by Jerry Jackson
Sooner or later almost every Windows-based PC starts to suffer from performance problems due to bloatware, old files, poorly managed Windows updates, or adware and viruses. Symantec promises to restore your old computer's performance with their NortonLive PC Tune-up service. Can a one-time fee of $69.95 really make an old laptop run like new? We put the team at NortonLive to the test, and the results might surprise you.
NortonLive is a division of Symantec that offers phone and online technical support for PCs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. NortonLive currently features five different services that promise to diagnose and fix problems that slow your computer, optimize disk space for improving speed, detect and eliminate spyware, remove viruses and Internet worms, check security to protect against hackers, and repair and maintain PC health.
The NortonLive PC Tune-up service ($69.99) is intended to speed up your old computer. A NortonLive phone representative takes control of your Windows-based PC remotely over an Internet connection and checks for viruses, spyware, unused applications, and optimizes your machine so your laptop runs like new again.
This is pottentially a great service for consumers who are trying to avoid the cost of purchasing a new computer. That said, is it really worth $70? Is this something you might be able to do on your own for free? We decided to take a closer look and find out.
How we victimized a perfectly good laptop
In order to put the NortonLive PC Tune-up service to the test the editors at NotebookReview.com intentionally infected a brand new laptop with bloatware, adware, and other malware that reduces PC performance and makes the computer almost unusable.
The Lenovo IdeaPad S10 that we used for this test features the following specifications:
In order to get a brand-new netbook to operate like an old laptop that has seen better days, our entire editorial staff took turns doing everything a consumer should never do with a computer. We disabled anti-virus software and the pop-up blocker in Windows Internet Explorer and visited every website we could find that mentioned "free software," "free games," "free online poker," "free credit reports," "free screen savers," and, well ... you get the idea.
Whenever a pop-up window opened asking us to install something we clicked on it without hesitation. After a single day of this type of activity we ended up with 21 extra Windows start up items, 17 extra desktop shortcuts, five different Internet Explorer toolbars running at the same time, and it was impossible to browse the web without a pop-up ad appearing every time we clicked on anything. Some of the malware we installed even highjacked the Internet Explorer web browser and took us to sites we didn't want to visit. In fact, just leaving the computer idle for more than five minutes caused a dozen different pop-up ads to appear on the screen ... most of them for unknown companies advertising software and services that could remove the malware on the computer for a substantial fee.
When it was brand new the Lenovo IdeaPad S10 took less than 30 seconds for Windows start up and less than 10 seconds for Windows shut down. After intentionally infecting the computer with various types of adware and other malware the S10 took 58 seconds for Windows start up and 31 seconds for shut down. This is precisely the type of thing Symantec claims they can fix with the NortonLive PC Tune-up service.
How the tune-up process works
After our editorial team was satisfied with the amount of bloatware, adware, Internet Explorer toolbars, and other malware we had installed on the IdeaPad S10, I placed a quick phone call to NortonLive at 10:58 on a Friday morning. The service representative who answered the phone took a few minutes to get my account information and asked me to visit a NortonLive website to download an application that would allow her remote access to my computer. After a few clicks and a Windows restart the expert at NortonLive had control of my computer. The phone representative made it clear that I had access to a chat window and a button to disconnect from the NortonLive service at all times ... in case I wasn't comfortable with the changes she made to my computer.
Once the phone representative started the "tune-up" process it consisted of a relatively straight-forward series of steps:
We can safely assume that the exact steps used in the PC Tune-up service will vary based on how badly the computer is infected with adware or viruses, but the steps listed above are likely to be pretty standard for anyone who purchases the PC Tune-up service from NortonLive.
By the end of the "tune-up" there were still a few bloatware applications installed on the laptop, but none of these were malicious programs. Likewise, none of the bloatware in question negatively impacts performance (unless you use them), so we're not too upset that the NortonLive expert left them installed on the laptop.
The initial performance evaluation rated the IdeaPad S10 at just two out of five stars. After the PC tune-up service the S10 received a three out of five star rating. That might not sound like an amazing performance boost, but we're talking about a netbook here. Once the NortonLive service representative was finished the S10 was once again able to start up Windows in less than 30 seconds and shut down in less than 10 seconds. All of the annoying Internet Explorer toolbars were removed and the tune-up process likewise removed all adware and other malware from the laptop.
Before ending the call, the service representative took time to mention several tips to help me prevent my computer from suffering a similar fate in the future. Her first tip was, of course, "Don't click on pop-up windows while browsing the Internet." Her second tip was to perform disk cleanup once a month.
Finally, the service representative left me with a case number, a phone number, and her manager's email address in case there were additional problems or if I wanted to leave feedback. The call ended at 11:25 ... so the entire tune-up took less than 30 minutes.
The NortonLive PC Tune-up service does exactly what it claims. If your computer is running slow an expert will find out what is causing the problem and improve the speed and stability of your PC in as little as 30 minutes.
Of course, many well-informed computer users are capable of performing a "PC tune-up" that is equally effective at no cost. In fact, even if you don't know how to disable start up applications, how to disable unneeded services, how to delete temporary Internet files, or how to adjust a Windows page file, you can probably find out simply by doing some research online.
Still, there are many consumers who don't know how to do these things and aren't interested in learning how to do them either. Average computer users just want their computers to work ... and they might be willing to pay $70 for the convenience of having someone else solve their laptop performance problems.
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