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Norton AntiVirus 2012
VERSION:  Windows 7 / Vista / XP (Requirements), Single User

PRICE:  $39.99

Other Norton Software:
Norton Internet Security 2015 download
Rating: Very Good

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Review of Norton AntiVirus 2012

     By Jay Andrew Allen | September 24, 2011

Symantec Last year, we heaped accolades on Symantec's Norton AntiVirus 2011. There's a reason Norton holds over 60% of the United States anti-virus market: its ease of use, robust feature set, and blazing performance make it the simplest and least intrusive platform available. So, as soon as we heard that Norton AntiVirus 2012 was released, we were eager to put it through its paces and see whether Norton had decided to squat on its hands or kick it up a notch.

1) Features & Usability:  12.5/15

Dashboard: As noted in our beta preview, the Dashboard of the new Norton sports the same look-and-feel of Norton 2011, but with a cleaner organization. (See our Norton Antivirus 2011 screenshots for comparison.) The sidebar of configuration options has been removed, and the "Computer Protection" and "Network Protection" sections have been condensed into a simple palette of three options: Scan Now, LiveUpdate, and Advanced.

Norton 2012 Dashboard:

Clicking the Advanced link displays a replica of the Norton 2011 Dashboard interface - a feature that will comfort die-hard users of last year's version (Screenshot 2). The Advanced window also displays information regarding the computer's CPU load, as well as the percentage of files that Norton considers trusted, and thus excluded from virus scans.

A button bar at the bottom of the Dashboard is the final navigational element. The bar provides quick access to the famous (or not so famous?) Norton Virus Activity Map, as well as a few other features that are new with Norton 2012.

New & Updated Features:
Unlike some of its competitors, Norton has packed its latest release with a suite of new features - some visible, some behind the curtain. Among the less visible features are increased protection against fake anti-virus applications, and a beefed-up release of SONAR, Norton's malicious process detection component. Norton's analysts can now deem a program as suspicious based on key behaviors, and prevent its execution. SONAR has also been improved to detect Non-Process Threats, or viruses that inject themselves into other running processes.

One feature every user will notice is Download Insight 2.0, Norton's file download protection technology. In 2012, Download Insight will not only warn users about malicious executables, but also about unstable executables that are likely to crash the system (Screenshot 4).

Users who utilize 3G or 4G (LTE) networking cards, or who tether their iPhone or Android to their laptops for Internet access, will appreciate the new Bandwidth Metering feature, which enables road warriors to control how much data Norton AntiVirus downloads over a capped connection (Screenshot 5). This configuration function is available by navigating to Settings -> Network -> Network Security Settings, and selecting Configure next to Metered Broadband Mode.

While not strictly a feature of Norton 2012, Safe Web Lite is a trimmed-down version of an existing feature found in higher end products such as Kaspersky Internet Security. While advertised from within AntiVirus 2012, this feature can be downloaded and installed for free without a Norton license. After Safe Web Lite is installed, Norton will enhance your Web search results with a security icon identifying a site as safe, questionable, or dangerous. Unfortunately, while this sounds great, we didn't see any change to our search results - in Google, Bing, or Yahoo! - after installation. This was after installing, shutting down our browsers, re-starting, and then un-installing and re-installing the add-on.

Norton Management, at first glance, appears to offer security management across multiple machines. In its current incarnation, it mostly supports installing or uninstalling Norton products across a network. Management Center will send you an alert, however, if a major event occurs on another machine on your network (e.g., if someone temporarily disables virus scanning).

Have an Android-powered phone? Android users can download Norton Mobile for Android by scanning a QR code built into the application (Screenshot 3). (Have an iPhone? Sorry - maybe next year.) The code can be scanned using a QR reader such as QR Droid, available for free download from the Android Marketplace.

Keep in mind, these are only the new features. Norton AntiVirus also boasts previous features such as System Insight for tracking computer bottlenecks, Reputation Scan for improving anti-virus performance based on a file's performance across millions of machines, and Facebook Wall Scan for removing malware links.

Virus Scanner:
Norton's virus scanner offers 3 scan types: Quick Scan, Full System Scan, and Custom Scan. While there's nothing all that unique about these three scan types which are found in most other antivirus programs, Norton does offer two additional scan options not seen in many programs - Reputation Scan and Facebook Wall Scan (discussed above).

Norton Virus Scanner:

Scan Speed: On our reference system*, Norton AntiVirus blazed through our 1GB test file matrix in 28.2 seconds, for a scan rate of 36.3MB per second. In our Subsequent Scan Speed test, Norton 2012 notched this down to a mere 7.8 seconds. Norton 2012 edges out Norton AntiVirus 2011's 1GB test file matrix scan speed of 34.7MB per second.

Updates: We found Norton AntiVirus 2012 on average downloaded 192 virus definition updates daily. While that's down from the number of daily definitions slurped up by AntiVirus 2011, it still outpaces every other major anti-virus vendor by a wide margin.

*Reference Computer:  Windows 7 Home Premium running on a Toshiba Pentium Dual-Core T4200 (64 bit), with 3GB of RAM and a 210GB hard drive.

2) Performance Testing:  9.5/10

A long-time leader in performance, Norton shows no signs of resting on its laurels with 2012. The company boasts that it has reduced the application footprint, improved startup and shutdown times, increased file copy performance, and faster network throughput. Below we examine the results of our in-house Performance Tests.

