At first glance
Although this update costs $10 more than its predecessor, the extra cash buys you extra protection. VirusScan's antivirus software now comes bundled with a basic personal firewall to make your machine invisible to hackers. That way, if the worst does occur, it'll block a Trojan horse's signals and keep it from taking control of the PC. No other standalone antivirus package includes this additional protection. McAfee's firewall is good but doesn't offer anything you can't get free from ZoneAlarm or Tiny Personal Firewall.
VirusScan now shields your computer from viruses better than before. It guards against all kinds of intruders, including viruses, worms, Trojan horses, and--on the Web-- ActiveX Controls or Java applets, which can execute malicious commands without your knowledge. When it detects an anomaly, VirusScan pops up an alert and gives you a chance to either delete or fix the infected file or quarantine it in a lockbox where it can't make mischief. Unfortunately, you have to drop what you're doing to handle the intrusion. VirusScan should steal an idea from Norton AntiVirus and simply eradicate the virus without your intervention.
Overall, once-tough-to-use VirusScan is now a breeze, thanks to its top-to-bottom interface redesign. Its browserlike look features left-hand links to primary tasks, such as running a virus scan or checking your current virus protection status. The main display panel, also on the left, sports Back and Forward buttons that let you navigate as if you were on a Web site. But VirusScan isn't perfect yet. Scheduling a scan for when you'll be away from your machine means tackling a complex dialog box, rather than stepping through a simple wizard such as Norton AntiVirus's. At least VirusScan's automatic virus definition updater matches Norton's. You set VirusScan's version to automatically detect, download, and install, new definitions without bothering you. Better still, an annual update subscription costs just $4.95 after the first year--half as much as Norton's.
How well does it all work? Our Labs tests show that VirusScan identifies viruses in ZIP files before they hit the hard drive, which is something that Norton can't do. Although VirusScan caught zipped viruses, however, a true virus killer must deal well with overall definitions, giving it a long-term ability to identify hundreds of in-the-wild viruses as they come up. That's why we pay attention to Virus Bulletin's VB100% award, given only to antivirus programs that detect every current virus. Here, VirusScan's performance is suspect. Of the last six exams (dating back to July 2000), VirusScan scored a perfect 100 only once.
At $39.95, McAfee's VirusScan is a bargain for a complete antivirus package. However, its so-so performance with real-world viruses knocks this app off our must-get list for everyone except current VirusScan users, who should get the $29.95 upgrade. But if you really want a firewall alongside your antivirus program, spend $49.95 for Norton and install a free firewall such as ZoneAlarm.