Norton AntiVirus 2004 Review

This is the main screen of Norton AntiVirus 2004.

In the past few years, with broadband connections becoming more common, and more prolific viruses being thrown out onto the Internet, antivirus programs have become more and more important. The most visible and famous of these programs has been Symantec's Norton AntiVirus. Over the years, each version of Norton AntiVirus has strived to strike a balance between functionality and usability. While Norton AntiVirus has had its share of competitors, it still maintains its market dominance due to regular feature updates and stronger virus protection.

The latest version includes compressed file scanning (in Windows 2000/XP only), instant messenger support, and expanded threat detection from spyware or adware amongst its new features. Expanded features included better worm detection, more protection right out of the box, and more detailed scanning. We'll now look at the latest stand-alone version of this ubiquitous antiviral program and see if not only is it worth purchasing, but also if it's worth upgrading from a previous version.

Installation

Installing Norton AntiVirus 2004 was a painless affair when installed on several computers. We all had Norton AntiVirus 2003 previously installed on our computers, which was bundled along with Norton Internet Security 2003. The first thing that Norton AntiVirus 2004 did when we ran the installation program was ask if we wanted a "Pre-Installation Scan," a nice touch. We didn't take it up on its offer

When we ran the installation program of Norton AntiVirus 2004, it detected the previous installation of Norton AntiVirus 2003 and offered to remove it. It also explained how we could manually remove it and resume the installation later, if we wished. We allowed Norton AntiVirus 2004 to remove the previous version, yet keep all of its settings and preferences. Out of the four computers onto which we installed Norton AntiVirus 2004, it only failed to detect the previous Norton AntiVirus installation on one of them, which required a manual removal of the previous installation. This wasn't difficult, however, but did increase the time in which it took to install the program. Overall, on most of our computers, installation was a mostly painless and simple affair.

Ease of Use

The reports screen, where you can learn more about viruses.

Throughout our tests, we found Norton AntiVirus 2004 to be both easy and efficient to use. This makes sense, since Symantec has had many attempts in which to make a more streamlined interface. The main user interface for Norton AntiVirus 2004 is a very good example of a clean interface. All of the main options are laid out in a logical fashion, and getting the program to do what you want isn't confusing. Extensive help files as well as a 114 page manual both help in this regard, explaining the functions of the program for both the novice and advanced user.

Norton AntiVirus 2004 has several features so that the computer user will be unencumbered by its presence. The program can schedule itself to scan your system entirely at regular intervals, and can update itself (when connected to the internet) without being asked.

Norton AntiVirus 2004 can scan your whole computer...

Upon successfully installing the program, it will ask you a few questions in order to be fully configured, such as if you wish to run LiveUpdate (the included updating software), or whether you would like to create a set of emergency Rescue Disks (highly recommended). It can also perform a full system scan immediately upon installation, in case you feel you might already be infected. Furthermore, if you feel you might already be infected, the CD is bootable, meaning you can perform a scan before you even enter Windows.

Upon completing all these tasks, you can almost totally forget that you even have Norton AntiVirus, as again, it doesn't get in the way of your normal computing usage. If you have it set to do a full system scan at regular intervals, there's little reason to manually run the program, for example. If all goes well, which is usually the case, you'll probably not need to worry about Norton AntiVirus againÂ…unless your computer is unfortunately infected, however.

Performance and Effectiveness

...Or it can scan specific files and locations, whichever you choose.

We don't have the speediest computers on the market here at L.A. Splash Magazine, but what better to perform a system check on than a computer similar to one your Mother might use? The first test we performed was the basic full system scan, to see how long it would take on a slower computer with a whole lot of files on it. We therefore tested the full system scan on our Dell Dimension XPS T450 computer with a Pentium III 450 MHz processor and 132 MB of memory. Norton AntiVirus 2004 took just over thirty minutes to scan over 70,000 files, which is not too shabby.

To actually test its virus detection abilities, we downloaded a test virus from Eicar. The folks at Eicar offer these test virus files for free in order to test the effectiveness of antivirus programs, so it seemed perfectly suited for our purposes. We downloaded the files onto a floppy and had Norton AntiVirus scan the floppy. As you can see from the screenshot below, it not only found the infected files, but deleted them accordingly. It also found infectious files located within compressed files and deleted them as well.

While Norton AntiVirus found our test viruses, it handled them appropriately.

Overall, the performance and effectiveness of its antiviral protection is very effective, and therefore impressive. As before, it requires little input from the user once set upon a given task, but allows for user customization if required. In all of our tests, Norton AntiVirus 2004 performed admirably.

Conclusion

If you're looking for a complete antivirus program that provides protection from known and unknown viral infections right out of the box, you can't go wrong with Norton AntiVirus 2004. It's effective, speedy, and very easy to use, which is all the average user could want from an antivirus program. It's also a worthwhile upgrade from Norton AntiVirus 2003, given its faster speed and more extensive feature set. Overall, Norton AntiVirus 2004 represents a complete and effective package of antiviral protection for the home user.

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