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McAfee VirusScan 6.0 review:

McAfee VirusScan 6.0

  • 1
Typical Price: £35.00
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The Good New, easier-to-use interface; first antivirus app to contain a firewall; costs less than the competition.

The Bad Lacks sophisticated tools such as script protection; historically poor performance detecting in-the-wild viruses; doesn't automatically repair infected files.

The Bottom Line VirusScan is not the best virus slayer on the street. Go for Norton AntiVirus instead and install a free firewall such as ZoneAlarm.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

7.0 Overall

With new computer viruses hitting the streets about every other day, keeping your computer safe from nasties--such as Trojan horses, worms hidden within e-mail, and viruses that chew up important files--is more than just a good idea. One of the least-expensive ways to keep yourself covered is to install $39.95 VirusScan 6.0, available from McAfee. However, its so-so performance with real-world viruses knocks VirusScan off our list for everyone except McAfee's current users, who should spring for the $29.95 upgrade. With new computer viruses hitting the streets about every other day, keeping your computer safe from nasties--such as Trojan horses, worms hidden within e-mail, and viruses that chew up important files--is more than just a good idea. One of the least-expensive ways to keep yourself covered is to install $39.95 VirusScan 6.0, available from McAfee. However, its so-so performance with real-world viruses knocks VirusScan off our list for everyone except McAfee's current users, who should spring for the $29.95 upgrade.

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.

New features
Spend some time with version 6.0, and you'll discover a number of new antivirus weapons. Tops on our list is HAWK (for Hostile Activity Watch Kernel). It monitors Outlook--the Typhoid Mary of computer virus carriers--for suspicious behavior, then warns you when, for instance, an e-mail message is about to be sent to more than 40 recipients. It's a clever way to detect and stop mass-mailing worms such as I Love You and SirCam. VirusScan also protects your PC against nasties that might sneak onto your desktop from your Palm or Windows CE handheld during synchronization. Still, VirusScan lags behind Norton AntiVirus in some key areas, such as monitoring active scripts for Visual Basic or JavaScript for possible mischief.

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.

Performance
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.

CNET Labs tests McAfee VirusScan 6.0

Take me back to the roundup!

If VirusScan 6.0's new interface looks familiar, it should. It uses Windows XP conventions and puts links at the left for easier navigation.

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