Norton Antivirus Review

Overview

Norton is one of the most recognized names when it comes to security. With a long history, with ups and downs, the Norton (or Norton by Symantec) product line deserves its place on the short list if you are looking for a suitable antivirus program. Its main focus is on identifying malware, viruses and other threats accurately and ensuring that they don't get the chance to cause harm to your computer or steal information.

Originally called Peter Norton Computing Inc, the company focused on producing high quality MS DOS utilities. Norton became a household name in 1982, thanks to the Norton Utilities software package and became even more popular in 1986, with the revered Norton Commander.

It was at the turn of the decade when the company was purchased and re-branded by Symantec and just one year later, in 1991, the first version of Norton Antivirus was rolled out. Since then, the product has been expanded and improved numerous times, earning the company numerous awards, as well as a market share of 61%. However, Norton's history is not without mishaps. The company has been the subject of criticism in the past years, but it endured and improved. Today, you can still count Norton among the top security solutions on the Internet.

Packages and features

The Norton product family has gotten quite large over the years, so there is certainly something for everyone. When it comes to guarding against viruses and malware, you can choose between several packages, depending on what you actually need. You will find anything, from a bare-bone protection program to a full-fledged security system.

  • Norton Antivirus BASIC

  • As the name suggests, this package offers basic antivirus protection. If you are a single user, with only one Windows-powered computer, you can use Norton Antivirus BASIC to detect and remove virus threats and keep your machine secure, without concerning yourself with other features.

    • Antivirus protection

      You can obviously expect several scanning options and threat detection feature, even from the basic package. The software lets you quickly and easily remove viruses, malware, spyware or ransomware and prevent malicious programs from affecting your system and your data in the future.

    • Anti-phishing

      You always need to watch out for fraudulent websites, if you don't want to give your passwords or credit card details to strangers. With Norton's Anti-phishing feature activated, you don't have take a close look at every URL, all the time, because you will receive warnings whenever you are about to connect to a dodgy website

    • Anti-spam

      If you are tired of deleting junk mail everyday, Norton's Anti-spam filtering feature can help you keep your inbox clean. You can separate spam from legitimate emails on the fly and be sure that those annoying offers won't show up anymore and make your important messages difficult to spot.

    • Browser extensions

      The program comes with optional extensions for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer. With these extensions installed, you can be sure the the websites you make your online shopping on are not scams that will steal your money or your credit card details.

    • Password manager

      If you don't want to commit too many passwords to memory, you can let Norton Identity Safe keep your login credentials safe. You can write down all your credentials in a password-protected vault and prevent other users from looking at them. This way, you won't be in danger of forgetting the password to an important account and you will be able to sign into that account much faster.

    • Rescue disk (Optional download)

      Besides its main features, Norton offers a few optional tools, which can be downloaded separately. With Rescue disk, you can prepare for catastrophic system failures, by creating a bootable rescue DVD or USB drive. If your system doesn't work properly or fails to start at all, this tool will help you restore it to a working condition.

    • System optimizer (Optional download)

      If your computer is starting to work slowly, the System optimizer can help you remove temporary files, and other pieces of junk data. You can make your operating system work as fast as before, with fewer crashes, in less than a minute.

  • Norton Security STANDARD

  • To many people, this package seems to be the actual basic security system. Intended for single users, Norton Security STANDARD can protect one PC, Mac or mobile device. It comes with all the features of Antivirus BASIC, but it also provides something more for users who spend a lot of time online.

    • Two-way firewall

      You can set up your own custom rules, to allow specific applications to connect to the Internet or prevent them from doing so. This way, you can ensure that hackers won't be able to exploit security gaps and connect to your machine and, at the same time, compromised applications will not transmit any of your private data to unscrupulous individuals.

  • Norton Security DELUXE

  • If you are looking to protect more than one computer or mobile device, Norton Security DELUXE would be a logical choice. It can be used on up to 5 PCs, Macs, smartphones or tablets, which makes it suitable for small households or people who use several devices, besides their main computer.

    • Web management portal

      Though it doesn't bring anything new, in terms of protection, Norton Security DELUXE gives you access to the "My Norton" online portal. You can manage all your devices, tweak their security settings and more, from a single online account. If you forgot or lost your smartphone somewhere, this system will help you ensure that no one will access the data you have stored on it.

