The strong Symantec Norton Internet Security 2009 suite may cost a little more than some competitors, but it’s easy to use and good at blocking malicious software. Updated, 16 June 2009.

Symantec Norton Internet Security 2009 is a winner. It pairs excellent malware detection and cleanup with a smooth, intuitive interface and a good range of features. Norton wasn’t tops in every category we tested, but if you want a solid product to protect your PC, Norton Internet Security is a great option.

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In AV-Test’s extensive malware-detection tests, Symantec Norton Internet Security 2009 did very well, identifying 97.8 percent of the 722,372 collected samples of Trojan horses, worms, password-stealers, adware, and other nasties (98.3 percent excluding adware). This represents a slight decrease from our previous test results, where Norton caught 98.7 percent of ‘zoo’ samples (98.8 percent excluding adware). Even so, Symantec Norton Internet Security 2009 still came third overall behind G-Data InternetSecurity 2010, which tagged 99.8 percent of ‘zoo’ samples and BitDefender Internet Security 2009 which achieved a 98.9 percent detection rate.

Symantec Norton Internet Security 2009 again took top honours in cleaning up malware infections, although it wasn’t perfect. It got rid of 85 percent of the files and Registry changes that malware had put in place, but it failed to scrub all the files from two out of 10 test infections. It produced similarly strong numbers for detecting and removing rootkits. It successfully removed nine out of nine active rootkits.

In dealing with adware, Symantec Norton Internet Security 2009 was on the low end with its 85.6 percent detection rate for this aggravating, albeit usually harmless, software. The top performers, by contrast, identified more than 98 percent of the adware in our testing. On the other hand, it was the only product that didn’t produce a single false positive by misidentifying safe software as harmful.

Symantec Norton Internet Security 2009 was below average at identifying unknown malware for which it doesn’t yet have a signature. In tests with two-week-old signature files, it identified only 44.6 percent of samples (compared to 48.2 percent in previous testing). This put it third, well behind G Data, which detected a bit more than 56 percent of the samples.

However, Symantec Norton Internet Security 2009’s new ‘pulse’ update feature, which sends out malware signatures to the program every 5 to 15 minutes, could help offset that lacklustre proactive performance. Symantec responds very quickly to new widespread malware attacks, typically in less than 2 hours, according to AV-Test.

Another new feature, Norton Insight, uses internet-based elements to identify trusted applications that don’t need to be scanned, which Symantec says can help improve scanning speed. The suite did prove the fastest of the group at scheduled or manual on-demand scans that survey entire files, but it was only the sixth fastest at the more-important on-access checks that occur every time your PC opens or accesses a file.

Symantec Norton Internet Security 2009’s anti-spam feature adds a toolbar to Outlook and Outlook Express, and its firewall will automatically allow known, trusted applications to access the internet. And its wireless security feature correctly warned us about a test network that used no encryption.

To use the parental controls and privacy features, you must download and install a free add-on pack from Symantec. Afterward you’ll be able to assign access profiles such as ‘Child’, ‘Teen’, or ‘Unrestricted’ to existing Windows user accounts, or define certain types of information, such as credit card numbers, that you don’t want sent from your PC without your authorisation.

While Symantec Norton Internet Security 2009’s default settings and interface were largely correct and well done in our testing, its anti-phishing proved a notable exception: The feature turned off Firefox’s built-in anti-phishing protection without any notification, a move that Symantec says is to prevent potential duplicative alerts.

Other suites had no problems leaving Firefox’s feature on in addition to their own, however, and doing so means you have two opportunities to catch and block a phishing site instead of just one.

Regrettably, the Symantec Norton Internet Security 2009 suite lacks a backup capability, and it can’t scan for missing applications or Windows patches a function that’s fairly common among its competitors.