Good Grief, I Love Norton Internet Security 2011!

By  |  Thursday, September 23, 2010 at 2:14 pm

On March 21, 1991, I stopped using Norton’s security programs.

But I like to see what the dark side is up to, so I recently switched back to Norton. And I’m really happy I did.

Of course, knowing how you always like to hear the dirt, I’ll tell you the back story.

It was at the March 21, 1991 user group meeting that a Norton rep was showing off the company’s latest antivirus program. “Give these a spin,” I said, handing the guy doing the demo a floppy disk filled with live viruses.

Not an unreasonable request, I thought. But that’s just me.

He avoided making eye contact, wouldn’t look at the floppy, and said “no.” That’s it. To a roomful of 350 computer users. “No.”

And it was downhill from there.

Over the years, Symantec’s Norton products grew popular; they also became bigger. They leapfrogged over Microsoft Office to obtain, and keep, the bloatware award. Norton products hobbled PCs by hogging computer resources and hard disk space. Like it or not, you got stuck with Live Update, a separate, massive, tool used to keep every Norton program in the world up-to-date — even if you only owned one product.

And when you’d had enough of Norton, you needed special software and a small backhoe to uninstall it. Live Update stayed with you forever.

Symantec shot itself in the foot over and over–and what really fascinates me, is when it had spare time, it did it again.

Why I Switched Back to Norton

It’s always been an open question whether I’m as smart as I look. It’s a question you might be asking, because as I type this, I’m using Norton Internet Security 2011, better known as NIS2011.

I’ve used Kaspersky Internet Security for about four years. I haven’t been happy for the last two. It’s no longer an unobtrusive tool. Its interface has always been confusing; the recent redesign hasn’t helped. It’s a big program and in some spots, thunderously slow.

The upgrade to Kaspersky’s new 2011 version is what killed the relationship: I lost too many brain cells configuring obscure exclusion settings to get a few online programs to work. If I had trouble, I’d guess you might, too.

Of course, synchronicity was waiting in the wings.

Brendon, a decade-long e-mail friend, works for Symantec. Every few months he pitches me to try a Norton security tool. “I’m pestering you about this not because it’s my job (I’m not in product marketing or PR or sales or anything), but because I respect you as an educated power user and would like my product to have a fair shake.”

My argument always starts with one word: bloat.

You’ll like his testy, paraphrased reply.

Oh, that thinking is so 2006!

I’ll admit the products had bad bloat problems in the 2004, 2005, and 2006 variants, and I totally understand the criticism and share in it.

We alienated a lot of the power-user base because of performance problems and focus on the wrong things, and it did a lot of damage to our reputation.

A big change in product management came, and we’ve been very aggressive in attacking performance and footprint, rewriting significant portions.

I was game. It was off with Kaspersky (thanks to Revo Uninstaller) and on with Norton Internet Security 2011.

Norton? I Love Ya

Norton's list of preapproved applications

I’ve had NIS2011 running for over a month, and it’s surprised me. It’s fast and keeps out of my way with no annoying alerts. It also found two embedded backdoor Trojans that Kaspersky missed.

Here are my impressions:

  • NIS2011 installed in 57 seconds. Really.
  • Every feature — the built-in firewall included — works fine using just Norton’s defaults. No tweaking necessary.
  • Programs load faster than with Kaspersky’s Internet Security. I’m guessing that’s because NIS2011 does a Reputation Scan on all the apps on my PC and approves them based on its massive user database of programs.
  • NIS2011 recognized and gave every program an A-OK; with Kaspersky, I had to manually set complicated exclusions for four tools (including SugarSync and Dropbox). Kaspersky also needed for me to change permissions in order for a few online apps to run properly, including Java and Firefox. Crazy, no? NIS2011 handled all the apps with no interference.
  • In the past, Norton’s update system was a separate app (I hated that), but now it’s integrated into the program. That’s much better. And every few minutes, when the PC is idle, Norton’s LiveUpdate checks and downloads updates quickly and quietly.

    Have Trojans? NIS2010 will find them

  • On NIS2011’s initial scan, it found two Keygen backdoor Trojans that Kaspersky hadn’t found. To be fair, if I’d tried to run them, Kaspersky would have blocked and removed them, too. But NIS2011 raises my comfort level considerably
  • Until I checked the history, I never noticed that NIS2011 automatically does quick scans while my PC is idle. The default is every 10 minutes. Nice.
  • Norton has a Web safety component, similar, but much stronger than WOT, that makes sure you don’t land on a malware drive-by page. If you happen to land on a site that’s dangerous, NIS2011 blocks you from accessing it.
  • Let Norton watch out for you while you're surfingNIS2011 also makes sure the links on your Facebook account are safe.
  • NIS2011 shows how much memory and resources are used by running programs; it doesn’t use any resources when it’s not doing anything and about 3 percent while it’s scanning. Bloated? Not at all.
  • There are more things to like — paternal controls and anti-spam, for instance — but I’ll leave it to you to explore the other features.

Should You Switch?
If you’re happy with the performance of whatever you’re using, stick with it. Of course, if you’ve been kvetching and need a change, or if the license on your existing security tool is coming up for renewal, consider giving NIS2011 a shot.

And if you’ve had a bad experience with Norton in the past (and who hasn’t?), I’ll tell you first-hand — the current version’s a treat to use.

You can download a 15-day free trial, but don’t run two security programs simultaneously — or even have them loaded at the same time. Make sure to uninstall the program you’re currently using before installing NIS2011.

