McAfee VirusScan 8.0 review: McAfee VirusScan 8.0

A better integration with Microsoft Outlook includes on-demand scanning of all e-mail folders and archives to find viruses and worms lying dormant there. Like Norton AntiVirus 2004, it scans inbound and outbound IM messages; its predecessor scanned inbound only.

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VirusScan automatically deletes worms and viruses and posts an alert message to inform you of its efforts.

Unfortunately, McAfee removed its firewall from VirusScan 8.0, something which previously gave the product a competitive edge over the always firewall-free Norton AntiVirus. VirusScan 8.0 users can try a 30-day free trial of McAfee Personal Firewall Plus via the Security Center; however, users can also get the free, and much better, ZoneAlarm firewall from Download.com.

The merger of the online and retail flavors of VirusScan also creates a buying dilemma. The $49.99 retail package includes a year of virus signature updates, which after the first year is an annual fee of $14.95. By comparison, the online subscription is $34.95 a year. Online subscribers get program updates, which include new and upgraded features, as soon as they become available. But retail buyers must wait for the next version.

In our CNET Labs' tests, VirusScan 8.0 caused less of a drag on system performance than Norton AntiVirus 2004 . But McAfee scanned our 1GB drive much more slowly than Norton did. Here are our test results:

  Test system McAfee VirusScan 8.0 Symantec Norton AntiVirus 2004
SysMark2002 Internet-content-creation (ICC) score 233 234 223
Normalized score 100 100 96
Percentage of degradation N/A 0 4
Average boot time (seconds) 40.8 48.38 52.72
Scan 1GB directory; average scan time (minutes) N/A 4.75 3.59

In past &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Evirusbtn%2Ecom%2Fvb100%2Farchives%2Fproducts%2Exml%3Fmcafee%2Exml" target="_blank">VirusBulletin tests, McAfee's VirusScan has been tested and passed only once, back in June of 2002. By comparison, Norton AntiVirus has been &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Evirusbtn%2Ecom%2Fvb100%2Farchives%2Fproducts%2Exml%3Fsymantec%2Exml" target="_blank">tested six times and earned the coveted VB 100 percent title each time. It's hard to draw any meaningful conclusions from such limited data. Previous versions of VirusScan have also been certified by the independent antivirus testing laboratories at &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Echeck%2Dmark%2Ecom%2Fcheckmark%2Fproducts%2Ehtml" target="_blank">West Coast Checkmark, &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Eicsalabs%2Ecom%2Fhtml%2Fcommunities%2Fantivirus%2Fcertification%2Fcertprod%2Eshtml" target="_blank">ICSA Labs, and &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Eav%2Dtest%2Eorg%2Fdown%2Fspecial%2F2002%2D07%5Fmarket%2Den%2Exls" target="_blank">AV-test.org.

McAfee, like Symantec, charges for its phone support: $3 per minute (with the first two minutes free), or a flat $39 per incident ($10 more than Symantec's flat fee). A more affordable option, obviously, is McAfee's free online technical chat. On the plus side, McAfee's online support site contains a handy wizardlike Answer Center that helps you pinpoint and resolve technical problems. And the live technicians, once we contacted them via chat, were always polite and helpful.

Unfortunately, we often found the chat queue to be unbearably long, independent of day or night; once, we waited 1 hour and 20 minutes. Chat also exhibited flaky behavior: we were once booted off after 15 minutes in the queue, even though we hadn't yet chatted with anyone. Hopefully, McAfee will correct these technical glitches soon.

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