The boxed version of McAfee VirusScan Professional 8.0 is now identical in appearance and functionality to the online product. A major face-lift has resulted in a streamlined virus fighter that's faster to install, easier to configure, and less of a resource hog than . VirusScan Professional 8.0 also offers enhanced worm-detection tools, better integration with Microsoft Outlook, spyware detection, a shredder, and a temporary file cleaner, plus two user licenses. Unfortunately, McAfee removed its personal firewall from VirusScan Professional 8.0 (current users of version 7.0 can keep their firewall if they choose the $30 upgrade). But of more concern is McAfee's 24/7 free online technical support chat; once one of the best in the business, it's often inaccessible now.
McAfee recently merged its retail version of VirusScan Professional 8.0 with its online version. That's good news for users who want to download and install the program via the Internet. Installation, both online and via CD, was trouble-free and took only a few minutes. Upon start-up, VirusScan Professional downloaded updated virus definitions, as most antivirus programs do.
Last year, we praised VirusScan Professional's browserlike interface but found its multiple Web page-like screens tedious to navigate, particularly when we had to dig through several layers just to change a few basic settings. VirusScan Professional 8.0 replaces the previous version's ungainly, browserlike interface with the McAfee Security Center, an interface from which you can manage all security programs on your PC--including third-party firewall, privacy, and spam-blocking apps. The Center's Security Index uses graphical bars (with a 1 to 10 rating scale) to show how well your PC is protected against all kinds of digital intrusions--viruses, hackers, spam, and so on--and it provides quick access to VirusScan Professional's settings.
Despite Security Center's embrace of third-party security apps, it's still very McAfee-centric. On our test PC, for instance, we use the ZoneAlarm firewall. Security Center accurately detected the presence of ZoneAlarm, as indicated by the 10.0 rating on the AntiHacker index; but by default it stated that McAfee's Personal Firewall Plus was "not installed," a statement that might confuse some novices into thinking they weren't fully protected.
VirusScan Professional 8.0 may be leaner, but its virus-fighting tools retain their muscle. McAfee has improved its worm-detection skills with WormStopper (previously known as HAWK), a PC system behavior-analysis tool. WormStopper blocks malicious, wormlike behavior, often before a signature-file download is available. It's difficult to predict future worms; however, VirusScan Professional detected and deleted the MSBlast worm on our test PC, something our previous antivirus program missed. The ScriptStopper feature, which finds and blocks malicious scripts, is unchanged from version 7.0.
Better integration with Microsoft Outlook includes on-demand scanning of all e-mail folders and archives to find viruses and worms lying dormant there. Like Norton AntiVirus 2004, it scans inbound and outbound IM messages; its predecessor scanned inbound only.
Unfortunately, McAfee has removed its firewall from VirusScan Professional 8.0, something that previously gave the product a competitive edge over the always firewall-free Norton AntiVirus. VirusScan Professional 8.0 users can try a 30-day free trial of McAfee Personal Firewall Plus via the Security Center; however, users can also get the free, and much better, ZoneAlarm firewall from Download.com.