With its new 2003 version, Trend Micro's PC-cillin regains its rank among the top three antivirus programs on the market. Like Symantec Norton AntiVirus 2003 and McAfee VirusScan 7.0, PC-cillin provides fast virus scanning with little impact on overall PC performance. Its logical, efficient interface is easy to navigate, and the program delivers all the essential virus-busting tools you'd want, including e-mail and instant-message scanning, virus alerts via the Web, and the eradication of malevolent Java and ActiveX applets. Like McAfee and Panda Antivirus Platinum 7.0, PC-cillin includes a firewall to prevent Net-based malcontents from breaking into your PC--an important feature not found in Norton AntiVirus. While PC-cillin suffers from a few minor glitches, it's an excellent choice for anyone seeking protection from rogue code. If you're new to PC-cillin, setup is simple: load the CD, click a few perfunctory Next buttons, and let the program do the rest. Upgrading, however, isn't quite so easy. To upgrade, you must uninstall PC-cillin 2002 (or earlier) before you load the new version, which is also a problem with other antivirus products we've reviewed. Thankfully, the program's personal firewall installs by default. This is good because it starts protecting your PC from intruders right from the get-go. Surprisingly, however, the WebTrap feature, which detects and destroys malevolent Java or ActiveX applets, is turned off by default. According to Trend Micro, most users say that they want it that way.
During installation, PC-cillin 2003 scans your system for viruses and other rogue code.
Antivirus amateurs will appreciate PC-cillin's thoughtful design and top-notch interface. Thanks to self-explanatory tabs and icons, the program is clutter-free and as easy to configure as the competition's apps. Also, like industry leaders Norton and McAfee, PC-cillin lets you run manual scans to examine individual folders--important on today's mammoth hard drives--and makes it a breeze to schedule weekly or monthly scans.
PC-cillin 2003 not only matches McAfee and Norton feature for feature, it offers a few neat tricks of its own. Like Norton AntiVirus and McAfee VirusScan, PC-cillin downloads virus pattern updates from its own servers. While automatic configuration is available, the default setting wisely lets you decide which option makes sense. PC-cillin then takes the update process a step further with its Outbreak Alert, which sends Red or Yellow alert pop-ups, depending on the importance of the update. Norton, by comparison, simply informs you that it's time to update your pattern files.
Like any good antivirus crusader, PC-cillin runs in the background and scans all file downloads from your e-mail, instant messenger, Web browser, or any other application. Like Norton and Panda, PC-cillin automatically cleans infected files, and if it can't clean a file, the software quarantines it, rendering it ineffective. You can, however, reconfigure PC-cillin to seek your input before it acts. PC-cillin also scans compressed files, as does Norton, but only after they're on your PC and you try to extract them. McAfee, on the other hand, scans a compressed file while you download it.
PC-cillin alerts you when it detects a virus. It seeks your input if it can't eradicate the troublemaker.
Like McAfee and Panda, PC-cillin includes an easy-to-configure firewall that's integrated nicely into the program's interface. Of lesser value is SiteTrap, a feature that lets you block users from accessing specific Web sites. While SiteTrap works with Internet Explorer, it doesn't work with the popular MSN Explorer, something that Trend Micro says it's working to fix.
PC-cillin follows antivirus protocol by offering one year of complimentary antivirus pattern files. After that, however, you'll have to pay $24.95 per year, which includes an upgrade to the latest version of the program. By comparison, both Norton and McAfee charge slightly less than $10 per year for pattern files but don't bundle a program upgrade with the deal. Frankly, we prefer the latter, less pricey approach and question Trend Micro's need to lock its customers into an annual program update, particularly if their current version is working fine.
In CNET Labs' tests, PC-cillin caused less of a drag on system performance than did McAfee, Norton, or Panda. However, McAfee remains the speed champ, scanning faster than any antivirus software product we've tested.
PC-cillin downloads and installs pattern file updates from the Internet.
To measure PC-cillin's impact on system performance, CNET Labs used 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 DDR RAM. With PC-cillin running, our test system scored a remarkable 98--a mere 2 percent reduction in overall system speed. By comparison, McAfee scored a 97, or a 3 percent decrease; Norton AntiVirus 2003 scored a 95, a 5 percent reduction; and Panda scored a dismal 81, a whopping 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, PC-cillin took an average of 2.1 minutes to scan a 1GB directory, which wasn't as fast as speed demon McAfee VirusScan 7.0, which averaged 1.7 minutes.
To determine whether PC-cillin effectively blocks viruses, we gauged its performance in tests conducted by independent antivirus laboratories. In Virus Bulletin's tests with live viruses, PC-cillin earned the coveted VB 100 percent rating in three of its most recent Windows tests--a good showing certainly, but not on a par with Norton AntiVirus, which earned the title on six of its last six tests. In the back of the antivirus pack, McAfee passed only three of its last eight Windows tests, and Panda passed only once in its two Windows tests.
Previous versions of PC-cillin have been certified by the independent antivirus testing laboratories at West Coast Checkmark, ICSA Labs, and AV-test.org.
For more details on how we test antivirus apps, see CNET Labs' site.
Trend Micro gets a gold star for being the only antivirus vendor to offer free phone support for one year. By comparison, both Symantec and McAfee charge hefty fees for phone support, and Panda doesn't offer the service at all. Even better, Trend Micro provides a toll-free number, so any hold time is on the company's dime. In our tests, wait times were typically less than 10 minutes and the company's support staff answered our queries accurately and politely.
Like its competitors, Trend Micro provides e-mail support. Its Web site has the usual collection of FAQs, virus definitions, and patch files but doesn't provide anything as slick as Symantec's wizardlike troubleshooter or McAfee's live support chat. But with a year of free phone support, we're not complaining.