Installing Norton 360

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I was recently occasioned to install Norton 360 on a Dell Dimension 2400 purchased five years ago. What follows is a play-by-play of that process, written as the installation occurred:

I go to install the Norton 360 disc, and it tells me because I have Norton Professional 2003 installed on the computer, this has to go first. I go to the Control Panel in Windows and manually uninstall it. This takes five or 10 minutes and involves restarting the computer afterward.

I put the disc in and start again, and it wants to first “check for updates.” To do this, it obviously needs an Internet connection, and I don’t have my Internet connection turned on, since, as I’d just been ordered to uninstall my virus protection, this seemed like a bad idea. Meanwhile, the “check for updates” window just ineffectually scrolls and scrolls away with no real way to check for these updates. Finally, I have to tell it stop. It asks if I am sure I want it to stop. I am.

Norton 360 then wants to verify the “Product Key.” Fair enough. I find this and enter it – it’s accepted. I verify “program files” as a file destination for the software and figure we’re getting started.

Nope. I’m told I have Windows Defender installed on my computer, and this has to go too. Windows Defender was peacefully coexisting with Norton Professional 2003, but this town isn’t big enough for Norton 360 and Windows Defender. Norton 360 helpfully throws me to the uninstall for Windows Defender, but the computer has to be restarted again, and when it’s back, the Norton 360 install doesn’t just start back up. I have to eject the disc and put it back in to make this happen.

The Norton 360 install finally starts in earnest and chugs away while flashing a series of pictures of people happy because their computers are secure, taking pictures with digital cameras, smiling sedately while checking e-mail, etc. In the meantime, I connect the computer to the Internet.

Finally, the installation is done and the program disappears. After a minute, the Configuration Wizard visits, but asks me to “Please Wait.” OK. It tells me that activation requires the computer be connected to the Internet, and currently, Norton 360 can’t activate because the computer is not connected to the Internet, when I know it is.

I hit “next” again and it proceeds. I have to enter my name and e-mail address, select a password and indicate my favorite author. A “Live Update” is now in progress, as is a virus scan. During this, I go to open IE7 and find a “Fraud Monitoring” Norton toolbar is now permanently installed across the top of it. I don’t want to see this toolbar whenever I’m navigating IE7. I click on the toolbar to make it go away and am brought to a window where the option of closing it is not readily apparent. I open the entire program, am told some vague things about my computer (it has two “risks”) but am not able to do anything else. While I’m trying to figure out how to close the toolbar, the program at one point randomly closes itself entirely.

Eventually by some Google research, I determine I can get rid of this toolbar by going into “Advance Settings” and turning off “Transaction Security” or by unchecking the “Show Norton Toolbar” option within Internet Explorer itself. Turning off “Transaction Security” proves preferable since this tool slows down Internet navigation significantly. But even this is problematic because “Transaction Security” turns itself back on, even when told not to.

Finally, I get back to that “Live Update,” which takes forever. When it concludes, another restart is requested. This is when all hell breaks loose.

I notice that at restart the computer notifies me via a pop-up bubble that a Norton 360 file is missing. I figure it’s just something that was missed during the installation, so I put the 360 disc back in, and the computer immediately crashes. It goes into DOS and starts frantically scrolling this long, unreadable error message over and over and over again. It stops, goes into Windows and displays the Norton 360 start-up screen for a second. Then it goes back to frantically scrolling the same error message, and doesn’t stop. The computer won’t respond to the keyboard, mouse or its power button; it’s like it’s possessed. I have to turn off the power strip to make it stop.

I do a hard restart and am relieved when the computer goes into Windows fine. I unceremoniously uninstall Norton 360. After consulting with a friend who advocates using free anti-virus software, I download AVG’s free platform, a process that goes smoothly and speedily, and my computer is once again secure.

But, though Norton 360 hadn’t done any damage to my computer or OS, it did cause problems on other fronts. The night before, I had hooked a brand new, 500 gig external hard drive to my machine. The drive comes with an application that automatically backs up the computer’s entire hard drive, and because Norton 360 comes with a backup tool, it helpfully broke the external hard drive’s application without telling me. Uninstalling the software and reinstalling it from the hard drive doesn’t work. Reinstalling the software from the Web doesn’t work either. Finally, a third attempt from the hard drive does the trick.

So, I got Norton 360 off my computer with no problem, and since then it has functioned fine. Not everyone is so lucky. Immediately after uninstalling Norton 360 after my computer crashed I headed to the Web to try to figure out what happened. Looking on Amazon was immediately telling: Norton 360 has a two-star (out of five) rating based on 171 product reviews. Most of the reviews are one star and go like this: “YOU WILL HATE YOUR SELF IF YOU BUY THIS,” “Run – Don't Walk – Away From This Product,” “Worst software purchase ever,” “Norton 360 has been on my computer for one day (Toshiba laptop, 2.8 GHz, 60 GB, 256 MB), and already has caused so many problems I cannot even count them” — and on and on, seemingly into infinity (see for yourself).

In all fairness

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Daniel Margolis


Daniel Margolis is a longtime professional writer and editor. Daniel was managing editor of Certification Magazine from 2006 to 2012.

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