It takes guts to introduce a brand-new antivirus solution in a crowded market, but Sunbelt Software, known best for its award-winning CounterSpy antispyware, is doing just that by creating its own antivirus engine from the ground up. Arriving late has advantages, however. Traditional antivirus engines have been slow to adapt to emerging threats.To bridge the best of traditional antivirus with new cutting-edge thinking, Sunbelt Software hired veteran antivirus expert Joe Wells for about one year to help design a "hybrid" antivirus antispyware engine. While we await the first test results of the final product, Sunbelt has released a public beta. Here's a first look.
The installation takes a few minutes and does not require a reboot. A wizard asks a few predictable questions on the following topics: Internet and proxy settings, automatic updates (default is every two hours), active protection setting (high, medium, low), joining the Sunbelt threat community to report new threats, scan schedule (default is 1 a.m.), adding Vipre to Windows Security Center (default), disabling Windows Defender (default), and activating and registering for technical support (name and e-mail).
The Vipre interface is one of the cleanest we've seen on an antivirus product. It's intuitive and easy to use. Your system status is displayed along the left-hand window, while the right side displays current worldwide threats and the latest local scan results for your machine. Four tabs across the top take you to the overview page, scan, manage, and tools.
What we like is that Vipre packs a lot of extras, extras that other antivirus products should have but often do not.
In addition to antivirus and antispyware protection, there are useful tools such as a secure file eraser that writes 1s and 0s over deleted files, a history cleaner that goes beyond just what's in your Internet browser cache, and something called PC Explorer, which reveals processes and services running that might be suspect or known to be malicious. Many of these tools are also featured within Sunbelt Software's standalone antispyware product, CounterSpy v2.
Short of final code and formal testing, we cannot say how Vipre performs relative to other antivirus products on the market. But in informal testing, the product feels fast, uses few system resources, and didn't try to convince us that benign Internet cookies were a threat.
Sunbelt Software says it will continue to develop CounterSpy as a standalone antispyware product. Vipre will be available later this year and is expected to cost a reasonable $29.95 for a single user and $39.95 for a three-user license.
Future releases of Vipre will include Sunbelt Personal Firewall code, although Sunbelt Software is shying away from calling the resulting product a security suite.