  • Norton Security PREMIUM

  • While the previous package added only the possibility of protecting and managing multiple devices as an extra feature, Norton Security PREMIUM brings much more to the table. It can be used on up to 10 devices and the additional features it offers makes it ideal for families and professional users, who wish to keep their important data safe.

    • Backup software

      Photos, important documents or financial files are the things you definitely don't want to get corrupted or lost as the result of a virus attack or other unforeseen events. With Norton Security PREMIUM's built-in backup software, you can create backup copies of any data you deem too important to lose and store them locally or online. Of course, you can also set up automatic backup jobs, so you will never have to worry about the possibility of losing an important project file or those photos of your children's graduation.

    • Online storage

      To complement its data backup capabilities, Norton Security PREMIUM provides you with 25 GB of cloud storage as well. Backed up data could still be lost if stored on the local drive, but if you set the program to store it in the cloud, you will be able to recover all your important files, even in the event of a complete hard drive failure and you will also be able to access them from anywhere in the world.

    • Parental controls

      Children can be exposed to some dangerous online content if left unsupervised. Fortunately, Norton Security PREMIUM's parental controls give you the possibility of blocking off any inappropriate websites and set up automated rules. You can decide how long your children can stay online and what they can do, so you don't have to constantly keep an eye on them when they're using a computer.

  • Norton Security DELUXE with LifeLock STANDARD

  • If Norton Security DELUXE is perfect for you, due to the number of devices you can protect with it, but you want something more in terms of security, this package could be the answer, if you don't mind the higher price. Essentially, this is the Norton Security DELUXE package, but with a third party utility.

    • LifeLock STANDARD

      You can use this tool to guard any personal information, including your social security number, bank accounts and credit card numbers, to prevent identity theft. LifeLock is much more than an expensive information vault. This subscription-based service monitors over one trillion data points each day. If someone has stolen your personal information, through any means, you will receive alerts if they attempt to use that information for dishonest purposes, like signing up for a loan in your name. What's more, if you fall victim to identity theft, LifeLock will actually spend large amounts of money to help you stop the perpetrator.

Installation and setup

Regardless of what Norton package you choose, you won't have to spend too much time installing the product and there is no need to meet any special requirements. You start with a small setup file, which automatically downloads everything that needs to be installed. The setup wizard will walk you through the main features of the program, so you will know what buttons to click when you run the program for the first time.

Like most antivirus solutions, Norton doesn't like sharing a system with other antivirus programs, so you will have to remove them first. Fortunately, Windows Defender, the operating system's default protection system, won't interfere and it won't cause any conflicts. Furthermore, Norton is not known to conflict with any third party applications that are not antiviruses.

When the installation is complete, Norton will ask you to update its signatures database, which should only take a few seconds, after which you may start your first virus scan. It will also offer to install a series of extensions, for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer. If you install the extensions and change your mind later, you can disable or remove them at any time, quickly and effortlessly. Also, Norton may periodically prompt you to install the extensions if you haven't done so, but the prompts can be disabled just as easily.

User Experience

The user interface is the same for all Norton Security packages. It conveniently splits the program's core functions in separate categories: Security, Identity, Backup, Performance and More Norton. These sections can be accessed instantly, via navigation tabs, located on the bottom part of the window. Information you want to know quickly is displayed clearly in each section of the interface. For example, if you access the Security section, you will immediately know if your system is protected, if the signatures database is up to date and when you've performed the last scan. What's more, you will also find quick options for running a scan, updating the database or solving other issues that may arise.

Scanning for viruses or performing any other task in Norton Security is exceptionally easy, due to the efficient layout and responsiveness of the controls. Although there are a few menus to go through, everything can be done on the fly. Even complex settings can be made at a moment's notice, by simply clicking a series of On/Off switches. What's more, Norton has added search box for configuration options. If you can't remember where you can find a specific option, you don't have to waste valuable time navigating through all the menus, because you can just type its name in the search box and turn it On or Off right in the search results.

Updates are performed automatically, at least once a day, but you can update the signatures database manually as well. The best part is that it usually takes only a few seconds to finish updating and it doesn't have any noticeable impact on your computer's performance, nor on the program's effectiveness. Norton does many things to avoid getting in the way of your regular activities. For example, if you have automatic backups set up, you can configure the program to run them when the system is idle, so you don't have to deal with them while you are using the computer for other tasks. Also, the program can adapt itself to various activities, which gives you the possibility of enjoying a movie or a game without any dialogs or pop-ups getting in the way.

