Norton AntiVirus 6.0 and Virex 6.0

Introduction

Without a doubt, a commercial antivirus program is second in importance only to a good disk maintenance and repair product. In fact, some would argue its the other way round. In this area, the Mac market comes down to two main protagonists: Virex and Norton AntiVirus (NAV). In the previous Macworld head-to-head, back in April, Norton just held the edge – but is this still true? While Norton Utilities and NAV have almost always been offered as a bundle, as well as individually, the latter is now integrated into Utilities: if you own both of them, NAV can be launched from Utilities’ main screen. Intrusive
In terms of operation, NAV is rather invasive due to its Auto-Protect system extension. Working in the background, any virus-like activity throws up a dialogue warning of its action. While the trigger for this can be adjusted in the preferences, including the likes of ‘modify startup documents’, ‘create/modify application’ and ‘format without dialogue’ – it’s essential to keep this turned on – the whole ethos of learning acceptable actions, and building up the Exceptions List, is intrusive. Virex has an updated user interface – but it only looks nicer, rather than being more functional. It also has a different approach to scanning for viruses, working solely in the background, without any user intervention. This latest version of NAV can repair boot-block damage, caused by AutoStart worms, and now keeps an on-board history file of previous scans. While the previous incarnation sported LiveUpdate for the speedy downloading of virus definitions and software updates, quick it wasn’t. Norton has put this right – logging on to the Web site and downloading the 827K file took just 100 seconds. Same ol’, same ol’
Virex has only two changes – but very important ones. eUpdate is comparable to Norton’s LiveUpdate, and brings the latest virus-definitions file to your Mac posthaste. The 1,292K file downloaded in around 170 seconds, a similar speed to its competitor. Equally important is the redesigned scheduler, where you can choose to diagnose, or repair, specific partitions at start up, before shutdown, or at a chosen time or interval. It’s certainly easier to work with, and more comprehensive than its predecessor – and pretty well on a par with NAV’s equivalent. The scan speed for virus checkers is important – especially the speed of rescan as this tends to be carried out on daily basis. Each writes a cache file of about the same size to a scanned partition for rescan purposes – Norton AntiVirus calls this ‘QuickScan’, Virex calls it ‘SpeedScan’. Using a 450MB Mac OS 8.1 boot disk, NAV cleared it in 535 seconds, while Virex took a woefully unimpressive 907 seconds. This is odd, as Virex certainly had the edge in speed previously – and rescans took 45 and 44 seconds respectively. The problem appears to be the speed of scanning of the 3,000-odd files in the MRJ Libraries’ zip archives, in the Extensions folder. Carrying out a speed test on a 550MB partition, containing around 2,000 files, and StuffIt archives only, gave scan/rescan results of 47/8 seconds for Virex, and 81/7 seconds for NAV. Given the closeness in rescan times, there’s little to choose here.
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