Central Command's Vexira Antivirus is a middle-tier antivirus app, falling halfway between the bare-bones simplicity of the $25 Computer Associates' and the full-featured slickness of the $50 , , and . Like EZ Antivirus, Vexira treads lightly on disk space and system resources. Vexira also includes free phone support, something you won't get with the McAfee/Norton/PC-cillin crowd. But it lacks Norton's handy wizards and VirusScan's and PC-cillin's integrated firewalls. More important, its scanning speed is very slow. Given its feature set, Vexira's $34.95 price sounds about right, but its annual $29.95 license renewal fee for antivirus updates is pricey.
To install Vexira, simply download the 4MB file from Central Command's Web site, launch the setup applet, register, and within a few minutes, you're done.
Vexira's simple icon-and-menu-based interface may lack panache, but it's thoughtfully designed and easy to navigate. For example, to scan a file or folder, simply open the Windows Explorer-like tree of your system's folders and files, then check the box beside the desired file or folder.
When Vexira detects a virus, it asks before taking action.
If you're short on drive space, you'll appreciate Vexira's tiny footprint: just 8MB. This is considerably less than the 25MB to 30MB used by McAfee, Norton, or PC-cillin. The trade-off, of course, is fewer features.
Vexira resides in system memory and scans files and folders whenever they are accessed. It also integrates with Windows Explorer, allowing you to right-click and choose "Scan for viruses with Vexira Antivirus" from a drop-down menu. The Scheduler feature lets you set unattended scans for off-peak hours, but it lacks helpful wizards to guide you through the setup process.
By default, Vexira inspects a comprehensive set of archival formats, including Zip, Pklite, Cab, and many others. However, some of Vexira's other default settings are atypical. For instance, when Vexira finds malicious code, a pop-up message asks whether to delete, repair, or perform some other action. Most other antivirus programs do this automatically without asking permission. According to Central Command, other antivirus programs sometimes misidentify viruses. By notifying the user, Vexira avoids inadvertently damaging or deleting a legitimate file. Users can automate the process via Vexira's configuration tools.
Vexira downloads and installs program patches and viral signature updates from its Web site.
Vexira lacks some of the features of its pricier peers. It has no program wizards to guide novices, nor does it include the integrated firewall found in McAfee and PC-cillin. Neither does Vexira provide real-time scanning of inbound and outbound e-mail messages. It will, however, scan e-mail attachments whenever you open them.
While we cannot, unfortunately, provide objective data on how effectively Vexira performs, we can tell you how efficiently it performs. First, the good news: in CNET Labs' tests, Vexira had no impact whatsoever on system performance, which is truly astonishing. Now, the bad: Vexira's scanning speed is dramatically slower than that of any antivirus software product we've tested.
To measure Vexira'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.)