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McAfee Internet Security 6.0 review: McAfee Internet Security 6.0

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MSRP: $69.99

The Good Includes firewall, antivirus, and Internet privacy tools; easy to use; consistent interface throughout.

The Bad Support is subpar; spam filter is weak; opens new windows across the desktop.

The Bottom Line McAfee Internet Security 6.0 is fine, but Norton Internet Security 2004 is a better deal, thanks to superior spam filtering.

Visit for details.

6.6 Overall
  • Setup 7
  • Features 8
  • Support 5

Review summary

On store shelves, McAfee Internet Security (MIS) 6.0 goes head-to-head with Symantec's Norton Internet Security (NIS) 2004. Unfortunately, it comes up a bit short. First, MIS 6.0 costs the same as NIS 2004--unless you download the massive 28MB edition directly from to save $10. Second, while McAfee Personal Firewall Plus 5.0 and McAfee VirusScan 8.0 match up well with Norton's equivalents, McAfee SpamKiller 5.0 falls well short of Norton AntiSpam. We do like McAfee's colorful, easy-to-navigate interface, and we were happy to find a host of additional privacy tools within MIS 6.0 not available in NIS 2004. Our advice: pay the additional $10 and pick NIS 2004 instead. A mere 10 minutes after you install McAfee Internet Security 6.0, the software will start protecting your PC. MIS 6.0 includes an optional setup wizard that will customize the suite for maximum defense. Like NIS 2004, MIS 6.0 does an ultrafast scan of the drive to see if it's hiding any viruses or worms before it finishes the installation. We like that extra bit of protection. You can also choose whether to register MIS 6.0 with McAfee; unlike with NIS 2004, there's no product activation requirement.

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MIS 6.0's My Security Center shows you at a glance whether you need to take action to protect your PC.

MIS 6.0's interface nicely ties together all of its components in a Web page-style My Security Center. Even better, the individual apps have similar icons and commands throughout. That's a nice touch over NIS.

As well-integrated as MIS 6.0 is and as slick as its interface looks, its habit of opening up additional windows is annoying. Open SpamKiller, for instance, then click to check blocked mail, then open VirusScan to view its options--suddenly you have three windows (including McAfee's omnipresent My Security Center) crowding each other. We prefer the neater NIS 2004, which opens only one window on the desktop, then shows each screen within that window.

Finally, MIS 6.0 automatically retrieves and installs updates from, including the crucial virus definition files that keep VirusScan up-to-date.
MIS 6.0 sports four major components that tackle security from nearly every direction. VirusScan 8.0, McAfee's antivirus software, protects the PC from incoming viruses, worms, and Trojan horses. McAfee Personal Firewall Plus 5.0 (also available separately), makes sure that attacks such as the recent MSBlast don't get through to the computer, hides the PC from hackers, and lets you decide which applications access the Internet from your side of the firewall.

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The Privacy Bar shows in Internet Explorer and lets you use or block cookies at specific Web sites on the fly.

We were disappointed with the suite's spam-filtering tool, SpamKiller 5.0, given that it represents the merger of the SpamKiller and the award-winning SpamAssassin Pro technologies. But SpamKiller failed to stop a lot of our incoming spam and required various unnecessary steps to execute even the simplest task. Instead, we recommend Norton AntiSpam (NAS) 2004, which is a much superior product.

But MIS 6.0's Privacy Service tools are impressive and more comprehensive than those included in NIS 2004. For example, MIS 6.0 sniffs out spyware, irritating and potentially dangerous software, often installed without your knowledge, that tracks your Web habits--something NIS 2004 doesn't do. In fact, MIS 6.0 found and wiped out several spyware apps on our test system. And we love the Privacy Bar, an Internet Explorer sidebar that shows how many ads MIS 6.0 has blocked and lets you selectively allow cookies only from sites you trust. And there are parental controls that allow you to block selected Web sites from minors.
McAfee's technical support remains expensive, and in our tests, its free options proved to be more frustrating than they were last year. While McAfee's online wizards make fetching help a breeze, we wish McAfee had a searchable online tech support database. To add insult to injury, there's no e-mail technical support; you must instead use the slower, less efficient online chat. Although staffed 24/7, the chats are slow. Our technician seemed to be handling multiple conversations and repeatedly left us waiting while he researched our question. It took us more than half an hour to resolve a very simple problem.

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MIS downloads and installs updates automatically for all of its components by default.

McAfee also provides two phone support options, but you'll pay for each. You can either pay $2.95 per minute to talk to the help desk, or $39 per incident. At least McAfee's phone support is available seven days a week (5 a.m. to 11 p.m. PT); Symantec's support for NIS isn't available on weekends.

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