The concept behind this suite of security programs seems to be for them to work without disturbing you, without forcing you to make technical choices, and without your having to understand much about security. Can Norton 360 deliver? With Symantec's long history of supplying Norton-branded products, you do not have to worry about their ability to stop viruses, spyware, and intrusions. The key question is: will it mess up my computer? There is a risk, because internet security programs have to get right into the workings of Windows.
So first I took these precautions: I uninstalled completely my previous antivirus (AVG), firewall (ZoneAlarm) and anti-spyware (Spybot) programs. Then I used the free CCleaner registry cleaner to remove any traces. If you have EVER used a Norton or Symantec product, even if you think it is long gone, I recommend downloading and running the Norton Removal Tool from the Symantec website. Doing all this preparation is well worth it, as many of the hangups with Norton stem from interference from bits of old programs. After that, I slavishly followed the installation instructions, and all has run sweetly.
Norton 360 has a simple interface, covering its four main jobs. Job number 1 is PC Security -- that's antivirus, antispyware, firewall and email scanning. All the default settings are sensible, and you can leave them alone. Updates are automatic. This is what you paid your money for, and the rest is icing. Job 2 is a simple anti-phishing setup that checks websites. Job 3 is a simple file backup program that you are supposed to use to protect your vital data files from accidental loss. This is a lot better than no backup, but is inferior to most backup programs. Vista users are better off with the built in Vista backup function. You also get 2GB of "secure online storage", and if this is enough for you, you can use it for some backup over the internet. If you want more storage, you can buy it. The file selection is not too intelligent. It picked up all sorts of useless bits of video, music and pictures that really belonged to programs, not to my personal data. Job no.4 is an automatic disk defragmentation, and automatic deletion of old temporary files and internet cache files. Again, Vista users can get this inside Windows, and can switch it off.
Several weeks' experience have shown that Norton 360 is unobtrusive, and quietly works away without bothering me. Compared with other security suites I have used, it demands much less intervention and understanding.
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