McAfee VirusScan 8.0 review: McAfee VirusScan 8.0

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The Good Light on system resources; provides background updates and virus deletion; offers improved worm detection.

The Bad No firewall; pricey telephone support; long queues for free technical-support chat.

The Bottom Line VirusScan 8.0 sports a trimmer profile, a simpler interface, and fast performance, but support is more of a hassle than before.

7.5 Overall
  • Setup 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8
  • Support 6

Review summary

The boxed version of McAfee VirusScan 8.0 is now identical in appearance and functionality to the online product. A major face-lift has resulted in a streamlined virus fighter that's faster to install, easier to configure, and less of a resource hog than Symantec's Norton AntiVirus 2004. VirusScan 8.0 also offers enhanced worm-detection tools, better integration with Microsoft Outlook, and spyware detection. Unfortunately, McAfee removed its personal firewall from VirusScan 8.0. (Current users of version 7.0 can keep their firewall if they choose the $30 upgrade.) But of more concern is McAfee's 24/7 free online technical-support chat; once one of the best in the business, it's often inaccessible now.

McAfee recently merged its retail version of VirusScan 8.0 with its online version. That's good news for users who want to download and install the program via the Internet. Better yet, VirusScan's online installation file is dramatically smaller--a mere 8MB compared with version 7.0's 30MB to 40MB--and in our tests, it downloaded in 25 minutes via 56K modem. Installation, both online and via CD, was trouble-free and took only a few minutes. Upon start-up, VirusScan downloaded updated virus definitions, as most antivirus programs do.

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The new McAfee Security Center in VirusScan 8.0 provides a graphical display of your PC's ability to block viruses, hacker attacks, and related problems.

Last year, we praised VirusScan's browserlike interface but found its multiple Web-page-like screens tedious to navigate, particularly when you had to dig through several layers just to change a few basic settings. VirusScan 8.0 replaces the previous version's ungainly, browserlike interface with the McAfee Security Center, an interface from which you can manage all of the security programs on your PC--including third-party firewall, privacy, and spam-blocking apps. The Center's Security Index uses graphical bars (with a 1 to 10 rating scale) to show how well your PC is protected against all kinds of digital intrusions--viruses, hackers, spam, and so on--and it provides quick access to VirusScan settings.

Despite Security Center's embrace of third-party security apps, it's still very McAfee-centric. On our test PC, for instance, we use the ZoneAlarm firewall. Security Center accurately detected the presence of ZoneAlarm, as indicated by the 10.0 rating on the AntiHacker index; but by default, it stated that McAfee's Personal Firewall Plus was "not installed," a statement that might confuse some novices into thinking they weren't fully protected.

VirusScan 8.0 may be leaner, but its virus-fighting tools retain their muscle. McAfee has improved its worm-detection skills with WormStopper (previously known as HAWK), a PC system behavior-analysis tool. WormStopper blocks malicious, wormlike behavior, often before a signature-file download is available. It's difficult to predict future worms; however, VirusScan detected and deleted the MSBlast worm on our test PC, something our previous antivirus program missed. The ScriptStopper feature, which finds and blocks malicious scripts, is unchanged from version 7.0.

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