McAfee Internet Security Suite 2007 - A Disappointing Mixed Bag
written by: Bill Bunter•edited by: Ronda Bowen•updated: 6/27/2011
McAfee Internet Security Suite seems like a hastily cobbled hodgepodge of components. It will protect your PC reasonably well, but this security software fails to perform at the same level as other competing products. Morover, it isn't as easy to use as you might expect.
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This is what McAfee Internet Security Suite 2007 promises: "Integrated, multi-layered protection from viruses, hackers, spyware, unwanted email, unsafe websites, Wi-Fi intruders and freeloaders, online predators and offensive content. Now with faster virus scanning, anti-hacker Stealth Mode, McAfee ThreatWatch, McAfee X-Ray for Windows, improved McAfee Security Center." The reality is something far different.
I have never been a fan of the bundled products referred to as "suites" by the vendors. I always preferred to choose specific applications for specific jobs. I wondered whether McAfee Internet Security Suite 2007 might cause me to change my mind. It didn't. Internet Security Suite provides a comprehensive set of components that protect your PC from viruses, spam, intrusion attempts, phishing scams, and an assortment of other dangers. None of those components perform as well as the topnotch software that is tailormade for each application. Additionally, the components don't seem to have been pulled together cohesively. As a result, Internet Security Suite lacks much of the ease of use that you might expect to find in such a product.
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Price to Value
McAfee Internet Security Suite is more expensive than the competition but its performance and features certainly do not justify that additional cost. A one-computer subscription costs $49.99 and a three-computer subscription is $119.99. By way of comparison, Microsoft charges $49.95 for Windows Live OnceCare and Symantec charges $69.99 for Norton Internet Security. Both products can be used on up to three computers at no additional cost.
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Installation & Setup
Installation is extremely straightforward and is handled via the McAfee Download Manager, which you must install in order to be able to access the main application. You can choose whether to download and install the complete McAfee Internet Security Suite package, or only certain components.
Download Manager enables you to download only the components you intend to install. This feature will be appreciated by people with ISP-imposed bandwidth restrictions.
Following installation, McAfee updates itself and your PC is protected. While the default settings work well and adjustments are unnecessary, McAfee Internet Security Suite does provide you with a variety of options to customize its operations.
Immediately after installing, I encountered an error when attempting to open Outlook 2007.
I disabled the add-in and Outlook opened normally. I re-enabled the add-in and the problem recurred. Uninstalling and reinstalling McAfee Internet Security Suite provided a resolution which was not atogether satisfactory. The SpamKiller Toolbar didn't appear in Outlook as it's supposed to. According to McAfee's support documents, this can happen if the mail client is left running during installation and the only solution is to reinstall SpamKiller with the client closed. Therefore, I closed Outlook and reinstalled SpamKiller but the Toolbar still didn't appear. Despite the non-appearance of the Toolbar, SpamKiller did operate normally.
Oddly, after the installation my default mail client had changed from Outlook to Windows Mail. Although it was easy to fix, I would prefer that a program not make such changes without my permission.
McAfee Internet Security Suite also returned an intermittent error message that the McAfee Proxy Service Module had stopped working and was closed. The problem was seemingly caused by SpamKiller.
McAfee Internet Security Suite's Security Center locked up on a number of occasions. A reboot provided an easy fix, but it happened often enough to be a fairly major annoyance.
See Support (below) for some further details.
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McAfee Internet Security Suite's Security Center puts everything within easy reach.
You can switch between a Basic view and an Advanced view. The Basic view displays things in a slightly more simplistic manner, but I really don't see all that much difference. I think that a single more thoughtfully constructed view would probably work better.
McAfee Internet Security Suite advises you if there is any problems with your protection status and provides a handy quick fix option.
I don't like McAfee Internet Security Suite's UI. It just feels clunky . The UI in products like Norton 360 is easier to navigate. I don't like the fact that Internet Security Suite doesn't provide you with access to all the settings for some components from a single location. For example, while some of VirusScan's settings are found under Computer & Files, others are found under email & IM. This may be due to personal preference and some people may like McAfee Internet Security Suite's interface but it would be nice to have a choice. McAfee could have possibly achieved this had they made better use of the Advanced view.
I also think that certain dialogs may confuse some users. The "New Network Detected" dialog, for example.
What does "allows traffic from any other computer on this network" actually mean? What happens if you decide not to trust the network? Can you still connect to it? If you're connecting to your home network, the dilemma is probably not too great; but if you're connecting to a wireless hotspot, you might be somewhat puzzled as to what you should do. I would think that quite a few users would benefit from some context-sensitive help here.
