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Norton AntiVirus has been around for years, and the current version shows it: The interface has been refined to a clean, easy-to-understand sheen. The default settings for version 10.1 should take care of your basic virus-scanning needs.
Symantec has collected a huge, detailed database of virus information on its Web site. Search for the recent Mac Leap.A malware, for instance, and you’ll get a page full of information, including screenshots. If a virus is found on your machine, a Learn More button will open the relevant page from Symantec’s site in a mini-browser window within the application.
Norton AntiVirus is also thorough in finding malware. It caught every test case we threw at it, including a piece of Linux malware. And it’s reasonably fast about it, too: Scanning a 900MB folder full of all kinds of files took seven minutes—not as fast as Intego’s VirusBarrier, but perfectly acceptable. (We tested version 10.1 on a PowerPC system, but it runs—though it’s not a Universal binary—on Intel-based Macs.)
One way the program keeps scans speedy: It checks only files you’ve updated since your last scan. The program also optimizes its scans using what it calls SafeZones: A SafeZone is any part of your hard drive in which modified files are immediately scanned for malware and viruses. By default, your entire machine is defined as a SafeZone, but it’s easy to change that so it only scans those folders you’re truly worried about (Mail or Downloads, for example).
Norton AntiVirus makes good use of the OS X interface, supporting drag and drop and offering a contextual menu in the Finder (which allows you to scan folders with a click of the mouse). It also includes a Dashboard widget (for 10.4 users) to keep track of virus outbreaks—though as a Mac user, this will mainly let you know what’s afflicting the Windows world.
My only real quibble with Norton AntiVirus is that it installs lots of support files all over your system—I counted 17 assorted frameworks, extensions, and applications in all. That could be why it can sometimes be a pain to install or, if you want to try another antivirus app, uninstall the program. On one of my test machines, for instance, I couldn’t install AntiVirus at all; on the other three, I had no problem.
Macworld’s buying advice
Once installed and running, Norton AntiVirus 10.1 is easy to use and customize and reasonably speedy, and it does a good job of catching malware. But if you’re just going to try it out, be careful about all the components it installs on your Mac.
[Macworld Senior Editor Rob Griffiths runs MacOSXHints.com. Testing performed by Daniel Adinolfi. ]
EDITOR’S NOTE: Due to a production error, the software version in this review has been corrected. This review deals with Norton AntiVirus 10.1.
EDITOR’S NOTE: We mistakenly described the updated 10.1 release as a Universal binary. It is not; the code was only modified where necessary to allow it to run on Intel-based Macs. We have corrected this error.Norton AntiVirus’ clean, uncluttered interface makes it easy to select the folders you want to scan or repair.