Enhanced over last year is the integration of antivirus, antispyware, firewall, and antiphishing. The heuristics, or System Guards, have also been improved.
Missing are more frequent updates of signature files and programs. Kaspersky updates hourly, while McAfee promises only daily updates (although it might, in an emergency, deliver more frequently).
For antivirus protection, McAfee Internet Security 2008 stays in the middle of the pack, sometimes trending toward the upper end of the middle. On our iTunes test, McAfee placed solidly in the middle of the pack at 271 seconds. In our Microsoft Office test, McAfee trended toward the high end, taking home the second-longest score at 1,519 seconds. In a test scanning a single folder with compressed and media files, McAfee scored 446 seconds, again, toward the high end of our middle group. And in terms of boot speed, McAfee was third-longest at 38 seconds. To find out how we test antivirus software, see CNET Labs' How we test: Antivirus software page.
In terms of whether McAfee Internet Security 2008 will protect your PC, we cite results from two leading independent antivirus testing organizations. In the latest test results from AV-Comparatives.org, for on-demand scans McAfee earned an Advanced (second-highest) rating, catching 93 percent of all malware tested and tying with Norton AntiVirus 2007. For the Retrospective/Proactive test, McAfee also earned an Advanced (second-highest) rating (PDF). From CheckVir.com, McAfee VirusScan Enterprise was earned an Advanced rating, which includes both search and antivirus removal.
For antispyware protection, McAfee remains solidly in the middle of the pack in our latest CNET antispyware tests. CNET labs conducts three separate tests using spyware found to be bundled within free applications rejected by CNET Download.com (as a policy, Download.com does not host any applications containing known spyware). In the first test, active detection, McAfee discovered about 60 percent of the spyware; in the second, on demand test, McAfee detected about 55 percent of the spyware; and in the final, removal test, McAfee removed about 60 percent of the spyware placed on our infected machine.
McAfee has improved its technical support over last year but still doesn't offer context-sensitive help like Kaspersky or Trend Micro, meaning you will have to search for specific help. New this year is a free McAfee Virtual Technician an optional plug-in which, when downloaded, will diagnose the state of your McAfee product and computer health and then make recommendations how to fix it--for free. It seems unnecessary, but then again you can't argue with the price. Symantec offers a Norton equivalent, but it'll cost you $69.95 per use.
McAfee Virtual Technician is the product's first line of defense. If it can't help, then you'll be directed toward the online FAQ, and, finally, chat or e-mail. If you try to jump ahead to chat or e-mail, you'll be directed back to the Virtual Technician first. It's as though McAfee doesn't want you to contact the company directly. Missing is telephone support. Or, rather, telephone support is listed under Fee-Based Support, with a variety of per-minute or per-incident plans starting at $2.95 a minute or $39 per incident, and user support forums are listed as "Community" off the main McAfee page, not from the tech support area where it is expected. There is no tutorial or online manual with McAfee. By comparison, Kaspersky offers a complete 321-page manual, a robust user forum, and toll-free telephone support.
It's not perfect, but in a strictly Norton vs. McAfee universe, McAfee Internet Security 2008 is a much better deal than Norton Internet Security 2008. Not only does McAfee offer more security features than Norton, McAfee integrates them with an intuitive user interface, one that allows you to understand the specific feature as well as tweak its settings. While individual security test scores could be higher, none are deficit, meaning McAfee provides you with more than adequate protection.