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Priced around $25, Computer Associates' eTrust EZ Antivirus 6.1 is a lean, mean scanning machine. This bargain app detects and destroys viruses, worms, and Trojans as well as the big boys, McAfee VirusScan Home Edition 7.0 and PC-cillin 2003. Even better, it's the fastest antivirus program we've tested. However, when you pay less, you also get less. EZ Antivirus lacks many of the niceties of its pricier competitors, such as real-time scanning of incoming and outgoing mail and an integrated firewall to halt no-good hackers from commandeering your PC. And while its interface includes some helpful wizards and tutorials, EZ Antivirus lacks the overall ease of use of its competitors. Still, this virus slayer is sure to please the bargain-hunting home and small-office user. If it's too spartan for your needs, Computer Associates' $49.95 eTrust EZ Armor suite combines virus scanning with e-mail scanning and a firewall.
EZ Antivirus 6.1 is easy to configure. Simply download the compact 3.7MB setup file from my-eTrust.com and run the speedy installation routine. The installation program will also download updated virus signatures and scan your PC for the first time.
The EZ Antivirus Options Wizard leads you through basic configuration chores, such as choosing which folders to scan.
Like its competitors, McAfee VirusScan Home Edition 7.0, PC-cillin 2003, Panda Antivirus Platinum 7.0, and Norton AntiVirus 2003, EZ Antivirus loads with Windows, resides in memory, and stealthily scans files and downloads for digital delinquents. Unlike its competitors, EZ Antivirus does all that without much pizzazz. The drab main interface adopts an Explorer-like file tree, which you use to select individual files and folders for scanning. We'd like a little extra hand-holding, such as an additional wizard to guide novices through the process of selecting specific files and directories to be scanned.
On the plus side, the well-designed toolbar buttons include Local Scanning Options and Schedule New Scan. These buttons help automate full-system scans and select cleaning options--for instance, whether to detect or clean infected files--and do so without having to drill down through needless menu options.
While EZ Antivirus costs half the price of its competitors, it also lacks some important features. You can't scan incoming and outgoing mail, and you won't find an integrated firewall. Both of these features are sold separately as standalone eTrust products or combined within the EZ Armor suite.
But EZ Antivirus performs its tasks well. The app scans downloads and automatically snuffs viral intruders before they wreak havoc on your PC. The handy Options Wizard makes it easy to change the program's default settings. You can, for instance, configure EZ Antivirus to rename, delete, or report infected files, a level of control that's common among current antivirus apps.
EZ Antivirus informs you when it detects a virus, but its pop-up message should say more.
The program's reporting skills, however, could use some polishing. For example, a pop-up warning informed us that EZ Antivirus found the Klez.h worm in a file but didn't say whether the file had been cleaned or deleted or what happened next. We later checked the program log and found that the file had indeed been cleaned, but anxious, worm-infected users deserve such detailed information up front.
Version 6.1 features another nifty new feature called Snooze. This feature disables the program's real-time protection for a user-specified period (from 1 to 99 minutes)--perfect for new software installations or to troubleshoot a system performance glitch. In previous versions of EZ Antivirus, you had to reboot after disabling virus monitoring. Not anymore. To deactivate Snooze, simply click the Wake Now icon in the System Tray. If you forget, the timer will automatically turn off Snooze after the allotted time and restart EZ Antivirus protection.
Included with the price is one year of free virus signature updates--the same as the competition. But, after that, users must pay $12.95 a year for them, which is $3 more than what McAfee and Symantec (Norton) currently charge.
All hail the new speed champ. In CNET Labs' tests, EZ Antivirus scanned faster than any antivirus software product we've tested, including the previous front-runner, McAfee VirusScan 7.0. EZ Antivirus caused less of a drag on system performance than did Norton or Panda, was tied with McAfee, and was just a percentage point below top dog PC-cillin in this category.
EZ Antivirus scans faster than any antivirus program we've tested.
To measure EZ Antivirus's impact on system performance, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's SysMark2002, an industry-standard benchmark. The Internet-content-creation portion of SysMark measures a desktop's performance running off-the-shelf applications such as Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Windows Media Encoder, and Macromedia Dreamweaver. (We did not run the Office Productivity portion of the benchmark because it incorporates McAfee VirusScan 5.13.)
Our test system was a Compaq Evo W4000 running Windows XP Professional with an Intel P4 2.4GHz processor and 512MB of DDR RAM. With EZ Antivirus running, our test system scored an outstanding 97--a mere 3 percent reduction in overall system speed. By comparison, PC-cillin led the pack at 98, with a 2 percent reduction; McAfee tied EZ Antivirus at 97, a 3 percent reduction; Norton AntiVirus 2003 scored a 95, or a 5 percent reduction; and Panda scored a dismal 81, or a colossal 19 percent slowdown. (An Internet-content-creation score of 100 represents the performance of our test system without any extraneous software running.) In a test of scanning speed, EZ Antivirus took top honors with an average of 1.1 minutes to scan a 1GB directory, easily surpassing previous speed champ McAfee VirusScan 7.0, which averaged 1.7 minutes.
To determine whether eTrust Antivirus effectively blocks viruses, we gauged its performance in tests conducted by independent antivirus laboratories. In Virus Bulletin's tests with live viruses, previous versions of EZ Antivirus earned the coveted VB 100 percent rating in four of its six most recent Windows tests--a good showing, certainly, but not on a par with Norton AntiVirus, which earned the title six out of its last six tests. In the back of the AV pack, Trend Micro PC-cillin passed only one of its two Windows tests, and Panda Platinum passed only once in just three Windows tests.
Previous versions of eTrust Antivirus have been certified by the independent antivirus testing laboratories at West Coast Checkmark, ICSA Labs, and AV-test.org (click here to view the Excel file).
For more details on how we test antivirus apps, see the CNET Labs site.
For help, EZ Antivirus provides its Ask Sammy online tutorials, essentially a how-to guide for newbies. Unfortunately, the link to Ask Sammy is buried under layers of help screens and is hard to find. On the other hand, Computer Associates' online support includes a satisfactory collection of FAQs, troubleshooting information, and updates. For example, the online virus encyclopedia is helpful for anyone wanting to read up on viruses and related malignancies. The company promises to respond to e-mail queries within 48 hours, a pledge that proved true in our tests.
The Ask Sammy online tutorials give novices a helpful overview of EZ Antivirus's features.
These days, however, few antivirus vendors provide free phone support, and Computer Associates is no exception. You'll pay a whopping $49.95 per support incident, but at least you won't face any additional charges (such as an extra fee for exceeding support time limits). By comparison, Norton charges $2.95 per minute (up to $300 maximum) or $29.95 per call, and McAfee charges $2.95 per minute or $39 per support incident. Among the top antivirus vendors, only Trend Micro, maker of PC-Cillin, offers one year of free phone support.