Norton 360 v2 review

£59
Price when reviewed

When Norton 360 first appeared last year its light footprint and ease of use were a breath of fresh air. Now 360 itself has been refreshed, evolving into the unimaginatively-named Norton 360 v2.0.

But very little is really new. The major advance is the incorporation of the anti-malware, firewall and web protection modules from Norton Internet Security (NIS) 2008. That’s not a bad thing: in our last security suites group test, NIS 2008 tied with Kaspersky for the title of best malware detector, and this month it went one better, detecting 26 out of 28 current threats against Kaspersky’s 24. It’s the same firewall, however, that, in our Labs test, left 15 open ports and six potential vulnerabilities exposed.

You also get some features from NIS 2008 that weren’t in the original 360. Norton Identity Safe encrypts passwords and other personal information, and automatically logs you into secure websites. The network monitoring module keeps an eye on wireless security and helps you manage your LAN.

But apart from these component upgrades, the package is basically unchanged. That’s a shame, because while the Norton 360 interface once impressed us with its simplicity, it’s now been overtaken in the usability stakes by several other packages, including NIS 2008.

A case in point is the main screen. Four big circles give information about the program’s state, but there’s also a second information area above them. The circles spawn menus when you hover over them and launch smaller windows when you click on them. There’s also a row of additional links along the top, which open further windows. After the Zen-like straightforwardness of AVG 8, it’s overwhelming.

Our confusion wasn’t limited to the main console, either. At one point, 360 alarmed us by saying it had found an “unrepairable virus”, which turned out to be a web cookie. To remove it, we had to click Fix, go to a second window, select an action from a drop-down menu, then press a button marked simply with an arrow. It’s hardly a seamless process.

We were also uncomfortable with the way the program presents “PC Tuneup” as a security issue. It’s nice to be able to defragment your hard disk, but it’s simply misleading to describe an optimised system as “protected”. And its 115MB RAM footprint doesn’t fill us with joy either. On a Vista Home Basic PC with 512MB RAM it added over 30 seconds to boot time.

We’re more upbeat about Norton 360’s signature backup module. As with the previous version, your subscription includes 2GB of remote storage, which can be upgraded (£15 for another 5GB for instance) and accessed from directly within the program. 360 supports local backups too, and v2.0 adds the ability to back up to an iPod or a Blu-ray drive. Default settings are sensibly-chosen, and a nice touch is the ability to simply right-click on any file in Windows and select “add to backup”. Backups will run to a schedule, or when the computer’s idle, and there’s a bandwidth throttle to make sure they don’t interfere with network usage. It’s nowhere near as flexible as something like Carbonite, but it’s enough for most users. It’s just a shame it can’t back up open files.

In addition to the standard features, you can download the free Norton Add-On Pack, comprising antispam, parental controls and confidential information tools. Our favourite is the confidential information filter, which watches outgoing emails, IMs and web transactions for user-specified strings. If it spots a key phrase leaving your computer, it intercepts the transmission and asks your permission before letting it out. Say no and it’ll replace the sensitive information with asterisks – a crude system, but undeniably useful.

Details

Software subcategory Internet security

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported? yes
Operating system Windows XP supported? yes

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