see Image 3). Communication is a large component of the application, providing the user with the ability to set the system to provide protection from inbound, outbound, or both types of email messages (see Image 4). The system also supports instant messaging and will scan for threats from inbound and outbound IMs.
A standard component of all Norton products is system scanning. With Norton AntiVirus 2008, the user can run a quick scan of commonly infected areas and startup files, or a more extensive scan of all files, directories, registry entities, processes, startup items, network and browser items, potential known threats, and other items (see Image 5). The user can even identify specific items to exclude from a scan using the Exclusions menu (see Image 6). After scans are completed, the system provides a Results Summary to alert the user to any identified threats (see Image 7). The Log Viewer provides a list of "logged" items in a number of categories such as security risks, protection activities, and error messages (see Image 8). It is basically one-stop shopping for viewing all of the possible threats and actions taken for a single machine. One of the nicest aspects of this new version is that it runs more efficiently than previous versions. When using Norton AntiVirus 2007, I often delayed my system scan until a time when I knew I would not need my computer because the scan slowed my system down so much. With 2008, I was pleasantly surprised that the claims of improved processing efficiency were actually true.
An additional feature, Security History, provides the user with a more detailed view of any security threats identified on the computer (see Image 9). The more specific details, such as status, date and time, and recommended action, can help keep track of resolved and unresolved issues. This feature really is useful when using Norton AntiVirus 2008 support options, as it provides a support technician the information needed to help users resolve their computer issues.
Symantec has stepped up its product a bit with Norton AntiVirus 2008 by providing a home networking feature named Network Map. With the Network Security Map, a user can see up to two other machines installed on the network (see Image 10). And the user can personalize his or her home networking monitoring settings (see Image 11). I expected this feature to be a challenge to set up, but it automatically recognized all of the computers on my home network without me making any changes to the default settings. As more people are working from home or have multiple computers and users, including children, on their home network, this feature becomes more and more important.
The help and support features of this tool are fairly extensive, ranging from product manuals and online support articles to a searchable knowledgebase and fee-for-support service. From the Help screen, users can leverage an Auto Fix feature or navigate to an alternate form of support (see Image 13). While there is the option for remote, fee-based computer support from a professional through Norton Premium Service, the overall tool appears to be geared toward self-service support.