For several years, Symantec has maintained two different full-scale security protection product lines. Originally, the Norton Internet Security line was aimed at power users and the Norton 360 line was tuned for the less tech-savvy user. Over the years there’s been some convergence, with more power in Norton 360 and more ease of use in Norton Internet Security. Norton 360 Version 4.0 ($79.99 direct for 3 licenses) now has all the new security features introduced latest Norton Internet Security 2010 ($69.99 direct, ), and, as always it, adds backup and performance tune-up on top of that.
Many features of Norton 360 are identical to the corresponding features in Norton AntiVirus 2010 ($39.99 list, ) or Norton Internet Security 2010. This review will focus on the differences and simply summarize areas that have already been covered in earlier reviews.
A Friendly Face
Norton 360 does present a friendlier face than Norton Internet Security, though its colors now more closely match the gold-and-black sunburst theme of the latter. The main screen is still divided into four large topic areas: PC Security, Identity Protection, Backup, and PC Tuneup. Pointing at any one of these brings up a menu of common tasks like running an antivirus scan, backing up files, or viewing detailed settings.
From the tasks window, a handy feature not found in Norton Internet Security, you can launch general tasks or tasks specifically related to backup and tuneup. Instead of gathering all settings in one big scrolling window the way Norton Internet Security does, Norton 360 exposes quick controls that turn features on and off ,along with links to detailed settings for each security component. The out-of-box configuration is well thought-out; many users won’t even need to look at the detailed settings.
Performance information isn’t as prominent on the page as it is in Norton Internet Security, but users can still “flip” the main window to view graphs of CPU and memory usage by Norton and by the rest of the system.
Norton 360 automatically runs some tuneup tasks in the background to keep your system running smoothly. Without any effort on your part it keeps disks defragmented, wipes out useless files and clears outdated data from Internet Explorer’s temporary files. You can also launch a full cleanup of Internet Explorer browsing traces on demand or on schedule.
The Registry cleaner wipes out useless and erroneous items in the Registry. Like McAfee and Trend Micro, Norton 360 keeps its Registry work secret; you can’t preview its changes beforehand or review them afterward. This always makes me nervous, since a mistaken change in the Registry can cause big trouble. BitDefender at least lets you undo its Registry changes. ZoneAlarm offers a full preview of what it will change and an option to undo what it did; it will even defragment and compact the Registry.
Just about any suite that promises PC tuneup includes browser trace removal and file and Registry cleanup. Going beyond the usual, Norton 360 can generate a diagnostic report to reveal system problems hampering your computer’s efficiency, and its startup manager can cut the time between powering on the computer and getting down to business.
Every program that launches at startup means a little more time before the computer is ready for you. And every startup program that keeps running in the background can be a constant drain on resources. The startup manager lists all of the programs that launch at startup with an option to reversibly disable them, like the built-in MSCONFIG. Going beyond MSCONFIG it attempts to rate the resource usage of each program, reports whether few or many of the Norton Community use this same program, and offers a link for more information about each.
Turning off a program in startup manager doesn’t uninstall it; you can still launch the program manually if needed. You can also streamline the boot process by setting some programs to delayed launch, so they don’t start until a few minutes after startup. That’s a nice feature, and one not found in the competition.
Norton 360 is an excellent mega-suite with less impact on system performance than its wealth of features might suggest. For $10 more than Norton Internet Security you get the same security features plus PC tuneup and a powerful online and local backup system. Choose whichever of these Editors Choice suites best suits your needs.