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Norton Internet Security 2006

In fact, based on my experiences with NIS 2006, you may want to steer clear of it altogether. The suite seems designed to confuse and even alarm users, mostly because of its seemingly endless barrage of pop-up status messages (which, admittedly, taper off over time, but still seem excessive). Even installation can be quirky; after I loaded the suite and rebooted, the installer warned, "Automatic LiveUpdate is already running in the background," even though I hadn't attempted to run it manually.

If you can overlook annoyances like these, you'll discover the same robust antivirus, anti-spam and firewall tools offered in earlier editions. However, the firewall did cause a problem on my Windows Media Center Edition PC: It blocked automated attempts to download TV guide listings, without giving me a chance to override the setting. Even after manually enabling full Internet access for the Media Center applet (a change I had to make twice before it registered), the guide wouldn't download. Symantec's online knowledge base offered no help for this issue. Eventually I figured it out: You also have to enable access (twice) for Media Center Host Module.

I put NIS 2006's anti-spyware acumen to the test by installing the P2P program Grokster, a known carrier of spyware and other system-clogging junk. Sure enough, NIS detected numerous "high-risk" threats and enabled me to block every one of them. It then recommended I run a spyware scan, which I did. After about 10 minutes, the software effectively locked up, leaving me with a blank "Attention" window that couldn't be closed.

Norton Internet Security 2006 offers a variety of safety tools under one roof.

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Norton Internet Security 2006; Price: $69.99; Symantec Inc.
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