Over the past few years, spyware and adware infections have become more widespread and perhaps as much of a threat as viruses. As a result, products that protect you against spyware have become more popular. While protected against spyware only during on-demand system scans, McAfee VirusScan 2006 offers on-access protection, continuously checking and blocking so-called PUPs (potentially unwanted programs) from running, and even stopping spyware during the installation process. We were impressed with how effective this was in our tests, alerting us before spyware even had the chance to install and run. We wish, though, that McAfee offered more detailed information about the PUP encountered so that one could better decide if the download in question is truly an unwanted program and not just take McAfee's word for it. Norton AntiVirus 2006 provides much more detail regarding potential spyware dangers.
While using McAfee VirusScan 2006, we noticed that full system scans took unusually long to complete. According to the company, McAfee VirusScan 2006 was designed to sacrifice scan speed for overall system usability, so you can continue using your PC as the scan progresses. Nevertheless, we noticed pronounced performance hits in two of our three real-world performance tests. For our complete performance benchmarks of McAfee VirusScan, see CNET's 2006 antivirus performance test results page. As for reliability, McAfee VirusScan has been independently tested against other antivirus products by CheckVir, and AV-Comparatives, and it generally compares favorably at stopping most viruses in their tests. With this version, McAfee also promises to provide daily updates of virus definitions.
With VirusScan 2006, McAfee introduces an improved subscription model. A one-year license now entitles you to software version updates, not just updates of virus definitions. So whenever VirusScan 2007 comes out, you'll automatically download it and its new features--unless it's time for you to resubscribe with McAfee.
McAfee provides a variety of free support, including online chat, e-mail, and Web-based user forums, tips, and FAQs--more options than Symantec provides its Norton users. And like Norton, McAfee's telephone help costs extra: $2.95 per minute via 800 number (credit card required) or $3.95 per minute via 900 number. With either option, the first two minutes are free. Another option is the flat-rate fee of $39 per incident. Daily call center hours are 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. PT.