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McAfee Internet Security Suite consists of McAfee VirusScan, Personal Firewall, SpamKiller, SiteAdvisor, Privacy Service, Data Backup, Network Manager and Shredder. VirusScan stops viruses and spyware. Personal Firewall blocks potentially harmful internet traffic. SpamKiller blocks junk mail. SiteAdvisor protects you from phishing and scam websites. Privacy Service blocks popups, securely stores passwords, restricts the websites which a user is able to access and protects your personal information. Data Backup enables you to create backups of your files. Network Manager enables you to centrally manage the security of the computers connected to your network. Shredder enables you to securely delete files from your computer. Each component can be conveniently accessed via McAfee Internet Security Suite's main dashboard, the Security Center.
Each component is customizable. For example, you can set times from VirusScan to automatically run, adjust the sensitivity of SpamKiller and specify exceptions for Personal Firewall.
Internet Security Suite comes with a QuickClean feature enabling you to quickly delete Temporary Internet Files, delete cookies, delete orphaned registry entries and more.
Internet Security Suite also has a Visual Tracer feature which displays the geographical location of an IP address. It's pure eye candy, but some people might find it amusing.
Overall, Internet Security Suite offers a pretty decent range of features that will help keep your computer and the data it holds safe and secure.
There are two problems with the features offered by McAfee Internet Security Suite. Firstly, if you're running Windows Vista, you'll find a considerable amount of duplication. Internet Security Suite has a phishing filter, and so does Vista. Internet Security Suite has parental controls, and so does Vista. Internet Security Suite has backup tools, and so does Vista. Internet Security Suite has a spam filter, and so does Vista. Furthermore, in many cases, Internet Security Suite really doesn't improve on the functionality that's native to Vista. In some ways it's actually more limited. If you do run Vista, you might well find yourself wishing that you had saved some money and just bought VirusScan. That is the only component you'll actually use.
Secondly, the individual components of Internet Security Suite simply don't stack up too well against the competition. For example, VirusScan is certainly effective, but it's neither as speedy nor as configurative as the equally effective NOD32.
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Each of McAfee Internet Security Suite's components are effective. Check out any independent test site (AV Compartives - www.av-comparatives.org - for example) and you'll find that VirusScan's detection rates put it ahead of most of the competition. The product is also ICSA certified. In this version, McAfee beefed-up VirusScan with some additional features like SystemGuard. This feature should help make it even more effective, especially against spyware. SpamKiller performs well and blocks a high percentage of junk mail. The phishing filter is effective too and in my (admittedly limited) testing, it blocked each and every phishing website. The firewall performs exactly as advertised.
While each of McAfee Internet Security Suite's components are solid enough performers, holes start to appear when you compare them to the competition. VirusScan is certainly effective but it's also painfully slow. It took almost two hours to scan my 160 Gb drive (by way of comparison, NOD32 completed the scan in under 20 minutes and F-Secure in under 50 minutes). McAfee is also slower to release updates than some other companies. Internet Security Suite checks for updates once every four hours but new virus definition files are only released on a weekly basis. Some other companies push out updates within a few hours of a newly discovered threat which helps improve the chances of your computer being protected before the virus reaches it.
The phishing filter caught each phsishing site I attempted to visit, but so did Internet Explorer 7's built-in phishing filter.
While I didn't rigorously test SpamKiller, it didn't appear to be any more effective than the spam filters native to either Windows Mail or Outlook. In fact, it produced considerably more false positives and also noticeably slowed down the receipt of emails.
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Help & Support
McAfee Internet Security Suite ships with an extensive help file.The McAfee website offers a searchable knowledge base and no-cost technical support via chat or email. A comprehensive user manual can also be downloaded. McAfee also offers Virtual Technician, a web-based scanner which will attempt to detect any problems with your McAfee installation and suggest a solution.
Many vendors offer technical support via telephone at no cost. McAfee does not. To get telephone support will cost you either $2.95 per minute or $39.00 per incident. Remote control sessions are also available at an even steeper price. In my opinion, its unjustifiably expensive. Even Symantec charges only $9.95 per incident.
To resolve my issues, I selected the no-cost chat option and was immediately asked to fill out a payment form.
Despite that rather deceptive screen, support was actually provided at no cost. I spent almost an hour speaking with the support representative who finished by recommending the old standby solution to all software problems. "I will suggest that you uninstall and reinstall all of your McAfee products. I will send you a tool to remove all McAfee from your system. Is that ok?" Not exactly what I'd hoped for and even after following this advice the problems still persisted. I also wondered why it was necessary for me to use a tool to remove all McAfee from my system. Shouldn't the uninstaller do just that?
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I find it impossible to recommend McAfee Internet Security Suite 2007. Vista renders a number of its features redundant. There are better standalone alternatives to its components. It's more expensive than the competition but it's not as well supported as some other products. Additionally, telephone support is expensive if you need it. Finally, at least on my computer, it caused a number of problems.
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F-Secure Internet Security, Norton 360, Windows Live OneCare, Norton Internet Security