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12/3/2004
06:33 PM
Scot Finnie
Scot Finnie
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Norton 2005: To Upgrade Or Not To Upgrade?

Pipelines/TechWeb Editor Scot Finnie answers the annual question for small businesses and individuals: "Should I upgrade to the latest version of Norton XXX this year?"

This isn't a review of Symantec's Norton 2005 products, which include Norton AntiVirus 2005, Norton Personal Firewall 2005, Norton AntiSpam 2005, Norton SystemWorks 2005, and Norton Internet Security 2005. Of all of these products, only Norton Internet Security 2005 offers any significant addition of features. For 2005, Symantec's focus has largely been refinement and minor updates to meet new security threats. I recently wrote about Symantec's 2005 product lineup based on the briefing the company gave me. That story includes a discussion of the more important new features.

In this story, I'm answering annual question: "Should I upgrade to the latest version of Norton XXX this year?"

Norton AntiVirus 2005
Symantec was late this autumn in getting me the final evaluation copies of all its 2005 utilities, so I didn't get started testing some of them until about a month ago. (I haven't started testing Norton AntiSpam yet because I'm currently still testing POPFile.) I've been using Norton AntiVirus (NAV) 2005 for the longest of the bunch, and I can wholeheartedly recommend it. It's the best version of NAV ever. The improvements aren't dramatic; it just works better than it predecessors did.

For my money, the biggest new feature in NAV 2005 is the pre-installation scan of your hard drive. If you've used NAV before, you may recall that the pre-install scan used to take forever. Pre-scanning the hard drive is an important step, especially if you didn't have an antivirus program installed on your computer before. But the time required to run this scan in earlier versions of NAV meant that most people did one of two things: Either you didn't complete the scan, or you didn't install the software. Well, NAV 2005's pre-install scan takes only a few minutes, even on giant hard drives. One less hassle.

If you bought NAV 2004, wait until
next year and get NAV 2006.

The only recommendation I have about NAV 2005 is this: If you bought NAV 2004, wait until next year and get NAV 2006. In general, I recommend an every-other-year NAV upgrade program. On the off years, purchase a one-year antivirus subscription update. If you're running NAV 2003 or older, get NAV 2005. But please uninstall all previous versions NAV, Norton SystemWorks, and Norton Internet Security before you install Norton AntiVirus 2005. In my book, this isn't optional. When people get into trouble with Norton products, it's because they mix versions from different years -- especially in conjunction with the superset products, Norton Internet Security and Norton SystemWorks.

Norton SystemWorks 2005
In January 2004, I wrote in a Q&A answer to a reader question that I was becoming disillusioned with the two larger Symantec products, and my conviction about this only strengthened throughout 2004. Although, as usual, you'll find lots of people complaining about installation issues with the Norton 2005 product line in forums and Web sites (that is, "in Google"), that doesn't mean everyone is having trouble -- or even that most people are having problems with these products. In fact, my personal experience is that the Norton 2005 products are better than the 2004 Norton products, which were better than the 2003 Norton products.

In particular, Norton SystemWorks 2005 seems improved to me. I installed it on my main machine and have seen none of the issues that plagued earlier versions of this product, which included conflicts with pre-existing Norton AntiVirus installations (I had NAV 2005 previously installed) and system performance or reliability issues. So I'm cautiously optimistic about Norton SystemWorks 2005. And since buying and installing Norton SystemWorks is the only way to get Norton Utilities (a product I've been using since the early 1980s), I'm pleased to note the improvement. However, see the advice for installing NAV 2005, for it applies here too. Also, don't install everything. Be choosy when installing the various options in Norton SystemWorks. (One-Button Check up, for example, is something I wish I hadn't installed.)

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