Amazon has NIS2011 for about $60 for a one-year license for three PCs. (Don’t have three PCs? It’s probably a violation of the license, and I wouldn’t do it, but if you have a buddy…) However, if you have the fortitude to wait for an annoying rebate, has the same version for $20 (the deal expires at the end of September).

I can predict the future: You’re going to write and tell me about your favorite security tool. Save your bits and bytes, folks; while I’m always interested in what you have to say (well, okay, not always), I’ve tried nearly every major free and commercial security program there is. I’ve settled on Norton. So there.

[This post is excerpted from Steve’s TechBite newsletter. If you liked it, head here to sign up–it’s delivered on Wednesdays to your inbox, and it’s free.]


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24 Comments For This Post

  1. quickbrownfox Says:

    Shouldn’t the headline have referred to NIS 2011 instead of 2010?

  2. Max C Says:

    Paternal controls?? Someone's got to keep dad under control I suppose!

    I'm in the same camp as Mike, above. What is the point of Norton or any of the other well-known products now that MSE is free and effective?

  3. Leo August Says:

    Caveat for $50 NIS rebate on Fry's web site:


  4. dickcu Says:

    Steve Bass has sold his sole to the devil. He's obviously being paid by Norton!

  5. Nick Lockard Says:

    For security advice and virus removal service check out

    We recommend AVG along with Malwarebytes, together will help keep you safe from dangerous online threats!

  6. Collins Says:

    Or just use any obscure operating system on your PC. That should keep you safe without having to deal with a single AV app.

  7. ahow628 Says:

    Agree. I've seen the same thing: Norton installed at purchase, expires, the person doesn't renew. Next thing you know, they have a virus loaded computer.

    At the very least, how about a lifetime license? What is that for computers these days? 2-3 years?

  8. Fred Says:

    $60 is ungodly expensive in 2010, especially if you have even a modicum of common sense when using your PC. That you reviewed a Norton product without trying to uninstall it tells me this review is incomplete.

  9. Ryan Says:

    I have to agree with the above posters – Microsoft Security Essentials is fantastic, and free. Never having to remember to renew your subscription means never working on an insecure machine.

  10. Nick Lockard Says:

    Here is what a few of my customers have to say about Norton

    Here is what a few of my customer which had norton has to say about
    it: (Read 4 & 5) That alone should be enough to tell you about




  11. Nick Lockard Says:




  12. Marc Says:

    I don't understand why anyone running a version for Windows released within the past 5 years needs an extra firewall and why would you pay for AV software when you can get Microsoft Security Essentials for free? I used to swear by NOD32, but I didn't renew this year because I can get the same thing for free.

    I used to have to flog Norton with every laptop I sold when I worked in a PC shop,I remember it feeling like selling someone a brand new sports car, only to insist they attached a caravan to the back everywhere they go.

    Each to their own of course, I know brand and reputation are a consideration for some people, and paying for something can make you just feel more secure. However, I feel it's about time Security Essentials was included in Windows so people could use it without being bombarded with adverts and logos every day.

  13. George Says:

    NOD 32 and ESET Security 4 are by far the best! Quick scanning, lite, reliable. Oh, by the way Microsoft Security Essentials is not the same thing. Or at least not for free! I know it was free in Beta testing! But not anymore!! Trust me I know , I did look into it a few years ago. Plus some of my friends did not like that annual $30 auto renew. Its just like Norton, I hate it!

  14. o51r15 Says:

    Google Microsoft Security Essentials and follow the link to Microsoft. It is free, 100%, no beta. I run it on all my machines.

  15. Chuck Says:

    You are so DEAD wrong Georgia.

  16. ahow628 Says:

    Here is a great article on ZDnet on why Microsoft Security Essentials isn't bundled with Windows.

  17. Guest Says:

    NIS2011 is a very slick looking product. But, on a brand new Windows 7 installation, it took about 2 days to suddenly drag the machine to its knees once again. Doesn't do this on every machine I have, but it does on the one I need the most. So back to KIS2011 I went and I am very happy with it.

    There's little speed or system load difference between the two products (when NIS doesn't have a choke hold on the system).

    Side note: in order to get the most protection from either product, they have to have settings changed. The author is encouraged to warn users that these are not simply plug and play products.

  18. Derp Says:

    LOL ever tried piracy?

  19. Bureau 24 Says:

    I like avast! myself and its free. However, I have always respected the capabilities of Norton products. I recall the problems with the recognition of programs and how many people would have to call me to fix problems caused by that feature. Nice to hear that they have straightened that out and I am glad the software has improved.

  20. Karl Says:

    Don't forgot that all these antivirus programs are more or less scams. They will not detect a virus that is not in their database (reactive, rather than proactive) and flipping a few bits on an old virus it does detect will fool it. Why would you pay for that?

  21. Norton Security User Says:

    I obtained Norton Internet Security 2011 through that Norton Security Online website because they were giving 15% off. Symantec give money back guarantee so I thought I would get a refund in a worst case scenario. I'm still using it as I feel protected and that my machine is not slowed down.

  22. Jerry Peek Says:

    The link in ahow628’s comment from September 27th, 2010 doesn’t seem to be complete. I found the story, I think, “How a decade of antitrust oversight has changed your PC” on Ed Bott’s Microsoft Report blog. Here’s a link to the page with the story of MSE:

  23. Ghetto Says:

    Norton Internet Security 2011 + AntiVirus Forever License

  24. greenbeagle Says:

    Jim H: EXCELLENT post, thank you. I was unsure if I was going to invest in NIS2011, but after reading this article and reading your post, I will get it and put it on my 3 computers at home. Thanks for taking the time to post such a detailed review.