McAfee's Parental Controls feature includes new methods of discerning and blocking offensive images from e-mails. Despite the name, even households without children may have use for this feature. Norton makes its parental controls optional, via download, but ZoneAlarm includes them within its suite.
Unlike Windows Live OneCare and Norton 360, McAfee Total Protection includes its McAfee Wireless Protection application. On a public network, there's little use for the setup features as Windows contains its own network manager that identifies, associates, and disassociates you from a public hot spot. On a home network, however, McAfee Wireless Protection is much more useful. Before you purchase the product, check this wireless router/AP compatibility list to see whether your wireless router is supported by McAfee. If it is, you'll be able to make almost all your security configuration changes through McAfee. On a test system, we were able to connect to a Linksys WRT54GS router with no problem.
If you haven't already changed your router's SSID, which is how the router identifies itself, or enabled WEP or WPA encryption to make it harder for attackers to eavesdrop on your wireless sessions, McAfee Wireless Protection can help with that. One cool feature within McAfee Wireless Protection rotates your WEP key every few hours for added security, with the option to suspend this feature while you're playing online games or using other services that might be disrupted. For everything else, however, vendor-supplied software and even the Windows XP Wireless Network connection console already provide the basic security tools needed; McAfee just puts them all in one place. Unlike Windows Live OneCare and Norton 360, McAfee Total Protection supports Internet Explorer and Firefox. None of the three suites support Opera.
Overall, there is very little missing from McAfee Total Protection.
McAfee VirusScan improves its scores on our CNET Labs' performance tests over those of last year in all cases, except in our boot-time test. On our iTunes test, VirusScan Plus gained ground compared with last year, taking 196 seconds as opposed to 243 seconds last year. On our Sorensen Squeeze test, VirusScan Plus also improved, taking 329 seconds compared to 337 seconds last year. McAfee showed the most improvement with individual file scans, taking only 116 seconds this year as opposed to 368 seconds last year. But in terms of boot speed, McAfee lost the most ground, taking 88 seconds--the most of any antivirus product we tested; it took 62 seconds last year. To find out how we test, see CNET Labs' How we test antivirus software page.
To determine how well a product will protect your PC, we refer to test results from two leading independent antivirus testing organizations. In the latest test results from AV-Comparatives.org, McAfee VirusScan 2006 earned an Advanced (second-highest) rating, catching 92 percent of all malware tested, and from Checkvir.com, McAfee VirusScan 2006 was one of eight products to earn its Standard (highest) rating.
Check back to read about CNET Labs' tests of the McAfee firewall and antispyware protection in the coming weeks.
Like Symantec, McAfee put its resources into improving its technical support. McAfee Total Protection Suite 2007 doesn't offer any downloadable manuals nor a tutorial. What McAfee does provide is a contextual knowledge base that asks you a series of questions. Should the knowledge base fail to answer your question, you're taken to another window where a remote scan will attempt to diagnose what is wrong. If none of these solutions work, you're given more options, including online chat, user forums, e-mail, and finally live technical support at $45.95 per incident (one of the highest technical support fees we've seen).
McAfee Total Protection feels like a grab bag of security and system performance tools. By refocusing its product line on fewer individual consumer products, McAfee is on the right path, but McAfee Total Protection could be leaner, should run with fewer processes across all computers, and McAfee needs to simplify its interface even more next year, dispensing with the two tables of content and submerging the eye candy in favor of the tools that are most useful. In our opinion, Norton 360 strikes the right balance between overall ease of use and the right tools for today's threats.