Scanning and detection

When it comes to virus detection, Norton provides three layers of security. The first, and most obvious, is the signature matching system, which compares files to known malware characteristics in a database. This will happen when you scan your computer or when you download a file. The second line of defense is the heuristic analysis. The danger is not over if the application you have downloaded passes a virus scan. It could make changes to your system and leave it open to an attack after you launch it. However, even if you run an infected program, Norton will detect its suspicious behavior and it will quarantine or delete that app right away, before it gets the chance to attack your valuable files.

Finally, through Norton's ample collection program, new virus samples are gathered from over 50 million client computers and stored on a cloud server, to strengthen the software's detection capabilities. If you detect a virus that hasn't been classified yet, you can send a sample to Norton, so that other users may guard themselves against that threat more efficiently. Of course, this works the other way around as well. Any new threats, picked up by other users and sent in for analysis, will not affect your own computer.

  • Three scanning methods

    Most antivirus programs provide multiple choices when it comes to scanning and Norton is no exception. If you are in a hurry to check for viruses in usually infected locations, you can run a quick scan, which takes a few minutes to complete. You can also perform a full system scan, if you want to make double-sure that there are no viruses, malware, spyware or other dangers on your computer. This scanning method takes more than an hour to complete, but the program will thoroughly check your system, from top to bottom and eliminate even well-hidden malware.

    Custom scans can be set up if you want to look for viruses in a specific location. If you have received a new file and you want to make certain it's clean, you can just scan its parent folder, instead of scanning everything. Additionally, you can schedule the program to run custom scans automatically, which gives you the freedom to focus on important tasks, without thinking that you haven't performed a virus scan in some time.

  • Auto-Protect

    You don't have to scan your computer all the time if you feel uneasy about new files that are added to your computer, because Norton's real-time protection functionality will do this for you. When you download a file from the Internet or launch a new application, you can open them without any worries, because they will be checked automatically. If you run an executable with malicious code, your personal data will remain safe, because Norton will block that application before it gets the chance to corrupt or encrypt your files.

    Auto-Protect works with your entire file system and with the emails you receive through a client, such as Outlook. You can have complete peace of mind when opening documents and images, running applications or reading emails, knowing that nothing you do will lead to a malware attack.

  • SONAR Protection

    Although you should always update your antivirus protection, instead of relying fully on this feature, you can trust Norton's SONAR protection to fend off viruses, even if their signatures were not included in the latest update. This is what guarantees that new and undocumented malware won't have much chance of causing trouble on your computer and the best part is that you don't have to do anything, besides leaving the feature turned on.

    The so-called zero-day threats can be quite dangerous, since they haven't been classified yet. However, Norton's Auto-Protect, with the help of the SONAR Protection, will react to these threats and prevent them from exploiting undiscovered vulnerabilities on your computer. No harm will come to your personal files if you run an infected application by mistake. Instead, you will only see the malicious application shutting down all of a sudden.

System Performance

Minimum system requirements:

CPU: 1 GHz
RAM: 256 MB
Disk space: 300 MB

Recomended

CPU: 1 GHz
RAM: 2 GB
Disk space: 300 MB

Norton had earned itself a reputation for having a heavy impact on a computer's performance, but all that is in the past. You won't notice any slow-downs while the program is working in the background. Though it doesn't come with a gaming mode, its Silent Mode will put unimportant updates on hold and reduce notifications automatically, when it detects a full-screen application or 3D graphics, allowing you to watch a movie or play a video game undisturbed.

Norton certainly does everything to reduce its impact on performance as much as possible. Its behavior is quite interesting when you power up a computer after a long time. If you return from a long vacation and turn on your computer, the program will prioritize important updates, while postponing non-critical ones, which gives you time to check the emails that have piled up in your inbox or perform other over-due tasks, without any interruptions.

When it comes to the impact on performance, Norton is certainly a far cry from its older, resource-demanding versions. Even if you perform a full system scan, you will be able to continue your normal routine comfortably. However, this minimal impact doesn't come without a cost. The trade-off here is a longer scanning time. It takes about 3 minutes to complete a quick scan, while a full scan takes over one hour, which makes Norton a bit slower than other antivirus programs.

