Norton stinks
April 28, 2008 5:01 AM   Subscribe

Do I really need Norton installed?

Last night my free update to Norton 2008 randomly killed my network connection -- from Google, it looks as though its firewalling may be a little overzealous. Uninstalling Norton brought my network back, but it also revealed how much faster my computer runs with no Norton installed: amazingly faster.

Do I really need it? What are my alternatives, if I leave Norton off?

It's a several-years old Toshiba laptop running Windows XP. Will I be clogged by viruses by the end of the day if I don't reinstall Norton 2007? Is there something else I can rely on instead that won't gum up my works?

I already use Spybot and AdAware, and I only go to "normal" sites. (I'm not downloading warez or porn.)
posted by gerryblog to Computers & Internet (20 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Norton does stink. Use AVG Free instead.
posted by gfrobe at 5:12 AM on April 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

Please do yourself a favor and do not install anything "Norton" ever again. From my experience it causes more problems than most viruses. The anti-virus functionality you can get with a free product like AVG free edition, anything else is just snake oil. Please forget all that other "internet security" and "system optimization" crap. Uninstalling Norton is - like you experienced - one of the best optimizations to make.
posted by Nightwind at 5:14 AM on April 28, 2008

Previously (sort of). The consensus there, as here, is ditch Norton and use AVG Free. I have been using AVG since I posted that thread on both my machines at home and I'm very happy with it. You will be too.
posted by wheat at 5:21 AM on April 28, 2008

Avast! offers a free license to home users as well (I greatly prefer to AVG)
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 5:23 AM on April 28, 2008

Slap commas on either side of "since I posted that thread" otherwise, it sounds like a posted a thread on my machine, which is more than a little odd. :)
posted by wheat at 5:23 AM on April 28, 2008

Norton really is a dreadful piece of software. I have both AVG Free and Avast! installed (alongside Spybot and Adaware), update them daily and feel relatively confident.

They're understandably plugging a paid version of AVG now that you might want to look at (but I'm very happy with the free version).
posted by ceri richard at 5:29 AM on April 28, 2008

Assuming that you keep your machine up to date, avoid any software that doesn't come from trustworthy sources (including ActiveX controls), are careful about what attachments you open, are aware of how to avoid phishing, are behind a firewall, and are disciplined about keeping backups (which you should be anyway), I personally think it's a reasonable choice not to bother with any kind of security software. If you decide not to bother, I would recommend using the Shields Up! website to check that you don't have unnecessary open ports.

If you do want to have something running, then I second the recommendation for AVG.
posted by tomcooke at 5:39 AM on April 28, 2008

Sounds like there's a consensus on this. Thanks!
posted by gerryblog at 5:44 AM on April 28, 2008

tomcooke's advice is absolutely terrible; please do not follow it.

The most dangerous threats to your PC involve flaws in the OS and the programs you run on a daily basis, not in your practices involving those programs. For instance, there have been innumerable worms, trojans, etc., which have found ways to hitchhike on e-mail messages by exploiting flaws in the way that the mail client displays HTML, jpgs, and so forth.

Very often, these malicious programs will lie quietly undetected by casual inspection in your system for days or weeks, and will therefore be backed up by your backup program as well, eliminating any possibility of a safe full restore.

And, your computer will often act as an attack vector for every other computer on the local network.

Until the OS vendors get their act together, it's incumbent on every computer owner to play as much defense as feasible. Norton sucks, but the 'gosh the chance is so low just be careful' theory is about as effective as the rhythm method.
posted by felix at 6:58 AM on April 28, 2008

Just to note, the current version of AVG Free includes an antispyware component. I'm not sure how it compares to Spybot and AdAware, but it's possible you won't need to run those and thereby conserve some resources on your older machine.

I'm somewhat in between felix and tomcooke in terms of suggestions, but lean closer to tomcooke. As tomcooke notes, a combination of system updates and user behavior is the main way to keep malware off your machine. Your anti-malware software should be considered a secondary line of defense, one that won't actually help you that much if you do something idiotic. Possibly, your anti-malware software may block an attack (though this isn't guaranteed) or it may find an infection retrospectively (though, again, this isn't guaranteed). It probably doesn't hurt to have it running, but you shouldn't rely on it.

