Symantec is promising to improve the performance of its security products due out next year. The company is acting after user pressure.

The chief complaint Symantec hears from customers is how much of a drag the software is on PC speeds, from startup times to hard drive scanning, said Con Mallon, product marketing director for Symantec's consumer division in Europe. So the company has charged its chief engineering team with making several of its products in its Norton line less bloated.

Installation times now range from eight to 10 minutes, Mallon said. The new goal is for that time to be one minute or less.

Symantec's latest consumer suite, Norton 360 Version 2.0, takes between 20 to 30 seconds to load up after a PC is started. Symantec would like to trim that to 10 seconds or less, Mallon said.

Another target is to reduce the overall size of its programs to no more than 100MBs, which in some cases would mark a four-fold reduction.

The goals aren't easy to reach, as each requires major modifications to the software. "From a technical point of view, this is tough new stuff," Mallon said.

Engineers will be working on the improvements for the next versions of Norton Internet Security and Norton AntiVirus, both of which have anti-spyware and anti-virus functions, among others. Eventually, the improvements will be worked into the next version of Norton 360, Mallon said.

The last chief goal is to speed up scanning times, one of the most laborious tasks for security software that consumes processor power as files are checked on the entire hard drive, Mallon said.

Symantec is developing technology that would allow the scanner to skip certain trust files in order to speed up the overall scan, such as core components of Microsoft's Excel spreadsheet program, Mallon said.

However, other counter measures will have to be included so the security software doesn't reveal which files are not scanned as to not tip off hackers, he said.