Of course, you will see improved speeds in future scans, due, in no small part, to the Norton Insight feature, which relies on you specifying what files are safe. The files that are whitelisted, based on reputation, will not be scanned in the future, which makes the scanning process significantly faster. A modified full scan that takes about 20 minutes to complete should not be a surprising result. What's more, Norton enjoys one of the highest ratings when it comes to correctly identifying threats, with few to no false positives. In other words, the programs you trust and use regularly won't be flagged as threats by mistake, so you won't find yourself unable to run your favorite media player or word processor.

Support and Customer Service

Norton offers customer support over the phone or live web chat, to help you out if the program stops working correctly or if it fails to detect viruses. The service is open around the clock, so you can get someone to help you with your issues, even at late hours. You can find the means of reaching a support expert either on the program's interface or on the Norton website, where you have to fill in a form, to let them know in advance about your problems.

However, you should be aware of the fact that the support for Norton Antivirus BASIC users will be limited to installation issues. The good news is that you can access a Help Center on Norton's website, where you can find an impressive amount of help materials, including video tutorials and troubleshooting tools. Additionally, if you need help from an actual human, you can leave a question on the community forum.

Flowing the example of other security companies, Norton offers some rather interesting benefits to users who opt into the automatic license renewal system. If you agree to let them charge you for a new license automatically, when the old one expires, you will get Symantec's Virus Protection Promise. If a virus slips through the program's defenses and infects your files, a tech expert will connect to your computer and solve your problem remotely, for free. Furthermore, if the expert fails to solve your problem, you will get a full refund.

Value for the Money

The Norton product line is definitely worth considering for purchase, due to its powerful and reliable scanning engine and to its complex, yet easy-to-master prevention mechanisms. From the most basic version to the highest one, all products provide the same protection measures against malware and other threats. If you are not convinced, due to its past reputation, you should have a look at the scores it received from independent testers, who placed Norton among the top antivirus solutions.

The product line received near-perfect scores for detection rate, from AV-Comparatives, in their 2017 Real-World Protection Test, while AV-Test awarded Norton with a "Top Product" badge, an honor bestowed only on 5 out of 22 products. Furthermore, the antivirus passed the more rigorous tests of SE Labs with flying colors, making it one of only three products that received a "Total Accuracy" rating

Norton Antivirus BASIC

A simple and straight-to-the-point solution, Norton Antivirus BASIC is just what you need if you are not interested in anything else than protecting your computer against viruses, malware, spyware or ransomware. It's the most affordable solution for regular users who want to enjoy a movie, socialize with people online or play a game, without fearing that a malicious program is corrupting or stealing their data.

Norton Security STANDARD

A slightly more expensive version of Antivirus BASIC, Norton Security STANDARD allows regular users to protect a single Windows PC, Mac or a mobile device. Besides the basic protection you want for your machine, you also get reliable firewall, to guard against hackers and prevent malicious programs from transmitting your personal data to strangers.

Norton Security DELUXE

When it comes to protecting multiple devices, Norton Security DELUXE is the option you should go for. While it doesn't bring new protection features, besides what the previous two packages provide, Security DELUXE can be used on up to 5 PCs, Macs, smartphones or tablets. This makes it a suitable solution for small households and users who rely on multiple platforms simultaneously.

Norton Security PREMIUM

Found at the top of the ladder, Norton Security PREMIUM steps up the game, by providing protection for up to 10 devices. Large families, with multiple devices in their house, will definitely appreciate this package, due to its parental controls and to its backup and cloud storage features. If you have children who use different smartphones, this package is ideal for protecting their devices and ensuring they don't visit websites that are not appropriate for their age.

Norton Security DELUXE with LifeLock STANDARD

If you don't mind paying a higher price for Norton SecurityDELUXE, you can enjoy the benefits of LifeLock's high quality services. Working mainly on the Internet and making numerous online purchases can expose you to identity theft, but you can rest assured, knowing that if someone ever tries to use your credit card details or social security number, LifeLock will let you know about it and it will fight to help you recover from any damages and prevent future ones.

Final Verdict

Norton might have hit a few bumps down the road, but the simple truth of the matter is that its product line offers one of the highest rated virus protection systems on the market. Though other programs may come with some extra bells and whistles, like built-in VPNs, Norton sticks to what it knows best, which is a powerful, no-nonsense, low-impact and high-accuracy antivirus defense.

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