Also, you should be using relatively secure applications, e.g., Firefox for the browser, with add-ons Ad-Aware to block ads and possibly No Script to just turn off the most likely web-based attack vector in general. Firefox will also be more likely to update its software more quickly, so the windows of application vulnerability will be smaller.
posted by chengjih at 7:21 AM on April 28, 2008

I personally use Nod32. It has been by far the best AV software I have used simply because of its low resource usage and constant updates. The updates are small and frequent which doesn't congest your network.

I haven't tried AVG so I can't compare between the two.
posted by mrbloo at 7:40 AM on April 28, 2008

I use Symantec Corporate Antivirus, and it works fine. No nags; automatic, silent updates and no viruses/spyware EVER. And no system slowness or weirdness. My computer has been running for a while- total CPU time for the virus checker is 25 minutes. Idle processor time is 99 hours.

One thing with these programs is that you do have to configure them properly. The standard setup for them is to over do it.

Just one example- you do not need a startup scan. If the virus checker was active when you turned the computer off, NOTHING can happen between then and when you turn the thing back on to make a startup scan necessary. Turn it off.

OK, one more- you do not need to check every file "on access". If the system check files when they are written and when they come into a computer (email, firewall, removable media), then every file on your computer will be safe to read.

A FAR better security measure is to make sure your OS is continually updated and you have an effective firewall. I ran without a virus checker for years, and the standard XP firewall combined with a router kept my machine clean.
posted by gjc at 8:14 AM on April 28, 2008

Nthing that Norton sucks.

In my case, I had NortonAV for a long time without apparent problems. Then I downloaded and attempted to install an upgrade. It never installed and each attempted install crashed the computer. So I uninstalled NAV (I thought) and got a refund.

And effective immediately thereafter, ever since then, every time I boot up, XP has complained that there is no disk in my Zip drive (haven't used that for years!) and demands that a disk be placed in the Zip drive. (BTW, the prompt says "There is no disk in Drive ____" so I had to experiment to see which drive was meant.) So upon each bootup I have to insert a blank Zip disk in the drive to be allowed to proceed. And then, of course, I get the reminder that I have a nonbootable disk in my drive, so I then have to take out the Zip disk and "tap any key to continue" whereupon bootup completes normally.

It seems clear that the Norton attempted installation caused this bizarre modification of my OS, since they happened exactly at the same time and there was no other possible cause.

Now I've told you about my experience. But can anyone explain how such a long established formerly reputable company managed to fall so low?
posted by JimN2TAW at 8:16 AM on April 28, 2008

So, is it best to uninstall Norton or leave it be? And how does one safely uninstall? I used AVG for years when my original Norton ran out. With the newer machine I (foolishly) paid for 3 years of Norton. I never had a problem when using AVG, I'm just a sucker for a good sales pitch.
posted by dawson at 9:57 AM on April 28, 2008

You shouldn't run more than one AV program at a time. In fact, the installer for the current AVG Free will warn you if you have a currently installed AV program.

If you want to remove Norton, check the Symantec website on how to uninstall the particular version you're running. IIRC, Symantec publishes a Norton removal tool, because the standard uninstaller might fail.
posted by chengjih at 10:32 AM on April 28, 2008

I use AVG Free out of inertia, but in ranking/roundups Avast seems to consistently do better.
posted by juv3nal at 11:35 AM on April 28, 2008

I use AVG Free right now, but I have been thinking about switching to Avast as well -it's getting a lot better reviews lately.

Another question would be, what about your firewall? It sounds to me like you were using the Norton all-in-one internet security, not just the anti-virus. If you are using a NAT router and the XP firewall you're protected already. But if you want to be extra safe you might try a free software firewall too.

I like Comodo because it's free and helps stealth all my ports. Just turn off the XP firewall if you use another software firewall - like with AV, you should only have one running at a time.
posted by gemmy at 5:13 PM on April 28, 2008

nod 32 is awesome

avast is one ot the best free

and use comodo firewall
posted by phritosan at 7:38 PM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

I tried Avast, it seemed to have about 17 different things it was doing at once, including an american voice actually saying it had downloaded virus definitions, then it crashed everytime I tried to launch the main app and eventually killed my PC. So I killed it. Am now trying AVG...
posted by bonaldi at 8:37 PM on April 29, 2008

My Windows XP laptop is not running any antivirus or firewall software, and I have never had any problems. My router only has the SSH port open, so I guess that is my firewall. I don't open executable email attachments, and I don't look at web sites that ask me to install software. And I don't use Internet Explorer.
posted by bugloaf at 9:53 AM on June 16, 2008

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