Norton AntiVirus 2009 Review

Norton AntiVirus 2009 Review

by Charles P. Jefferies

Norton AntiVirus is one of the most well-known names in PC security. The company’s AntiVirus is the base security suite that provides essential protection against viruses and spyware for home users. It updates itself every five to fifteen minutes, and includes an intelligent scanner that effectively sweeps a computer for threats in less time. Does Norton AntiVirus deliver on its claims?


Norton AntiVirus is designed primarily to protect home users from viruses and spyware. Norton’s Protection System features multiple levels of virus defense, including web browser protection (Firefox/Internet Explorer), an Intrusion Prevention System, Antibot security to prevent malicious takeover, and a system recovery tool for undoing any damage from attacks that do slip through Norton’s defenses. It also includes SONAR, Norton’s solution for protection from unknown threats-which is to say viruses that Norton hasn’t catalogued yet. AntiVirus updates itself every five to fifteen minutes, which is significantly quicker than other vendor’s solutions. Norton’s Insight technology allows for intelligent scanning of the system, requiring less time and less scans to maintain an effective watch over your computer. Norton AntiVirus emphasizes high performance; it is claimed to use less than 8MB of system memory on average and to install in under one minute. Norton provides free technical support to users via the Internet, email, chat, or phone.

Norton AntiVirus lacks a personal firewall, which is included with the higher-priced Norton Internet Security and 360 suites. Increased network security is also offered with Internet Security and 360. For home users, the features contained in AntiVirus should be more than sufficient.


We used a retail version of Norton AntiVirus , which comes on CD.

After clicking Install, the wizard requires a review of the license agreement and the product key to be entered.

The install is then completed, which does in fact take less than one minute as Norton claims. This is impressive and is faster than other security solutions I have tested.

Following the install, users can create a Norton Account which can provide subscription information and the other outlined benefits.


Norton AntiVirus has a very streamlined interface; the items listed have a clear purpose. A large icon in the upper left corner indicates protection status. The interface is organized differently than other programs I tested; all available options are displayed rather than assimilated into a menu system. Surprisingly this does not lead to confusion and the interface is very well done.

Updating is done automatically; I performed the process once manually to see how it is done. It is as simple as clicking Run LiveUpdate.

Norton AntiVirus has some interesting features; did you see the CPU Usage meter on the left? Clicking on that brings up the above graph, which shows processor and memory usage of both the system and Norton. This is basically the software developers showing us with evidence that their software is well optimized and does not waste resources. Norton’s CPU usage is high in this graph since I was running a full scan.

AntiVirus has a Silent Mode, which hides all alerts and background activities for a limited period of time. This is useful when running full-screen applications.

Another feature of AntiVirus is Norton Insight. This feature provides intelligent scanning of your system by only scanning the files at risk.

AntiVirus has a Network Security feature, which provides details about your connection, how secure it is, and info on other computers in your network. It also lets you check the security of other PCs running Norton software.

One last section I want to touch on is the Settings page; here, everything pertaining to how AntiVirus interfaces with your system can be viewed and modified. I imagine most users will never have to alter any settings.


AntiVirus did not interfere with Internet browsing or other normal activities; its system tray icon and sidebar widget (above) provide the only indications it is present.

To test the effectiveness of Norton AntiVirus , I used several virus files from, an IT security website. The four files provided for download, which have different extensions including .com, .zip, and .txt, contain viruses. Please see the test descriptionfor extensive information on the tests. Good Anti-Virus software should detect the files as threats.

Norton AntiVirus successfully identified all of the virus files as threats, before the download or immediately afterward; Norton would not let me access the files and neutralized them immediately.

Users can view the security history from the above interface.


We evaluate the performance impact and system resource usage of using Anti-Virus software in three ways:

  1. Overall system performance measured before and after installation using PCMark05, a system benchmark suite
  2. Memory footprint
  3. Time it took to perform a full system scan

Our test system is an Acer Aspire 5735-4744; it has the following specifications:

  • Intel Pentium Dual-Core T3200 (2.0GHz/1MB L2/667MHz FSB)
  • 2GB DDR2-667 RAM
  • 160GB 5400RPM Fujitsu hard drive
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit, stock install with all updates and Search disabled
  • Atheros 802.11 Draft-N wireless

Overall System Performance Impact measured with PCMark05

Our notebook had the following numbers prior to installing Norton:

After installing Norton, we ran the benchmark again:

Norton only affects system performance by 5%, which is such a small difference that it could almost be attributed to benchmark error.

Memory Footprint

Norton indeed uses less than 8MB of memory as claimed (at least according to the Task Manager). The software was clearly designed to be light on system resources, and it shows.

Time it took to perform a full system scan

Norton took 25 minutes to scan our system’s hard drive filled with 37GB of data; this is slightly slower than Kasperskyand NOD32antivirus, but by only a few minutes. Running a Quick Scan takes less than a minute, however, thanks to the Norton Insight technology.


Norton AntiVirus beat our expectations and then some. It successfully protected our computer from viruses and proved to be a proactive defender. The program interface is well organized and easy to navigate. Norton’s Insight technology allowed for effective quick scans. The software was very well optimized and did not affect system performance. We liked the extra features including the network security tools and resource usage monitors.

Norton AntiVirus is an effective and well-rounded security solution, and we highly recommend it to users looking for an excellent home PC security solution.


  • Successfully detected viruses
  • Well-designed interface
  • Fast, simple installation
  • No noticeable impact on performance
  • Intelligent scanning features
  • Automatic updates every 5-15 minutes
  • Network tools and resource usage monitors


  • Full system scan takes slightly longer than comparable solutions





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