Norton AntiVirus 2002 8.0

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  • Editors' rating
    8.0 Excellent

Pros

  • Excellent track record against viruses
  • simple interface
  • scans both incoming and outgoing attachments for viruses
  • works with Windows XP.

Cons

  • No significant new features
  • still doesn't scan Zip files downloaded from the Internet
  • expensive.

Norton AntiVirus seeks out and destroys bugs better than a Rentokil man, identifies viruses faster than the Public Health Laboratory Service, and squashes worms harder than the most devilish child. Version 2002 showcases a new, simple interface, and provides some additional protection against email and script-based nasties. If you're new to the anti-virus game, purchase NAV 2002 right away. But if you already have Norton AntiVirus 2001, you can give this upgrade a miss -- unless you're migrating to Windows XP.

Norton AntiVirus 2002 (NAV 2002) has aggressively streamlined its look. In previous versions, the main program window contained eight lines of text that described every minute detail of the program's functions -- whether the auto-protect feature was on, or when your last virus update took place, for example. NAV 2002 trades in all this text for a panel of self-explanatory indicators that clue you into what's going on with your system (think car dashboard). For example, a green indicator displays the time of your last scan.

Also, you don't have to configure NAV 2002 much at all. You can practically use NAV 2002 out-of-the-box -- a fact that beginners will appreciate. NAV veterans, however, may want more control over the program. For example, NAV still automatically scans email attachments, but you can no longer select which email accounts it scans -- it scans all of them or nothing. Also, NAV 2002 has made it harder to schedule a virus scan for a later time and date: the scheduling feature has lost its prominent position on the first screen of NAV, and now sits at the bottom of the scanning page.

But despite its interface woes, NAV 2002 includes the same powerful set of anti-virus, anti-Trojan tools as its predecessor. It scans for bugs on Windows startup, scans in the background whenever a file is created or opened, watches for downloaded viruses, checks out email attachments, and quarantines infected (or just suspicious) files. As in 2001, NAV 2002's email protection integrates with any POP3 email client, such as Eudora, Outlook Express and Outlook.

NAV 2002 also has some new tricks up its sleeve. It not only sniffs out viruses in incoming email attachments (as NAV 2001 did), but now the program checks outgoing attachments, too, so you can rest assured that you're not infecting others. Since some of the most noxious worms, such as SirCam, replicate via email without the sender's knowledge, we particularly appreciate this improvement.

We also love NAV 2002's new Script Blocking feature, which promises to block script-based viruses, such as the script-based I Love You bug, before they do damage, even if Symantec hasn't identified them yet. NAV also scans your email for embedded VBScript and JavaScript scripts, and alerts you if it finds any suspicious scripts. You can then decide whether to run the script or stop it in its tracks from a pop-up dialog. Want to scan a specific file on your PC? No problem. NAV 2002 integrates with Windows Explorer so that when you right-click any file, one of the options in the pop-up menu lets you scan for viruses.

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Despite these improvements, NAV still doesn't keep you informed as it scans. You will get a nice summary after NAV has worked its magic, but during the process, NAV doesn't tell you how many files it's scanning nor how much time it'll take -- unlike its major competitor, McAfee's VirusScan.

Even though it doesn't have that many new features, NAV 2002 still gets our vote as the best virus checker. We threw more than 50 viruses at it, including script-based and email viruses, and NAV identified and disinfected all but two.

However, our tests are far from exhaustive. There are tens of thousands of viruses extant, and hundreds active 'in the wild' at any one time. One of the best spots to keep an eye on NAV's track record against viruses is Virus Bulletin's 100% Award, a site that salutes programs that detect 100 percent of the in-the-wild viruses. According to the site, NAV has a 16-month winning streak -- the best of any anti-virus program.

We're just as impressed by how deftly NAV squashes bugs. Unlike earlier editions, which alerted you that a virus was present, then asked you what you wanted to do with it, NAV 2002 automatically repairs an infected file (or if it can't, quarantines the file), and alerts you only after it's both found and fixed the problem. This may sound like a minor point, but it's reassuring for beginners to know that the software has already taken care of the job. Plus, when we put NAV to work on our virus collection, it interrupted our work only after it had identified and disinfected the files. The same goes for viruses embedded in email attachments.

Version 2002 still lacks one significant feature: unlike McAfee's VirusScan, NAV 2002 still doesn't sniff out viruses packed in Zip files downloaded from the Internet. In our tests, NAV didn't kick in until we tried to extract infected files from the Zip archive. We wish NAV would deal with virus-infected Zip files before they reach our hard drive.

Like its ancestors, NAV 2002 relies on the excellent LiveUpdate, which checks the Symantec site for updated virus definitions every four hours (assuming you're online). So unless you catch a virus seconds after it hits the Web, NAV is probably already up-to-date and ready to repel the most recent viruses. NAV automatically downloads available virus definition updates and installs them in the background.

And as before, NAV barely impacts your PC's performance: according to our tests, NAV 2002 used just three percent of our Windows ME system's resources -- slightly less than NAV 2001's four percent footprint.

NAV 2002's biggest attraction is its support for Windows XP (it's the first anti-virus application for that OS), along with 9x, ME, NT 4.0 and 2000. If you're upgrading to XP and you rely on NAV to search and destroy viruses, go for the £20.68 (ex. VAT; £24.31 inc. VAT) upgrade.

If you use NAV 2001 and you're not upgrading to XP, you probably won't find enough goodies in the 2002 version to justify paying nearly £25 for an upgrade. Our advice: buy another year's virus updates -- you'll still be safe.

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