Memory Use: Norton 2012 uses 9.9 MB of system memory. #3 ranked program of the 15 Antivirus programs we tested.

Reboot Time: Norton added 6.6 seconds to our test computer's reboot time. #2 ranked program.

Installation Size: Norton AntiVirus 2012 requires 280 MB of hard-drive space for installation. #6 ranked program.

Initial Scan Speed: Norton AntiVirus scans files the first time at a speed of 36.3 MB/s. #2 ranked program.

Subsequent Scan Speed: Norton performs subsequent scans at a speed of 131.3 MB/s. #7 ranked program.

Initial Application Launch: Norton 2012 added 0.322s to launch a web browser for the first time after a reboot. #7 ranked program.

Subsequent Application Launch: Norton added 0.087s on average for subsequent web browser launches. #3 ranked program.

File Conversion Time: Norton added 0.36s on average to convert a MP3 file to four other file types. #4 ranked program.

System Impact Score: The "System Impact Score" is a cumulative score tallied from the above 8 tests. Norton 2012 scored a total of 94 out of 120 points. This placed Norton as the top ranked overall program we tested so far this year. Just 5-6 years ago Norton was known for its bloated software, and many techies cringed from the mere thought of it. But Norton has proven over the last 4-5 years that they are now taking system performance seriously. Very seriously apparently.

View above Antivirus Performance Tests.

3) Effectiveness: (Virus Protection) 17.5/20

Below are the results of Norton 2012's scoring in the industry's top virus detection testing.

a) AV Comparatives has 2 different detection tests that they perform on virus protection software. In the February 2011 test, the On-Demand Detection Test, Norton received 2 out of 3 stars (ADVANCED rating). While back in the November 2010 test, the Proactive Test, Norton received top marks with a 3 star rating (ADVANCED+).

Note: Symantec, along with 7 other antivirus vendors asked not to be included in the recent May 2011 Proactive Test. Apparently the test procedure is debated by these vendors.


b) AV-Test runs its test every 3 months - scoring antivirus software based on 3 criteria: Protection, Repair, and Usability. In the previous 3 tests Norton received a 13.5 / 18 score on the Windows XP platform, a 15 / 18 score on Windows 7, and a score of 15.5 / 18 on Windows Vista. These results were high enough to earn Norton a Certified rating in all three tests.

Win 7: Win XP: Win Vista:
c) Virus Bulletin - VB 100% Certified. Norton passed the most recent VB100 test in April 2011, and has only failed one test out of the last 49 VB tests its been involved in (dating back to November 1999). The VB 100% certification is given to antivirus software that detects all viruses "in the wild".

4) Help & Support:  4/5

Norton's Support -> Help command links to a Web page chock full of FAQs, tutorials, and other resources. The main help interface is a "virtual agent" named Nathan that parses your Norton-related questions and provides links to the most relevant FAQ answers. Old-school users will be happy to know they can bypass "Nathan" and download a PDF edition of the Norton Help Manual. The Web site also hosts an active user forum where Norton customers can obtain quick assistance from power users and Norton technical professionals.

Users who require direct assistance can click the Get Support command, which launches Norton Autofix. As its name implies, Autofix will check for common problems with the Norton installation and patch them, bypassing the need in some cases to contact Tech Support. However, if Autofix completes without finding errors, it takes you to the same Support Web site link as the Help command. To obtain live support, users must click the Contact Us link at the bottom of the Support page, which provides access to 24-hour Live Chat, Email, and Phone support. Norton also offers a suite of fee-based advanced services including PC performance tuning, manual spyware removal, expert installation, and unlimited technical support for all of a user's computers, peripherals, and smartphones. While the Live Support option is obviously downplayed in favor of Norton's online resources and paid helpdesk services, it remains accessible and robust.

»Quick Support Links:

     • Direct Technical Support (Chat, Email, Phone)
     • Norton AntiVirus 2012 Online Support
     • Norton Online Manual (PDF)
     • NortonLive Services


Norton AntiVirus 2012 is packed with new features. And while not every addition to 2012 is a home run, we were impressed with the effort that Symantec invested in differentiating its entry level paid anti-virus platform from the competition. Just as impressively, Symantec managed to include so many new enhancements while improving its stellar performance times. Norton seems destined to remain one of the best antivirus packages of 2012.

Overall Rating: Excellent    (Total Score: 43.5 / 50 = 4.5 Stars)

Misc Info:

    • Reviewed By:
Jay Andrew Allen
    • Install Time:
    • Version Tested:
    • Release Date:
September 7, 2011
    • Review Date:
September 24, 2011
    • Last Updated:
September 26, 2011
    • Previous Versions:
Norton AntiVirus 2011, Norton 2010, Norton 2009

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Norton AntiVirus 2012 Screenshots

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Norton AntiVirus 2012 System Requirements:

Windows XP: Home/Professional/Tablet PC/Media Center with Service Pack 2 or later (32-bit).

Windows Vista: Starter/Home Basic/Home Premium/Business/Ultimate with SP 1 or later (32-bit and 64-bit).

Microsoft Windows 7: Starter/Home Basic/Home Premium/Ultimate (32-bit and 64-bit editions).

Minimum Requirements:

    • 300 MHz for Microsoft Windows XP, 1 GHz for Windows Vista and Windows 7
    • 256 MB of RAM memory
    • 300 MB of available hard disk space
    • CD-ROM or DVD drive (if not installing via electronic download)

Email scanning supported for POP3-compatible email clients.

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