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Laplink PCDefense is an unusual security application; it is not a traditional Internet security suite, but a mere companion and seems geared toward advanced users. PCDefense lacks a firewall and antispam protection, basic features that can be found elsewhere, say, in ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite 6 or PC-cillin Internet Security 2006. PCDefense does include a third-party antivirus and antispyware protection as well as a disaster-and-recovery imaging tool, but it does not integrate these tools in any logical fashion; the lack of a one-button "clean my PC" option, for example, makes very it hard to know whether you have thoroughly scanned your PC for keyloggers, rootkits, spyware, and viruses. And several of the tools, such as the cookie manager, the processes monitor, and the start-up apps display, are freely available within your browser or Windows XP itself, with PCDefense offering no new functionality. Priced at $49.95 (boxed) and $39.95 (download), Laplink PCDefense calls out for a thorough interface overhaul and perhaps a rethink about its basic purpose before we can recommend it.
Installation of PCDefense was quick, in part because the most resource-laden part of the application--the antivirus engine--resides online, which is a curious design choice. PCDfense has partnered with Romanian antivirus vendor BitDefender and cobranded the latter company's free online antivirus scanner. On-demand scanning is fine when you suspect you have a virus or worm and simply want to confirm and remove the offending malware; it is not fine, however, if you find yourself defenseless during an active virus or worm attack such as MSBlast or Zotob. For most people, the online antivirus scanner within PCDefense will be worthless.
Laplink PCDefense seems best suited to complement existing antivirus and firewall protection by offering specific tools targeting spyware, keyloggers, and rootkits; it also provides backup and recovery options should disaster strike. The PCDefense interface reflects the scattered nature of the product. There is no one button to scan your PC for malware; rather, you must select individual scans, which can be intimidating to a new user. For a snapshot, the PCDefense status screen gives you a snapshot of your system's relative security, displaying when scans were last run but no centralized "scan my PC" option, which could frustrate beginners who simply wish to rid their machine of malware. For an inside look, see our Laplink PCDefense slide show.
The best part of PCDefense is its antispyware tools. Spyware Alarm is a proactive monitor that prevents known spyware from installing on your PC. Laplink Antispyware 4.17, the main antispyware component, is based on the antispyware engine from Paretologic, makers of XoftSpy SE, an antispyware app that CNET Download.com users ranked four out of five possible stars. We found it performed well on our test machine, identifying the same spyware that Webroot Spy Sweeper 4.5 found on the same test machine.