Norton Internet Security 2009 – I think they finally get it

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Image by tchuntfr via Flickr

I have used Norton products since the MS-DOS days.

Although they started off lightweight and nimble, over the years they got more and more bloated.  Just installing Norton AntiVirus slowed any computer down by at least 10%, but in the worsening computer security climate it was unthinkable to not have antivirus software installed.

Over the years there were plenty of competitors to Norton AntiVirus, but either they had the same performance issues or they were from small companies that I couldn’t bring myself to trust with my security.

Upgrading year after year became a kind of reverse Christmas – every year I hoped so hard that maybe this version would somehow be faster, and it never was.

Every computer upgrade was the same – the new hardware was breathtakingly fast, and then I installed the anti-virus software and it was back to the same old grind.

Now with Norton Internet Security 2009, I think they finally get it.  They seem to have actually put a lot of effort into improving performance.

The main screen now has little displays of the current CPU usage of your computer and what percentage of that is Norton.  This feature doesn’t actually reduce the CPU usage, but it makes you more aware of whether Norton is the problem or not.

Norton Internet Security 2009 main screen

Norton Internet Security 2009 main screen

You can also bring up a graph of the historical CPU and memory usage and how much of that Norton was responsible for.

Norton Internet Security 2009 CPU Usage display

Norton Internet Security 2009 CPU Usage display

The features that actually make a difference are:

  1. Idle Time Scan – instead of scheduling a weekly scan of the whole computer, it only performs the scan if the computer is idle.  At one point I was (effectively) computer support for a small company and I had sales people complaining about the anti-virus scan happening when they were in the middle of demonstrating software, so this is an excellent feature.  About time.
  2. Pulse Updates – instead of checking for anti-virus definition updates daily or weekly, it now checks pretty much constantly.  This means you definitions will be even more up-to-date than before, and the updates take less bandwidth and CPU.
  3. Norton Insight – instead of scanning all files every time, Norton now has some intelligence about what the files are and how often you access them, to avoid scanning files that it knows are safe or that you access very frequently.  This means scans can take less time because it’s checking less files, and it avoids scanning frequently accessed files every time they’re accessed, giving a big performance saving.

I haven’t been using Norton Internet Security 2009 for very long, but so far it seems pretty quick.  I’m just glad they’re finally putting some thought into performance.

P.S. At this point someone will say “switch to a Mac/Linux – no viruses!” and I will reply that:

  1. None of my programs would work.  A safe computer that doesn’t do what I need it to do is a useless computer.
  2. The only reason those platforms have less viruses/exploits is because they represent such a small percentage of computers out there.  That’s security through obscurity – as soon as they were a big enough target they would be attacked more, exploits would be found, viruses would be written and they would be in the same boat as Windows.  So shut up.
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