At first glance, McAfee Internet Security 2008 appears not much different from last year's offering. But with a decisive change in the competitive landscape (i.e. Symantec's slip and stumble), McAfee's suite comes out looking much better this year. Whereas McAfee VirusScan 2008 looks and feels like warmed-over last year's product, the additional elements within the Internet suite and low price makes McAfee Internet Security 2008 a serious competitor. Unlike Norton, McAfee offers, in addition to antivirus, antiphishing, antispyware, and a personal firewall, a backup-and-restore feature (Norton still makes you buy a separate product for backups). We still have issues with McAfee's poor technical support, and we wish the security protection offered tested higher in third-party test results. But for a full protection suite, McAfee Internet Security 2008 is very good.
McAfee Internet Security 2008 offers three-user licenses for $49.95, with additional licenses for a mere $10 each. By comparison, Norton Internet Security 2008 offers its three-user license for $59.95. McAfee VirusScan 2008 runs on Windows 2000, XP, and Vista, while Norton Internet Security only runs on Windows XP and Vista. McAfee also includes its new mobile security product with each Internet Security purchase, but at the time of this review, that product was still unavailable.
McAfee continues to use a bootstrap method of downloading code to your machine, and then installing it module by module. This year the process was much faster in our informal tests. There's the security center, which you download first, then, depending on the product you purchased, the product itself is downloaded from McAfee to your computer. McAfee claims it can offer the latest build; the alternative is to install the product, then immediately update.
Should you want to remove McAfee Internet Security, there is no uninstall option for McAfee in the Windows>All Programs listing. Instead, you'll need to use the Windows Control Panel>Add/Remove Software option. Unlike last year--when McAfee left a mess--after our reboot, we were pleased to find no evidence left on our machine. In comparison, Norton Internet Security 2008 leaves behind registry files and some system files.
Although it hasn't changed from last year, McAfee's interface is more intuitive and better designed than Norton's. The McAfee Protection Center still offers a left-hand navigation for all tools, with a right-hand window pane for system status. Unlike Norton, which uses individual tabs for products such as Norton AntiVirus, McAfee's has its products fully integrated into its Security Center. We like this better. There are two tables of contents; one lists basic features, while a second lists more advanced tools.
We do like that McAfee has blended all of its tools--security, utility, and networking--together so that the overall product feels integrated and whole. Norton still feels like a collection of standalone applications repackaged. This year McAfee appears to have rewritten some of its code; it doesn't feel as heavy and clunky as last year's edition. That said, in our performance testing, McAfee's antivirus protection remains in the middle of this year's pack of products in terms of overall performance.
McAfee calls its Internet security suite its 10-in-1 product, but we find there's much more offered. Like other security suites, McAfee Internet Security includes all the features within its McAfee VirusScan Plus, then adds additional protection for the Internet suite. Like McAfee VirusScan Plus, McAfee Internet Security 2008 includes McAfee SiteAdvisor, antiphishing protection.
New is the ability for McAfee to scan links within IM messages and rate them. We found that this feature works with latest versions of AOL IM and Yahoo Messenger, two of the most popular IMs today; Norton offers similar protection but only for older builds of Yahoo and AOL.
Also new is a feature McAfee calls "State Aware," in which movies, slide shows, and even games play uninterrupted by security alerts or scans whenever you're in full-screen mode. It's a feature we've seen in other antivirus products this year; Norton doesn't offer this.