Speed is of essence for next-generation Symantec products

Symantec sets a higher bar for performance after users complain about how much the security software drags down PC speeds

Symantec is setting a high bar for performance for the new versions of its security products due in 2009.

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, on Friday.

Symantec has "certainly taken a hit " over performance from customers the last two years, Mallon said.

But the company has charged its chief engineering team, located in Culver City, California, 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 100MB, 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 antispyware and antivirus 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 countermeasures 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.

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