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Free Norton 360 5.0 Review and Download

19. February 2011
Norton 360 5.0 main screen

    Norton has just released the 5.0 version of their popular antivirus program, Norton 360.  New in this version is a revamped interface,  better threat detection for downloads before they can execute, reputation level and Facebook wall scanning, and additional performance improvements.  I installed Norton 360 5.0 because I recently downloaded an information stealing Trojan by accident.  The virus didn’t have a definition for it and I needed be assured that I had the most effective detection against any new variants.   Norton is the only program I know of with pulse update technology or something like push email.  Rather than Norton 360 asking Live Update for definitions based upon a set schedule, the Live Update server tells ones computer when they have an update and automatically downloads and installs them. The result is virus definitions that are downloaded every 1, 5, or 10 minutes.  Compare this to a free antivirus like AVG or Avira that only update once the entire day!  New viruses don’t just come out at 12:00 am every night they are released every second from all over the world.

    The installation of Norton 360 5.0 has improved to the point where it is the fastest I have seen yet.  The installation literally completed in about 1 minute (at most 2), installed all services, and started the antivirus without a system restart.  The download was on the larger size at 144 megabytes.  The customization options for the installation were basically nonexistent except for the ability to change the destination drive.  It would have been nice to add or subtract components like the firewall etc.  Once the installation was done, the program needed to perform an initial update.  The update was approximately 90 megabytes in size.  Therefore, one might want to have a fast connection to get Norton 360 5.0 up to date.

detected threats

    The scanning process of Norton 360 5.0 is one of the best.  The scanner always checks for the latest virus definitions before scanning (definitions reported that they had been updated 2 minutes ago and the scanner already found a new update!).  The virus scanner also scans for spyware, removes temporary files, and defragments the computer.  According to Windows Resource Monitor, ccSvcHst.exe was accessing the disk at about 25 megabytes a second for the trace based spyware scan, and 2 to 5 megabytes a second for the regular antivirus scan.  It appears that it is scanning at an average of 100 files of per second.  Norton 360 5.0 does selectively slow or increase scanning speed based upon the computers usage. The full system scan took about on and half hours on the test system (two hard drive partitions) and detected several viruses that others left behind (see the screenshot).  The only annoying thing is that for detected high threats (non active process) one cannot ignore them.  They must be deleted.  I do like that virus scans can be instantly paused and resumed and don't have a huge scanning lag like most free antivirus. 

virus and spyware scanning in progress

    Norton 360 5.0 includes many additional features including a auto learning firewall with intrusion prevention (I never saw a dialog box to allow a program).   One annoying thing is that I wasn’t able to configure the advanced events monitoring area with the key logger, code injection etc.  options.  I do like the use default option presented on all the settings pages if one makes a mistake.  The firewall also auto allowed a VNC server on the test computer which I think the user should be prompted to block (a special case).  The Norton Insight protection scanned 73% of the files on the computer and stated that 27% will be scanned.  However, after 2  days the 27% number didn't change.  The identity protection option includes Norton Safe Web antiphishing toolbar which works for firefox and IE (didn’t appear to install on Google chrome).   There is a backup option but it still only backups personal files and not operating system files.  The PC tune-up area allows for system defrags and cleans temporary internet files.  There is now an option to optimize Windows startups. I would still like to see more premium system cleaning features like registry scanning and defragging.

Firewall settings

    Norton 360 5.0 has also made great strides in resource management.  With all the modules running at full protection the program only used about 10 megabytes during idle.  This is quite amazing considering how many things are operating at once (firewall, real time scanners etc.).  During scanning Norton 360 5.0 used about 120 megabytes of RAM and 10 percent CPU power.
If one wants the best virus protection available, Norton 360 5.0 will get one there with only a few minor hiccups.