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Norton AntiVirus 2008 - Customizable Computer Security for Your Home Network

written by: •edited by: Aaron R.•updated: 7/2/2009

With Norton AntiVirus 2008, Symantec has stepped up its antivirus protection. This version enables users to protect their PCs from threats in emails, instant messages, viruses, worms, and even Trojan horses. With its new home network monitoring functionality, Norton AntiVirus 2008 raises the bar.

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    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.

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    Price to Value

    Rating AverageWhat's Hot:&nbsp
    At $39.99 for a one-year subscription, the cost for Norton AntiVirus 2008 is a little more than average but still affordable. An additional value included in this version is the user's ability to install the subscription on three separate, networked computers. This makes the overall cost per computer only about $13 per year.

    Additionally, the annual subscription includes product updates that are available during the user's subscription timeframe.

    What's Not:&nbsp
    While the cost is about average, it is a bit higher than some other strong players. Given Symantec's reputation for high-performance products, it seems they may be charging a bit more than other, less recognized players.
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    Installation & Setup

    Rating AverageWhat's Hot:&nbsp
    The software download process took about 15 minutes over a high-speed DSL connection. After the file was downloaded, the installation process took about 15 minutes to complete. Before completing an install, the install application checks for previous versions of Norton Security software and if any exist, the user must remove them before continuing with the installation.

    While the application is very customizable, the default settings are designed such that users who do not modify the default settings will still receive a high level of protection.

    What's Not:&nbsp
    The 2008 version is only compatible with Windows XP and Vista. It does not support previous versions of Windows operating systems including 95, 98 and ME. A separate version is also required for Mac computers.
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    User Interface

    Rating AverageWhat's Hot:&nbsp
    From an overall user interface perspective, the 2008 version is very similar to that of 2007. The user interface has a friendly design that minimizes the clutter. The two main menu choices, Home Protection Center and Norton AntiVirus, are available as tabs with additional options available on each tab.

    Users can clearly and quickly identify the status of the monitored components of their computer because of they are displayed in red font (if there is a concern) or in green font (if there are no issues).

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    Help & Support

    Rating AverageWhat's Hot:&nbsp
    There are a number of options available in the Help & Support section of the application, ranging from product manuals and online support articles to a searchable knowledge base and fee-for-support service. An interesting support feature is the Security Response link. By clicking this link, the user is navigated to an online listing of current, known Internet threats.

    The first time Support is selected, the user is asked to participate in a survey. While the user has the option to skip the survey and continue to support, it is an interesting way to capture user feedback and suggestions for product improvements.

    With such an inclusive number of support options, Symantec seems to do all they can to promote self-service product support.

    What's Not:&nbsp
    One of Symantec's selling points for Norton AntiVirus 2008 is that the one-year subscription includes protection updates and new product features as they become available throughout the subscription service period. Unlike some of its competitors, the user must manually complete these updates rather than the system handling it for them. It is just a bulkier way to handle it.

    The hyperlinks in the product manual would have been an ideal way for directing users to a self-service support option if they worked. Unfortunately, the links within the application appear to be broken. The product manuals can still be accessed via the Symantec website.

    A higher level of support services, Norton Premium Services, is available for a fee, providing the user the help of a trained technician who can remotely work on the computer 24 hours a day. At $39.95/installation, this service costs as much as the product does. Each additional computer is $15 and each additional product is $25. Given that Norton has done a great job with their setup application, unless the user is computer illiterate, this is an unnecessary feature.
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    Rating AverageWhat's Hot:&nbsp
    After using Norton AntiVirus 2007 and experiencing such a drag on computer performance during a system scan, it was a pleasant surprise to see that Symantec's claims about faster, more efficient scans were true. To avoid the typical slowdown during a system scan, I tend to run my scans at times when I don't plan to be using the computer. With this version, I no longer feel that I have to do that, but can rather run the scan while using the computer.

    An additional area of performance improvement can be found in the user interface. Navigation between screens shows some marked improvement, with less lag, in this version.

    What's Not:&nbsp
    While the overall performance of this version is much more efficient than in previous versions, it does fall short in the area of removing threats. Once a threat is identified, something the application does very well, the application does not do a good job of removing it. In many cases, the user must go to the Symantec website to see if a removal tool is available and then use the tool to remove the threat.
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    Product Features

    Rating AverageWhat's Hot:&nbsp

    Norton AntiVirus 2008 includes three main feature categories: Threat Detection, Safe Communication, and On-Going Protection.

    • The Threat Detection feature works to identify threats in the form of worms, spyware, trojan horses, and viruses. Rootkit detection is a neat feature that works in the background to detect hidden, less obvious threats.
    • The application allows the user Safe Ccommunication through their tool of choice--instant messaging or email-- and supports the most common instant messaging products, including AOL, Yahoo, Microsoft 6.0 or higher and Trillian 3.1 or higher, as well as POP3- and STMP-compatible email clients. One of the most notable aspects of the email scanning is that the tool allows the user to select whether or not they want to scan inbound, outbound or both types of emails. Additionallly, the user can define an action to be taken if a concern is found.
    • On-going Protection protects the user from infected Internet downloads, such as music or files, and provides customizable protection settings for scanning the system on a regular basis. Users can also identify how to mitigate identified threats. The network monitoring features are also a component of On-going Protection and allow the user to view the status of each computer on a home network.

    What's Not:&nbsp
    The tool does not include some basic features included in competitor products that may be expected, such as blocking hackers from accessing a computer, blocking suspicious programs, and removing unwanted Internet clutter and temporary files. An additional downfall is the application's inability to completely remove computer threats once located on the computer. An additional tool, possibly available at, is often required to fully remove threats.

    In regards to network monitoring, this feature falls a bit short. It only provides a warning of threats to issues detected on other network computers and does not provide the ability to mitigate the risk from the host computer.
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    Protection CenterAnti-VirusAnti-Virus OptionsEmail ProtectionQuick ScanScan ExclusionsScan AttentioneLog ViewerSecurity HistoryNetwork Security MapHome Networking General SettingsSubscription InfoHelp
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    Suggested Features

    • Automated product updates: As the product is currently designed, Norton AntiVirus 2008 alerts the user to the need to download updates but it doesn't automatically complete this process for the user.
    • Threat Removal: The product identifies threats but then directs the user to the Symantec website for threat removal solutions. Building this feautre in to work automatically would make the tool much more efficient.
    • Remote Computer Threat Mitigation: This tool provides the ability to monitor up to three computers installed on a home network but doesn't allow the host computer to mitigate any risk. The inclusion of this capability in the tool would make it much more appealing to those users looking for a home network monitoring and protection solution.
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    Norton AntiVirus 2008 is an easy-to-use computer protection software application that is very customizable and takes the guesswork out of protecting your computer. New home networking features make the tool ideal for small home networks of three or fewer computers. With reminders for product updates, the tool allows the user to remain protected against new and emerging threats from not only email messaging but also instant messaging, trojan horses, worms, file downloads, and hackers.

    At $39.95, the price for Norton AntiVirus 2008 is a little more than similar offerings of its competitors but certainly worth the price. Self-service and fee-based technician support options make the tool a good choice for not only the computer savvy but also the computer illiterate. Norton AntiVirus 2008 provides the essential protection and support necessary to keep threats at bay and you using your computer more efficiently.
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    Related Products

    Kaspersky Anti-Virus 6.0, Bit Defender, NOD 32, McAfee, The Shield Deluxe