Logo Rob Buckley – Freelance Journalist and Editor

Review: Norton AntiVirus 10

Review: Norton AntiVirus 10

Mac OS X has yet to be plagued by any serious virus problems. So is Norton Antivirus useful, necessary and worth forking out £50 for?

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First things first: a bit of praise where it’s due. Of all the Mac anti-virus software available, NAV is unquestionably the best. Virex, Sophos, Clam-AV et al are abysmal to use and to look at. Some of them (no names mentioned) will frequently screw up your system, fail to update their virus definitions and seem invented purely to aggravate. More importantly, NAV spots just about any virus before you even come close to spreading it, thanks to its auto-protection system that scans any file you use. So kudos to Symantec, which is now one of the biggest software companies in the world, for sticking with the Mac this far and producing the most Mac-like anti-virus software out there.

But now for the slating. We have this nagging question: what is the point of NAV for Macintosh? Macro viruses for Word have all but disappeared and changes made in the latest versions of Word mean you almost have to tick a box marked “Yes, I’d like viruses, please” in order to get them to run now. The change to OS X killed off the three or four native Macintosh viruses and the few scare stories in recent times have been just that.

So if your only concern is safeguarding your Mac, please don’t bother with NAV. There are far better things you can spend £50 on.

Really, it’s only if you have to deal with people who use Windows that you’ll need to think about NAV.

NAV’s biggest selling point is that it includes all the PC virus definitions of its Windows counterpart. If you’re sent a file that contains a PC virus, NAV will spot it, wherever you put the file, and either disinfect it or “quarantine” it, assuming you’ve kept your definitions up to date – something that’s very easy with NAV’s LiveUpdate and scheduling features. After all, there are few things that look quite as bad to clients or friends as your sending them a virus.

Yet how do most people get viruses? Email. Does NAV for Macintosh have an email scanner, just like its Windows counterpart has done for years and years? No. For complete reassurance, you’ll have to save your attachments somewhere before forwarding them on: a significant inconvenience for a product that’s almost supposed to disappear into the background while it safeguards you.

Despite this major failing, version 10 of NAV is undoubtedly the best so far, although the changes from version 9 are relatively minor: Tiger compatibility; a few further preferences about what kinds of disks and folders get scanned a contextual menu plug-in for directly targeting your paranoia at particular files; and a widget that shows the current Symantec “Global Threat Assessment” aka the “Look! Lots of viruses! Pay us money and we’ll save you!” alert.

Now far be it for us to suggest that Symantec is trying to charge the earth for next to nothing, while slacking like some hippy peaceniks, oh no. But Apple introduced contextual menu plug-ins back in the days of OS 8. NAV’s ability to scan files in archives, while an excellent idea, is somewhat limited by its inability to scan Stuffit .sitx archives – a format that’s only been around now since, ooh, October 2002.

Gosh. How can Symantec possibly keep up with these and other new developments, like electricity and talking movies, when steam power was upon us all just a few short years ago?

So not very impressive for a £30 upgrade and insultingly expensive at £50 for new users, especially when you consider that NAV for Windows is only £40: we’re trying to save them from themselves and they want us to pay more for the privilege? How kind.

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