Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 143 / AUGUST 1992 / PAGE 97

The Norton Antivirus. (Evaluation)
by Bradley M. Small

One of the most frightening catastrophes that can befall serious computer users is the introduction of a virus into their systems. Since the very first time I heard whisperings of viruses (a topic too terrible to utter aloud), I've been using one form of virus protection or another.

Virus programs come in many different forms. Some require a tremendous amount of setup effort, such as entering the names of all executable programs on your system and giving each of them "permissions." Others track your system and stop you each time any read or write occurs. Predictably, the inconvenience of either of these strategies would probably keep you from using a virus-protection program: If you can't install the program easily or if it interrupts your work, you aren't going to use it. The Norton AntiVirus sidesteps both of the usual problems.

The installation is so simple that even the most inexperienced user can do it quickly and easily. The instruction pamphlet is clear, concise, and to the point. I installed the program and was ready to go in about ten minutes. If you start the install program and choose only the defaults, your system will be protected from most, if not all, infection scenarios. If you have Microsoft Windows on your system, you only need to add NAVW.EXE to any program group, and The Norton AntiVirus will be installed for Windows.

Once the program was installed, I was able to continue with my work as if nothing in my system were different--until I placed a floppy disk in my A: drive and tried to get a directory. The disk had the FORM virus on it and The Norton AntiVirus Intercept quickly alerted me to the fact that the disk in drive A: had a boot-sector virus. I then launched The Norton Virus Clinic and scanned the disk. The Virus Clinic confirmed that the disk indeed had a virus, identifying the FORM virus by name.

Unfortunately, selecting the Repair option failed to remove the virus--although the program did inform me that the virus hadn't been removed. I called customer support and learned there was a way to remove the virus "by hand." Norton's customer-support staff talked me through the procedure. If the virus is on a hard drive or bootable disk, all you have to do is boot with a clean DOS disk and reissue the DOS command SYS.COM. In my case, however, the virus was on a non-bootable floppy disk. I was told to do the following: Copy (using COPY or XCOPY, not DISKCOPY) the files from the disk, reformat the floppy, and copy the files back onto the floppy.

There are not only many different viruses but also many different strains of certain viruses. No product can possibly detect and fix every single one. Many new viruses are found weekly, which would lead you to believe that any product you buy will be useless in about a month. Fortunately, The Norton AntiVirus can also overcome those difficulties. The program works by using virus "definitions"; these are like little pictures of the virus's signature. For support, there's a free bulletin board service from which you can download new virus definitions as needed. These definitions can easily be installed into your existing program, making your system as current as the technology at Symantec.

For those of you without a modem, there are two alternate ways to update your virus definitions. First, for the cost of shipping and handling, Symantec will send you a disk containing update information. Second, it has a fax service from which you can get definitions that you can install by typing them in. The latter may not sound optimal, but if you happen to have a particular virus on your system and you need a new definition for only that one, it won't take more than five to ten minutes for even the worst hunt-and-peck typist to update that particular definition.

After using The Norton AntiVirus, I can clearly see that Symantec has taken great pains to create a program capable of preserving data. It will work well on almost any system and in most cases will provide the protection you need. It's easy to install, convenient to use, and simple to update.

In these days of both software and hardware being shipped already infected with viruses, the virus problem is no longer the exclusive province of the modem enthusiast. Everyone needs virus protection, and The Norton AntiVirus is a good place to get it.