Preview: Norton Internet Security 2012

Norton Internet Security (NIS) 2012 adds new features to the suite's toolkit, including those to enhance PC performance and make some basic use of the cloud; it also adds some tweaks to the interface. This is not a major overhaul, but the addition of new tools makes a useful piece of protection software even more valuable.

NameSecurity software: Norton Internet Security 2012
At a glance:Startup Manager can be used to improve startup speed,Norton Insight provides trustworthiness and stability ratings for your apps,Minor changes streamline the user interface
Summary:The same strong security features as NIS 2011, with added performance and system-stability tools.
RRP:$100 (1 year subscription, up to 3 PCs), $80 (upgrade)
Contact:norton.com

Norton Internet Security (NIS) 2012 adds new features to the suite’s toolkit, including those to enhance PC performance and make some basic use of the cloud; it also adds some tweaks to the interface. This is not a major overhaul, but the addition of new tools makes a useful piece of protection software even more valuable.

NIS 2012 for Windows 7, Vista or XP retains all of its existing security features, including anti-malware, identity protection, network intrusion protection and built-in firewall. And it does all this without being a resource hog – without requiring substantial system resources or RAM – which is surprising given its comprehensive feature set.

The most useful additions to NIS 2012 are designed to improve your PC’s performance.

A new Startup Manager lets you decide which applications to run on startup and which to prevent from running in order to speed up startup (and potentially improve performance). It’s far more useful than the system startup tools built into Windows, because it provides details about each application and also gives you features missing in Windows, such as the ability to delay programs that run on startup, not just stop them altogether.

Norton Insight, initially designed to check on the trustworthiness of applications that run on your PC, has been improved as well. Leveraging data collected from users of Symantec products who have the applications, it shows the application’s relative trustworthiness, rating it Poor, Good, Trusted or Unproven (if not enough people have used the application). It also shows whether that rating is based on feedback from a few people or many people.

In NIS 2012, Norton Insight has added a rating for each application’s stability level, again based on other people’s usage. Ratings include Very Unstable, Unstable, Slightly Unstable, Stable and Reliable. Because you can see both the stability and trust ratings in a single list -- along with resource usage -- it’s easy to see at a glance how each app rates.

NIS 2012 recognizes that the computing world is increasingly located in the cloud. So Symantec has added a new feature, Norton Management, that the company says will let you install and uninstall Norton applications on your PCs from a single, cloud-based location, check their security status, and see subscription and license information. (I wasn’t able to test it because I was told that the feature wouldn’t go live until after launch.)

Norton Management will work only for Windows-based products, not Norton’s mobile lineup. I hope Symantec will eventually add the ability to manage its mobile software via this cloud-based feature.

NIS has also received a number of minor interface changes. For example, NIS’s main window is now much simplified. Rather than showing a panel that lets you turn on and off various components, there are three large buttons: one to let you launch a scan, another that shows the status of LiveUpdate, and a third that sends you to the Advanced screen, which is essentially the main screen from NIS 2011. The settings interface has been streamlined and simplified. It’s an improvement, but not a dramatic one.

NIS 2012 is a solid and useful upgrade over the 2011 version, primarily because of new features that let you streamline your PC’s startup and check for unstable applications. The new cloud-based features are useful, but not overwhelmingly so.

The only thing that might give one pause about NIS 2012 is its relatively hefty annual subscription fee of $100, although that does cover three PCs. Existing NIS users will certainly want to upgrade right away. Those who use competing programs would do well to give it a look as well, keeping in mind the annual fee.

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Preston Gralla

Preston Gralla

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